Inevitably, as you get older, you meet new and exotic peoples and say goodbye to old friends. They move away, they get new jobs, follow spouses, etc. Yet whatever may be the case, you are glad to have known them, because your life has been enriched just that much more for having known them. It is precisely so with my friends Adam and Megan.
I had not known she would be there, but a girl I had fallen very hard for and very fast was staring back at me, very coy, and very knowing. As I approached, she lifted herself, sauntering towards me with more grace than many women I have known, and as only she does, wrapped her long sinewy arms around me in a greeting. Despite the fact that we are both dating other people and we realize that we are not right for each other, we still have some unspoken thing between us. When we touch, I can feel her heart racing as much as mine does. As we break from what was most probably an inappropriate embrace, we put on our masks and move into the cool and comfortable conversation of friends. I ask how her man is doing, she in turn asks how my girlfriend is, and the verbal banter continues. Meanwhile, others come around to introduce themselves to me and I turn up the charm for these strangers holding hands for too long, even kissing a few, and greeting men and boyfriends alike with arm clasps and big smiles.
Before long, as I say goodbye to an old friend, I meet several new ones. This exchange is typical and I briefly think that I am trading in an old and trusted model for new, flashy models of questionable quality. While I ponder what the return policy is, I see Megan watching us from the house and excusing myself, go inside. “What’s wrong?” I ask. “I’m going to miss all of you, and there’s nothing that is going to make that better.” She replies. In an attempt to cheer her up and pull her out of her self-pity I walk up to her, tussle her hair and tell her, “you can always visit us silly.” We both know she will not, but we do not voice the unspoken.
My love interest gone awry, Bethany, walks in and sees that an exchange has taken place. She apologizes for interrupting, and makes to leave, despite our mutual objections to her going back to the pool. We both turn to go outside and I see out of the corner of my eye Megan look out the miniblinds at Bethany leaving as she says, “She loves you, you know?” I stop, look back at her and say, “You don’t have to be with someone, to love them.” Megan tilts her head, looks at me her mind sifting through the many meanings such a statement could have, and breaks out into a beaming smile. She moves over towards me, and grabbing my arm, walks back out to the pool.
I almost feel guilty sitting there by the pool with two women I love, each in a different way, surrounded by strangers and one time acquaintances. Even thinking about my girlfriend who did not come to the party, and whom I love as well, I am reminded of how wonderful and terrible it is to love someone. Much later in the evening, I realize that it is time to leave, and I make my goodbyes, give Megan a kiss on the forehead, tell her to give Jack my best, and make plans to visit each other. I smile at Bethany, tell her how wonderful it was to see her, and enjoy the socially acceptable goodbye hug, a little too tight, and a little too much. As I break away, I am rewarded with a sigh, and a look, and I quickly move away before the tension builds too much.
I return to my car, only to realize I have forgotten completely about my friend Adam. Frantically I call wishing, hoping, that I have not ruined a friendship. He responds, seemingly in good spirits, and I begin my apologies. Even across the phone, I can see his knowing smile, he knew where I was going, and he tells me to relax. When he returns from Korea, we will grab a drink. Such a gesture is so simple and easy to do, that I know we will. He understands I would not have missed his sendoff party for the world, and that I will miss his funny comments, witty insight, and stoic support in the year to come. I tell him to enjoy the culture, beware the Soju, avoid karaoke, and be safe. He tells me to quit being a whore, says he has to go, and we say our goodbyes. As I think back to my night and the conversation I just had, I smile and get into my car. It is just as I told Megan, with a different context, “You don’t have to be with someone, to love them.”