I remember the night we met and you walked into my bonfire party wearing a charcoal gray sweater, holding a bottle of wine. I was in a fading relationship at the time and you’d just broken up with someone that left you in pieces. We knew of each other, but had never met before that night. You tentatively held out your hand to shake mine and made a joke about the 8 Mile poster that hung above our dining room. It was instantaneous, our best friendship. We both needed saving: we were each other’s salvation. It’s funny how you could never know you really needed someone until they materialize, almost as if you had wished them into existence.
I’ve thought a lot about friendship. What it means to let someone into your life knowing they have the power to change you. You befriend someone, and in the back of your mind you know there’s only a finite amount of time with them. You understand that eventually it must end. Relationships shift and people move away and get jobs in a scary big city where they have to leave everyone they love behind. In an instant you go from hugging and laughing with someone to jumping on a plane with your life in three suitcases.
I often lay awake at night and listen to the rumbles of the city below me and think about the two weeks we lived together in Chicago. I was working at an Internet start-up and you came to visit as a stop on your cross-country trip taken to discover yourself. We shared the bed in my tiny studio apartment, got drunk and swam in Lake Michigan, and we ate at The Purple Pig and drank red wine out of Starbucks cups as we roamed Saks Fifth Avenue looking for a bathroom. I like to think I may have played a part in your self-discovery that summer, or may have just been a fun pit-stop. Either way, that summer was defined by moving in and out of the loneliness that comes with being in a new place on your own, punctuated only by the staccato bursts of friends' lively energy.
I miss those days because they encapsulated a period where we still had plenty of moments to contemplate our futures instead of actually living them. Without you by my side here I feel more lost. I know where you physically are; yet it feels so alien to me. I don’t know who to call to hang out for margaritas on a Tuesday night or whose couch to sleep on when I don’t want to go home and feel the intensity of an empty house.
Now I think of you in your green Starbucks apron shamelessly flirting with the old women who come in for their cappuccinos. I think of your intense love of Bravo and blue corn tortilla corn chips. I think of us dancing to Beyonce and getting drunk off of wine on your couch.
The city is beautiful, and the city is home, but it feels so hollow without you, like someone took a giant scoop out of Manhattan in your shape. The other day I was walking through Trader Joe’s and thought about the time you almost fought a man outside when he called us faggots. I think about how I used to sit at home for nights on end, avoiding contact with everyone. I think about how deeply depressed I was before you burst into my life with your love of Jacuzzis, salsa, and that enchanting way of befriending everyone you meet. I think about my life, and how it feels a little less full without hearing your laugh every day; and I wish you nothing but happiness in your adventures; as I learn to be happy in mine.
—Follow Shawn Binder on Twitter: @ShawnBinder