‘Things just ain’t the same since you left our world’

Dearest S.,

I’ve never had someone die and it made me wish with all my might that I could trade places with them.

But there isn’t enough wine in Lodi to take away an ounce of this pain. And all I can think is, you should be here. And I would give anything for you to have more time in your too-short life.

Mom said she remembers you and me sitting on my L-shaped balcony on the Intracoastal, talking about things that were so over her head. Finance, politics, the characters in our too-crazy-to-be-fiction world, and all our theories on their behavior and what motivated them. 

She said she was in awe of us — we were so smart, so cultured, so worldly to her. You especially. You saw more of the world than I have. And you promised to show it to me. In fact, you couldn’t wait to be my tour guide. Paris first. Then … everything and anything. And finally, we’d run a crepe shop on the Mediterranean. We would be free.

I know the moment you died. I knew something was wrong. Mom and I were on a road in the left (fast — hahaha) lane. I had to come to a screeching halt behind some twit who was going 25 mph. A car — a crimson Nissan Altima — almost wiped us out — he came upon us going at least 70.

I swerved left. Nearly killed us all. But that car swerved right. And the cauliflower heads going 25 mph in a 50 in the left lane never noticed.

Mom and I sat there in that lane for a fraction of a second. I thanked Jesus a hundred times. God knows Mom has enough problems without THAT.

But I knew something was wrong in the world right then. I wasn’t sure why the universe spared us. But I was grateful. Yet I wondered … who wasn’t so lucky?

Had I known it was at your expense (and I know it wasn’t, but bear with me. This grief is destroying me), I don’t know that I wouldn’t have told God to take me instead. You’re so young. So much to offer. So … everything that is good about this world.

Everyone called me this weekend and today. I heard from Vitamin D., from our hero P., from our far-away friend S. … and so on. (And you know how much I hate the phone …)

None of us can believe you’re gone.

And that everyone thought of me … I am humbled that they associate me with your friendship.

I thanked them all for reaching out. For loving and caring about me. For loving YOU and wanting to connect with the person they associate most with you.

I’m not certain if you recognize the Jonny Van Zant song (“Brickyard Road”) I quoted in the title. I heard it in high school and have loved it for as long as you’ve been alive. But you loved you some Skynyrd, so maybe you heard Little Brother’s song somewhere along the line.

Facebook keeps showing me our memories. So few photos of us. But so many photos of good food, good drinks and many, many late nights spent in parking lots — thinking of ANOTHER thing to talk about. And ANOTHER.

Man, you and I would try to wrap up early to go back to work (or get up early for it — or both). And suddenly 8:30 p.m. became 2-ish a.m. and we were by ourselves under a streetlight somewhere … gabbing the night away.

I can’t help feeling like I failed you somehow. That you aspired to my stupid work ethic and surpassed it as only you could. That we kept the rest of the world at arm’s length. And then, eventually, we did the same to each other.

And if I can’t trade places with you, in a way I feel like the only right thing to do would be to join you.

I’m not going to. Not that I know of, anyway. God only takes the good ones. You never had an unkind word to say about anyone. You spoke your truth clearly and confidently. Your employer loved you and so did everyone else you ever met.

But as I read the tributes on your Faceypages wall, I see colleagues upon colleagues. You were great to work with. You were a great leader and team player. You worked hard and made everyone feel important. ALL WORK.

I feel like I was partly responsible for that.

And I also feel honored …

That you let me get close.

That you let me know the real you.

That you loved me so damn much … and let me love you right on back.

Back before gay marriage was a thing, you joked that we were soulmates. Too bad we can’t get married, Goddess, you’d say. We are more alike than any man we’d ever met. Shame we can’t give up on sex or else this would be the perfect arrangement!

We would laugh. We always figured we’d be friends. We said men would be secondary to our friendship. Not that we wanted it that way — we just figured that’s how it would unfold.

And in the past year or so, even though we weren’t as close as we were when you lived in Florida — I could still reach out and THERE YOU WERE. Every time.

Anyway. I had so much to share with you. So many things I knew you would relate to. But we hid behind our professionalism. Smiled over the crazy things. Chose not to bond — preferring to keep secrets in our respective “families.” Families — that we love very much — built independently of each other.

And here we are. What was truly the greatest kind of friendship, stopped in its tracks.

And for what it’s worth, those things you did say a couple years ago — as bluntly as possible to me — were 100% correct. Rather, they were prescient rather than true at that point. But, you know. I had nothing to lose after it was out in the universe.

(You were right. He wasn’t worth it.)

OK I am guessing the wine is kicking in, thank you Lodi Estates. Which you would love. We always enjoyed the pursuit of amazing Bloody Marys, pinot noirs and rum drinks.

I told everone who called to have a Bloody or a good red wine tonight. And to “Cheers” to our girl.

We just all wish you could clink those glasses right on back.

Love you so much, I can’t even breathe. And not sure I even want to anymore …

Love always,

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