We tried. But my friend, "H", passed away Friday morning. After some last-minute teleconferencing with my friends in New York, we decided to press ahead with our visit and offer what aid and solace we could to "H"'s surviving partner, "S."
Again, we had decided in advance that we would do our utmost to make this weekend not about US and OUR loss, but about our fond (and mostly funny) memories of "H."
Because "H" had an entire different life after 1998 than the one I had known between 1977, when we met in Seattle and 1996 when my life started falling apart and H & S were living in Seattle and had no idea, H had developed a whole new set of friends ... mostly academicians. H had gone and gotten a doctorate while I wasn't looking and was an associate professor of literature at a major state college here in the east.
Believe me, it came as a complete surprise to his "new crowd" that "H" had once operated an adult movie theater in the seamiest part of Seattle.
Or that "H" and I had once recruited another friend of ours, a guy named Ed (who was the trashiest slut we knew) to escort us for our virginal trips to "the baths" in the fall of 1977.
H & I were inseparable buddies in the summer, fall and winter of '77 until I left Seattle to move to New York in March of 1978. It's hard to believe that we managed to squeeze so much life into such a short period of time. But with all the exhuberence and endurance of youth, we did manage it. In those 9 short months we became BFF's. Or so we thought. When the time came to say goodbye, we both dissolved into tears at the thought of being thousands of miles away from each other.
But I did move -- and both of our lives continued and "H" eventually moved to New York a year or so later. By that time I was getting involved with my ex and it was clear to both H and me that our "drinking and disco days" were now a thing of the past.
I wouldn't give up that time we had together for anything. Despite the fact that he was 8 years younger than me, "H" opened my eyes to many things and helped to polish what was still a diamond in the rough (me).
So though I didn't get a chance to tell him goodbye... it doesn't matter. In fact, there is no "goodbye." What I got instead was a rekindling of all kinds of fond memories of my youth that nothing can take away from me. "H" is still very much alive, and still 21, in the only places that matter.... in my memories and in my heart.
I love you, H. I always did and I always will.