Hey, I am a bachelor this weekend. I’m staying with my girlfriend in Dover but she has art class from 8-4 Sat and Sun. I want to meet you for lunch and catch up.
I stare at my phone, No name and I don’t recognize the number. This person clearly knows me. After pondering the myriad of negative consequences of responding “who the hell is this” I went ahead and did it anyway. Who is this? It’s ten O’clock at night and I now have to wait and see if I’ve just offended an old friend. In need of immediate gratification, I hoped that I would get an answer soon.
While I impatiently waited for my answer, it occurred to me that I recently lost my phone and all of my contacts. I’m terrible with phone numbers and spoiled by the option of going into “contacts” and just pushing the button next to the name. Obsessing, I sent another text. Lost my phone recently and most of my contacts, sorry if I don’t recognize the number. Who is this?
Eric, former co-worker and good friend. A relic from my past life. We chatted by text for a few and set up a lunch for the following Saturday. After we concluded I found myself experiencing a rare emotion, anticipation. I haven’t had much to look forward to lately. It will be good to see him.
I arrived at the restaurant on time. I had suggested the restaurant, a local watering hole with good burgers and cheap beer. At 26 miles door to door, it was still the closest place for me to go to drink beer and people-watch. As I walked in, Eric waved to me from the far corner of the room. He looked the same as always; moon-faced, greying hair, big belly and a genuine smile. I walked over, said hi and he stood to greet me. Fuck the handshake, I gave him a man-hug.
As we sat, he immediately commented on my appearance. He had never seen me with a beard. The last time he saw me, I was clean-shaven, in pressed pants, a 75 dollar shirt and shiny shoes. It makes sense that the pallid, scraggly bearded guy in jeans and a sweatshirt, shivering despite it being 65 degrees out may have unsettled him a bit.
We made small talk for a while. He asked a bunch of questions about my “transition to NH life” but they were really all thinly veiled attempts to find out what the hell had happened to me. After some small talk I finally asked him “so, what prompted this invite?”
“Well, I think of you often regardless of how often we actually speak. And I do follow you on Facebook” his voice fading towards the end as if to convey a hint. I got it immediately, he had seen the link to an article I had posted recently. It was an infuriating article about CKD (Chronic Kidney Disease) patients and dialysis patients being “entitled” and not as sick as people think. Written by a dialysis nurse, it was a senseless and incredibly insensitive affront to all who suffer from an invisible illness. It pissed me off enough to share with the caption “really? because it’s kicking my ass right now.” Because I have been basically nonexistent on Facebook lately, this post stood out to Eric and grabbed his attention. I felt bad, I’m not one of those people that post their laundry on FB to elicit sympathy or pity. I posted it out of frustration.
I was at that point sitting in front of the last person on earth that I would ever complain to. Eric has been through so much in his life, not the least of which being his daughter is dying of Anorexia. For as long as I have known him, his daughter has been sick and it has torn him apart. He has resigned himself to the fact that she will never recover. She has failed to thrive outside of a hospital environment in 6 years and her current situation is considered permanent. As a fellow father and friend, I have always felt compelled to ask him about her. He knows that I have a “is it better to ask or not mention it?” mentality and I lean towards asking because I want him to know that I care. He always responds with something along the lines of “I’m losing her.” It breaks my heart to this day. Yet, here he is sitting across the table worried about me.
He wanted details, so I gave them to him. Straight to the point, no holds barred, I spared no detail about the events of the last 10 months. He listened patiently, asked the occasional question, sipped his coffee and picked at his Reuben. He was clearly taken back by my accounting of recent events. I shifted the conversation to him. I asked about his daughter. He updated me, there was no change. She was in a psychiatric ward with little likelihood of leaving. I could see the heartache on his face. After a brief pause, he changed the subject to the good old days at the office.
We talked for at least an hour about work. We talked of memories of our time there and the characters we worked with. We rehashed funny stories and updated each other on the whereabouts and antics of some shared contacts. It was a fun trip down memory lane. But in the back of my mind, I was flashing back to some of the incredibly powerful moments he and I had shared, some good and many not so good. As we spoke, I was transported to another time. A time that seemed so long ago but was less than a year. The days when I was working, contributing and feeling good.
We had worked together for nine years. It was a tumultuous time for both of us. He had been there years before me and was “king of the hill” in the sales department. By the time I joined the company, he was struggling and his relationship with our mutual superior was strained. Over the years, we formed a bond over our disdain for the megalomaniacal, Machiavellian despot with a Napoleon complex we called “boss”. Despite not being in sales, I helped Eric with his accounts when possible. I saved a few for him and it helped forge a solid bond. That was a fortunate turn because I would be promoted to be his manager after 3 years and it can be an awkward situation transitioning from co-worker to subordinate. He took it in stride and in turn, I treated him with the respect that he deserved. We became close friends. That friendship would soon face a mighty test.
to be continued…