As I sat across from my husband, nursing a hangover, I kept thinking about how “Billy wants to be friends”. I was mentally trying to figure out how he found me, in between bites of my breakfast. Like a Polaroid going off in my mind, I suddenly recalled the bartender taking a group photo from the night before. That must have been it. Jeff must have tagged me.
You could hear the clanking of our silverware, as we continued with our breakfast. Him, bacon and eggs. Me, hash browns and coffee. Not much has changed in fourteen years of marriage. I can predict my husbands wants and desires like a weatherman predicts tomorrow’s California sunshine. We were both utterly exhausted, so no words were exchanged. This wasn’t the first late night between us. We actually met at an underground club in Europe. And not your ordinary club in the American sense. This place was legendary for hardcore music lovers who had been up for two days. A Sunday afternoon session if you will, to cap the weekend off. But those days were long behind us. And had been from the start of our marriage. However, it felt eerily familiar to be this narcoleptic sitting across from him.
[click here to ACCEPT] kept popping in my mind. That, and wondering if Jeff had really posted the group photo. My curiosity grew as my stomach swelled full and I finally reached for my phone. Sure enough, I was right. There on Facebook was the photo from the previous night. I was surrounded by my dearest girlfriends from twenty years ago, while Billy stood directly behind me…smiling.
I would look at that photo several times in the coming weeks, wondering if I should finally leave my husband. Wondering if my marriage had completely run it’s course. I didn’t know how else to reconcile the racing heartbeat that never stopped. I had that exact same feeling when I met my husband, which I took as a sign. A sign that somehow, I had made a terrible decision in marrying my husband. And that perhaps, Billy and I were meant to be together.
But Billy knew I was married. For the duration of our meal, I rationalized that perhaps I had misinterpreted everything at the bar. And adding me, to the other 2158 “friends” Billy had, likely meant nothing to him. So I accepted his friendship. In one click, we were reconnected.
It took all of three days for Billy to contact me. Very PC of course.
“Good to see you! You haven’t aged at all. Your husband is rad too. Next time I’m up that way, maybe we can meet at the brewery. You guys get a sitter.”
I broke out in the biggest grin replying back, “Yeah I feel the same. I really was surprised to see you. In all honesty, I thought you were someone’s husband and not alumni. You look so different than how I remember you.”
Without missing a beat he replied, “Ha. Reynolds didn’t even recognize me.” All the guys referred to each other by their last names. It started back in junior high, when the boys PE teacher called them out by their last names during drills. It stuck. And to this day, that’s how they refer to one another: Reynolds, Weaver, Fuller and Collins. They were thick as thieves at one point. But time had distanced everyone from each other.
And so our friendship began. It was mostly benign stuff, like comparing notes about the reunion. Did you talk to this person or that person? Wasn’t that person funny? But eventually our chit-chat turned more personal, like most people’s would after you’ve flushed out all the boring stuff.
One morning, I was told that a classmate was murdered and it floored me. I immediately sent Billy a message. “I just heard about her passing. Did you know?” He immediately got online to talk. “Whaaaat? When? How?” I quickly replied, “All I know is she was murdered.” Billy wrote, “So sad. I liked her. Urgh, I’m reading about it online. So so sad.”
A few days later, my husband took the kids to a soccer game. So I had time to myself which rarely happens. Pouring myself a glass of wine, I logged back in and Billy sent me a message. “Hiiiiiiiiiii. What are you doing?” “Just sitting her with a glass of wine. Everyone went to a soccer game. I’m actually alone for once which never happens. You?”
“Sitting at a bar watching the World Series. It’s empty. Too many Halloween parties.” Billy wasn’t in California. He was back east, a trip he made several times a month to oversea business. Wondering where he would rather live, I asked, “Do you like being back there? Or are you a So Cal guy at heart?” He said, “Ha! I only ever “visit” here, even when I moved. I’ve never lived further than four miles from the house I grew up in. Except when here.”
“So your parents are still in town?” I asked. Billy replied, “My mom is. Old man died a few years ago. Same house across from school.” Regretfully I said, “I’m sorry Billy. I didn’t know. We put mine in a home. Twelve brain surgeries, two comas, nearly died a few times.”
“That’s tough. At least mine went quick. Died on his motorcycle surrounded by his friends, with the sun on his face. Kinda awesome.” Collecting my thoughts, I finally replied, “You can’t ask for a better way to go. Surrounded by your friends, doing something you love.” Billy paused and finally replied, “True. Very very true.”
I should probably share that Billy has a penchant for restoring vintage cars. Or rather an obsession for a certain German manufacturer. It started with his father and migrated down to him. One day, he shared some old B&W photos of his Dad leaning against one of his prized possessions. It was definitely unexpected. Quite sweet and nostalgic. And in that moment, I realized just how much his fathers death had impacted him. He missed him. And I understood. For although my father was still alive, he was completely brain damaged. I lost him in every way, except the physical.
A few days passed and Billy sent me more photos. Only this time, it was inside his business. Maybe he was trying to impress me. Who knows. I wish I could divulge more because it’s interesting. And especially for someone like him. You could say our friendship was getting closer at that point. Although I yearned to see him again, I figured it would be another decade until that would happen.
My phone rang. It was Kara. “I’ve been so busy honey, but I’ve been wanting to call you. The reunion was so much fun. Now everyone wants to hang out again. How about me, you and Laura throw a Halloween party?”