A little more than three and half weeks ago, when I was moping around on a Thursday morning, contemplating the COVID and its accompanying existential abyss, my best friend called during my pre-work coffee and told me, if it was okay, she was kind of thinking about coming down to stay for a little while.
I told her, without hesitation, that it was a fine idea, and then experienced a couple waves of tacit five second hesitation, before deciding that if the worst case scenario was that I died of plague because my best friend moved in with me for a little while, I’d be cool with it because BEST FRIEND, and for the first time in several black clouded days I felt something like a flicker of “Oh right, happiness can exist in present tense.”
We kept the plans fairly close to the chest, informing only need-to-knows. Neither of us had really left our respective houses for the weeks previous. We’d followed protocols. We’d played by the rules. Still, “It’s not exactly essential travel,” she said, when she rented the car. Still, “People are probably going to think we’re menaces to public health,” I said, after I informed my mother and told her to keep it on the DL.
The day I drove to pick my best friend up at the rental car office was the furthest I’d driven in weeks. I’d brought a mask and hand sanitizer, but when I saw her in the parking lot, I got out of the car and asked if she felt as foolhardy as I did. She did. We hugged. It was the best hug. Maybe the best hug ever.
We’re not quite twenty years into best-friendship, best friend and I. She was an unlikely candidate for the title. I don’t think either one of us could have predicted that this would be the way things turned out the first time we met, but things work out in the strangest ways. We lived together, in reasonable peace, for the better part of a decade and have spent the decade since talking, almost daily, despite out geographical remove. We fit back into cohabitation with ease made easier by a new house with plenty of space. She worked downstairs. I worked upstairs. We met after six for post work cocktails on the deck. We watched stupid movies, better TV shows. We made dumb jokes. We invented ridiculous songs. We went on long walks. We reprised gossip from 20 years ago. We filled in the gaps.
She endured my bullshit and reminded me when it was. I hope I reciprocated, if not with sage advice, than at least with Negronis and various pasta dishes. We survived, on a day to day, in the weirdest of weidest times, on a steady diet of the weirdo humor, speculation, understanding, and twisty, turny conversations about everything from politics and philosophy to fashion tragedies and Whether That Dude In that Show Is, Like, Actually Hot that have defined our friendship since the first time I was like, “Huh, I actually kind of love this person.”
My best friend is a miracle. She’s funny and smart and bracingly, beautifully honest, and exquisitely ridiculous (or at least sympathetic to my brand of ridiculous) in all the best ways. You could not pick a better partner in crime or in quarantine, which I suppose is kind of the same thing, when you’re best friends illicitly quarantining. I love her more than pretty much anything. On the list, she falls somewhere around Immediate Family, perhaps north of pirates, fancy cheese, tulle evening gowns and James Brown. Having her around was 100% the best thing that has happened in I don’t even know when. Certainly she took the edges of the pandemics. Certainly she made the long days feel shorter and grander. Certainly she helped me remember that there is something, maybe just something, on the other side of whatever this is, that’s worth hanging around for.
Her stay was never meant to be permanent. Short-ish, but open-ended. It was a shade more than three weeks, when I delivered her back to the rental car place this morning. I tried not to give her a hard time about it. Last night I did ask, “Why don’t you stay?” And she responded, truthfully, “You know I don’t live here anymore.” I do know. And I understand. I respect it. I would never . . .
I held it together at the drop off, waiting on an unseasonably cold May morning in a rental car parking lot, while she repacked the car. I waited until the last minute until I gave her another hug. Every farewell these days is so fraught. Every farewell feels like it could be the last.
“Don’t get COVID,” I said. “And if you do, you better not fucking die.”
She promised she wouldn’t. And I promised the same.
I had to follow her out of the lot, onto the expressway. On the split, where she went North and I went West. She waved out her window. And I let go and cried for a minute, because I’m not a morning person and my best friend has gone home and I was feeling sorry for myself.
Then I turned on the music—Bobby Womack, thanks for asking– and drove home, back to the house. And the sun was out. And the world was green. And my best friend had come to stay with me for three weeks in the middle of a pandemic, and it was the greatest thing that ever happened, even if you think we were crazy. And holy shit, what if it happened again? What if it happens again? What if we do actually make it through this? Isn’t spending a few weeks with your best friend exactly the thing you make it through for?I mean, seriously.
I love you, best friend. I miss you already. I can’t wait for the next time we hang out, wherever, whenever, that will be.
Picture is at Ayrmount, in Hillsborough, where best friend and I wandered sunstruck and not-quite saying goodbye yesterday. NO HANGING OUT!
As of this writing, 1,487, 484 people have recovered form COVID-19.