This isn’t an X-rated event, but I’d like to remember it.
The night before I drove to my new home, after the movers had cartoned up everything in the house and loaded it on their truck and driven away, some of my friends gave me a going-away party. I didn’t really want anything of the sort. In fact, I’d specifically asked they not do any such thing. For one thing, they’d already thrown us a huge farewell party back in September of last year—a huge event with way too much food, a rented space, music, the works. After the spouse departed and I lingered on for nine months while I waited for my house to sell, though, I kind of felt increasingly awkward about having been to my own going-away party and never, you know, actually going.
Still, when I got to the bar and saw the balloons and the cake and a handful of my friends smiling at me, any reluctance I had more or less vanished. A good cake goes a long way toward mollifying my doubts, usually. I ate, I chatted, I grinned a lot . . . everyone had a good time.
About an hour into the evening, one of the friends who’d done the most to organize the party slid into a vacated chair next to mine. “I didn’t know how to get in touch with Spencer,” he told me. “I was hoping I could get him to come out, too.”
He’d met Spencer on one of the nights we’d come out together. “You know, I told him where I’d be tonight,” I said. “I was kind of hoping he’d show up, too.”
Spencer and I had been faithful, almost-nightly companions up until almost the end. I’d cooked for us the entire week before my last, and made him some of the gluten-free almond meal brownies he liked so much; we’d spent our evenings cuddling on the sofa and talking and watching television or videos on YouTube. The week of my move, he’d given me my space so that I could finish up around the house and spend time with my loved ones, but I’d really been hoping to see him one last time.
It was only a few minutes after that conversation that I looked up toward the bar’s back door and saw a tall young man striding in. His lips pulled apart into a wide, goofy grin punctuated by the dark, clear periods of his eyes and the two sideways parentheses of his eyebrows. My heart caught for a second. I know my face lit up. He’d come, after all.
We made room for him at the table, where he met the people to whom he hadn’t yet been introduced, and where he greeted the folks he already knew. He was popular with everyone—outgoing and talkative, he spent the evening making small talk like a pro, and joining in the singing and the toasts.
And you know, on some level I knew it was an act—or at least an effort. Spencer hates the bars with a passion. He dislikes making small talk with strangers. Sweet as he can be, he’s much more a person who thrives on one-on-one intimacy, whether in friendship or in bed, than he does on the group dynamic. But he’d come because I’d asked, and because he wouldn’t have another chance. He was determined to make me happy he had. The one thing I’d always hoped for with Spencer was a graceful dismount for us both from our relationship: a sense that we concluded our time together in a mutually satisfactory way, with no regrets for our behavior or apologies left to make. I wanted us to part sweetly, and as friends.
That was the present he gave me, the night before we left. He charmed my acquaintances and family and left the people who talked to him with smiles on their faces. He was relaxed, and natural, and funny. He was himself, at his most unfettered. And that’s exactly how I’ll be able to remember him in the future—smiling, confident, handsome, and utterly capable.
After a couple of hours, he told me he had to go. “Hey,” I said, holding him by the leg. “I want to tell you. You are the most remarkable young man I know, and I see a future filled with great things for you. Please know how much you’ve meant to me over these last months. I don’t make many close friendships. I’m grateful for having yours.”
“We will always be friends,” he told me. Then we hugged, and kissed, and I walked him to his car.
A graceful dismount is all I hoped for. He gave us that, with Olympic style.