I went to the library yesterday.The woman at the desk wouldn't issue me a card because I didn't have ID with my new address on it. Trust and faith are dead. I stormed out, furious, suddenly understanding how Amazon.com makes such a killing.
But before I left, I spotted someone sitting at a bank of public computers, wearing your coat. The forest-green one with the brown plaid flannel–lined hood that detached with snaps. Maybe it wasn't the exact coat that belonged to you, though I'd love to imagine your parents took all your clothes to the coin-op laundry, gave them a good wash and dropped them off at the Brown Elephant before they left town last fall. I hope they found Conrad a good home, too. That stupid cockatiel terrified me, but I wish we'd gotten to know each other better. Any bird that could whistle the "1812 Overture" and terrorize a train wreck of a boyfriend the very first day I brought him around…could be a friend of mine.
That green coat never seemed your style; it was like you'd gone to Marshall's during a random cold snap and snatched up the first one that fit your husky Italian frame. It was better suited to the grizzled fishermen who set up their rods and tackle boxes along the breaker walls at Montrose Harbor. Then again, you weren't the consummately fashionable sort of gay man. You were more like a straight guy who decided one day that men were just more attractive. As normal a decision as the one you made to learn Spanish in college or the one to grab a bucket of KFC for dinner after you'd moved to Uptown.
You loved being close to the lake, even if it meant living across the street from public housing or down the block from a halfway house for the mentally ill. You could watch the fireworks over Montrose Harbor from your roof; you could hop on the bus and be downtown in minutes, or at Sidetrack on a Sunday afternoon for cocktails and show tunes. There were 30-foot waves leaping from your lake over those breaker walls today. The city eventually closed Lakeshore Drive, deemed it too dangerous to drive on in full-fledged white-out conditions. The city is a disaster. Sirens have been howling outside my window, emergency vehicles screaming down Western Avenue, all night. It really is the storm of the century, Doug, even though the century's barely begun.
In a former life, we would have had wine on the Metra tonight. Wine in Dixie cups borrowed from the NABP lunchroom. We would have joked with Sunshine, laughed as he rolled his eyes at the first-time passengers overwhelmed by the crazy weather. We'd have been praying for a snow day, drunk before we hit city limits, and that bus ride down the slushy streets of Old Irving Park would have been a goddamn joy. Everyone else would have hated us, and we wouldn't have cared. I keep looking out the window thinking, "God, Doug would have flipped out over this storm."
I've been thinking about you a lot lately, actually. The Steelers made the Super Bowl; even that reminds me of you. Remember when we found ourselves at the Dark Horse the day of a Steelers game? Just you, me and your two Texan friends in a sea of black and gold, cheering for the other team, Bloody Marys in hand.
Ugh. I didn't tell anyone else about the woman who turned me away at the library, and I'm going to feel really petty even mentioning it here. I'd much rather have told you in person, another little opportunity for us to share some evil glee. We could have made up an elaborate story about her, made fun of her clothes and her voice. I would have felt better by the time I kissed you goodbye and got off the bus. But she's just some municipal employee following the rules, isn't she? No story, no bus ride, no kiss for me.
Snowly cow, Doug. The storm would just blow your mind. This snow day's for you.