Oh, dammit, Doug. I don't make it to Boystown often, but every time I'm there, I think of you.
I had the best dinner tonight; I actually won it. Just for tweeting. I was only beginning to use Twitter when you knew me. Tonight it won me fried chicken.
I went for a run this afternoon — I'm back to running again, signed up for a 10K that's this fall — then came home, showered and took the train to Sheridan. It felt like fall today, on June 6. Even the setting sun seemed like an autumn sunset, with the kind of chilled warmth that only an October sun can give.
Just shy of 7 p.m., everyone was already inside waiting for the Blackhawks game to start. It was just me and the sidewalks and my lengthening shadow.
I took myself on a date.
Dinner was at Hearty and started with a cocktail, an elderflower gimlet made with Small's Gin and St. Germain. I ordered fried mac and cheese for an appetizer and a fried chicken basket for dinner. Sinful.
I sat alone in the corner of the room, facing the sidewalk, and watched Halsted dim, fade to pink then black. I had Malbec with my chicken and a glass of sparkling wine with dessert. I chatted with the gay men at the table next to me; I walked my bubbles to the opposite corner of the room for a toast with another solo female diner. She'd just gotten divorced and only recently moved to the neighborhood.
You could always talk to anyone, too. Actually, to the point where it almost embarrassed me.
Anyway, I went all out. You'd have been proud.
I took the long way home.
I decided, after paying the check, to take the long way home, down Halsted through Boystown. And the second I hit Addison, your 6'3" presence loomed in my path.
You never seemed so tall; you were more like a carnival-game stuffed animal with a penchant for repeating salacious stories and the best Barcelona accent I'd ever heard. But tonight, you were a hulk on the street.
I walked past Tapas Gitana, where a wooden sign hung down from the awning beckoning people to the patio where we drank sangria till we were sick. Across the street, the sex shop where we staged our dildo sword fight was all aglow, with pleather underwear in the windows in a riot of colors all set for Pride Fest.
And then, the parking lot of the 7-Eleven. Why it was at that moment the lump of uncried tears chose to attack my throat, I can't be sure. I was so drunk on cheap rosé when we got that pedicab from my first-ever Pride Parade that I barely remember our first afternoon there. I remember the streets littered with strings of plastic beads and our clothes stuck to our bodies from the torrential downpour. And I remember that eternal ride home in the rain was one of the best times I've ever had.
I guess you're still here.
Just after the 7-Eleven parking lot, I walked past a group of kids holding a sign that said, "BAD JOKES. ANYTHING WILL HELP!" I asked if they were hungry and handed over my leftovers, all for this:
"Have you heard the one about the broken pencil?" "… No?" "… Ah, never mind. It has no point."
It was so worth surrendering my chicken and the last fried mac and cheese square. We would have been all the way to Belmont before we stopped cackling.
I'd rather be drinking with you.
I can't believe you'll have been gone three years this fall. Lisa and I talk about you like it's been a week since we saw you, even if I do refer to you as my dead friend Doug. I mean it with love, like the time you made a Parkinson's joke and didn't realize my mom had it. I know you'd understand.
I can't believe I was with him the night you collapsed, and I can't believe you left never knowing the real me. Or maybe you did. But I've changed so much, Doug.
I’m still irresponsible and silly, and I know we could cause so much trouble together. But I wish you could meet Mark, and the cats — hell, I'd say I wish you could have met Emaline, but I know you two are causing trouble somewhere right now — and I wish we could sit on my deck and drink more cheap rosé together.
I'd rather be drinking with you than writing this post. I'd rather be drinking with you than doing a lot of things.
I think you'd be proud of the woman I've become. You loved me as a hot mess, too, I know.
You know, you never did read my blog, and that never…really bothered me. I told you everything you needed to know.