I don’t know how it happens, but the months sail by, flipping through like a shuffling deck of playing cards. I never learned to shuffle, either.
I weathered the rain and wind the other day to pick up my very best friend at Union Station. As I went in to hug her, I thought, yes, finally, I can breathe again. It’s that kind of friendship – the one that can only blossom between two fiercely independent, free-spirited individuals who, geeks to the core, never let the world tell them what to want, what to do, what to believe and connected because of it.
An aside: I just noticed that if you sub “vampire” for “friend” in that paragraph above it might sound a little Anne Rice-y, which I suppose is awfully fitting considering the season. Trust that the only red liquid imbibed this week starts with “w” and ends with “ine.”
On the East side, I take her to my local coffee shop. It’s the kind of place you need to learn about through word-of-mouth due to its side street location and low-budget advertising. It’s Bulldog Coffee – I think they have a couple of different locations – and they’re my favourite. The baristas crank out mean espressos and chat with you as if you’ve known them forever. I appreciate the openness. But then again, it’s that kind of neighbourhood, the kind of place where everyone knows everyone; the kind of place where you’re likely to run into a friend you haven’t seen in ages, and – surprise! – find yourself sitting down to drinks on the fly. I like that.
I order for my friend and we take a seat by the door, settle in for the long haul. We talk it all over. Our lives – the past, the present, the future; our regrets and disappointments; our successes and accomplishments; where do we go from here?; hopes and fears. We cover the landscapes, one by one. I listen to her recount her trip to Australia, how beautiful it was, how much she loved Sidney. I tell her about how I was dazzled by the bright lights of New York City. We recall the time I made inedible dill carrot soup with entirely too much dill and garlic. When she introduced me to The Best Potato Salad Recipe ever (yes, ever! I feel very comfortable dropping that word around The Best Potato Salad Recipe. It's not too much.) There's that time we devoured an entire loaf of gluten-free monkey bread in under twelve hours at the exclusion of all other food groups. The conversation comes easily. It's as if no time has passed at all, which I suppose is how it is with good friends.
“Should we get something else?” she asks me.
“I still have coffee,” I protest, swirling the last of the froth.
"We’ve been staring down at the bottom of our coffee cups for the last two hours.” And we both laugh.
Here we are on the West side, listening to the piano man stomp his feet on the worn wood floors. This place feels like something out of the 20s, but I can't place why. My chair moves with the keys and I don’t mind. Harlem Underground is small and intimate and the food is delicious. We recount old stories with our old friend, D., and as predicted, spend the night fighting back tears. The conversation weaves and changes course, because this is 2011, not 2008, and we are a little older and maybe a little wiser now.
“When did we last see each other exactly?” someone asks as I sip on a dirty gin martini. I think it was when we came back to my apartment after a night at some local bar. Maybe it was the night we shot a few games of pool at the Firehouse and I embarrassed myself by proving to everyone what an embarrassingly bad pool player I am.
“Allow me to fill you in on our ‘adventurous lives’,” I say, taking another bite of cajun catfish.
We are separated again by the many kilometres, our lives shaped by the choices we make, the meals the markers. I think it over while simmering some chicken stock, boiling beans back to life.