Nick and LTExB hated each other, and for good reason. Nick hated that LTExB treated me so poorly; LTExB hated that Nick treated me so well. He loved me, and I loved him, but by the time we realized it, we were out of time. He was dying.
I think about Nick daily. The holidays aren't any harder than any other day. As time goes on, it hurts less, and the good times are those I recall more frequently. But as I start this new relationship with R., I find myself comparing him to Nick. I know there will never be another Nick. He was the sort of guy who I couldn't introduce to my friends because they would instantly have a crush on him. The kind of guy who could be the life of the party not because he was full of himself, but because he made everyone else feel good about themselves. The kink of guy who could look reach through the fog of bullshit that surrounded me because of LTExB, grab my hand, and pull me out.
We didn't have a very long friendship; we met only in April of one year and he passed away in August of the following. But over those 16 months, we became more than friends; we were each other's lifelines. We had our friends, we had school and work and family. But at the end of the day, we came back to each other. We were support; it was a deep friendship filled with conversation and many, many special memories. And as silly as it may sound, all of my favorite moments center around mundane, every day occurrences, when we were just two people living our everyday lives in parallel. Maybe it’s because Nick and I met in the laundry room; we both arrived at the same time and unfortunately, we each had two loads. (Ever the problem solver, Nick suggested we combine our whites.) He made some small talk, but I had had a long day that day, so I wasn't too talkative. He did enough talking for both of us until I was drawn out of my mood, and then we talked until all three loads were dry and folded. After that day, we'd always end up stopping by each other's places on the way to the laundry room. "Bam, I'm doing laundry," he'd say. "Come talk with me?" And of course I always would, because he would always do the same for me.
I loved working the occasional Saturday nights, because I knew that around 10:30, Nick would text me and ask what kind of sandwich I wanted. I'd go to his always-freezing place after work to a Jimmy John's sub and Nick’s laughter. It would be cold in Nick’s apartment, so after I sat on the couch, he’d throw the grey fleece blanket on me. We’d sit on the couch, and he’d be restless for a while, trying to get comfortable, the whole time asking me what I want to watch. We’d decide on a movie, or an SNL episode (the one with Feist and Brian Williams being a favorite), or an animated television show. I’d sit somewhat sideways, with my toes tucked into the crack of the sofa cushions, the tops of my feet against his hip and the side of his thigh. If I make a comment during the show, he’d stop the program, and have me repeat what I said before responding. Sometimes I have to repeat myself again. Then he’d rewind the show to where we were before I started talking. Sometimes he’d look over at me. Sometimes I’d steal a glance at him. I loved his loud laugh. He’d look at me when I giggled. His arm would drape across the back of the couch, and he’d lean slightly toward me. Sometimes I would start to fall asleep, but when he laughed, I’d wake up and feel happy. I was always happy when we were together.
Both of us had many, many difficult phone conversations winter/spring 2008, and we'd rely on each other before, during, and after, to help get through them. He helped me out of a dangerous, unhealthy situation, and I wouldn't have been able to do it without his unwavering support and confidence in me. My family and other friends were too close to the situation; he was close to only me, and could offer me support in a way that others couldn't. I could do the same for him, too, and he needed me just as much. But he was too proud to ask for help, so he came up with a goofy phrase that meant, "I need you now. Hurry." He'd use it over phone, in text messages, and when he'd show up at my door at all hours of the night. But when I said it, he'd laugh, because I had no problem asking for help!
I have a few memories that I haven't written down yet. One is like a dream, you know the kind, where you think if you close your eyes, you may be able to change the ending, but really all you want is to see the details again. But the more you think about it, the further it gets, so you think about it as a global concept without the details. So I'm going to write it down now, so I don't forget.
It was April, and Nick and his mom were coming to town. I asked if he wanted me to pick them up from the airport and he said yes please, that my name "was called upon very highly in [their] home." I did what I usually did, and asked if they needed anything in the fridge for when the got there. He said not to worry, his mom would go shopping. But when I picked them up, he asked if he could borrow some milk, so I brought up a pink thermos with skim (even though he hated skim; it was either that or soy, which to him was even worse.) Fast forward a few days, and it was time to take them back to the airport. Mrs. M was still packing, and there was a knock on my door. It was Nick, returning my thermos. He thanked me for the milk, and then went rambling on about timing. The timing is so bad, I don't want to go back, but I don't want to stay here either, and wouldn't it have been great if we had met earlier, like right when you moved to here, wouldn't that have been great? But the timing could get better, you know, and things could always change, and the doctors are coming up with some awesome treatments, and you don't have to move to Texas, I could stay in here, or you could go somewhere else, too, like somewhere back east, but really the way things had worked out, they sucked, but isn't it awesome we had each other, and we got to be so close, but I wish things had been different, I wish I could change things, I wish I could do the things I wanted to, and be the person I want to be right now, right here.
I was working on my thesis when he had knocked. I was deep into my research, and I didn't understand what he was saying. It didn't make sense. I wanted him to blurt out what he was trying to say.
He went back upstairs. I went up a few minutes later. Mrs. M and I talked in the hallway about Nick, about how much we both loved him. He came up with his suitcases, and asked us what we were up to just as pieces of paper with or phone numbers changed hands. We said nothing, we were just talking.
At the airport, his mom took her luggage to the sidewalk while Nick and I said our goodbyes.
“Call me, okay? Let me know you got in safe.”
“Okay.” He hugged me.
I pulled away and smiled. “No you won’t,” I said. “You suck at using the phone.”
“But I will.”
“How do I know that?”
“Because when I hugged you, I smelled your hair. And I wouldn’t smell your hair if I didn’t mean what I said, that I’ll call you.” He was holding my shoulders, looking straight into my eyes. He was wearing that shirt I bought, the brown one that he had worn for four days in a row once.
“You smelled my hair?” I smiled and raised my eyebrows.
“Yeah, like this.” We hug again, and this time, I felt him inhale, and my hair move away from my neck. We kissed cheeks, and I felt so safe.