One of my dearest college friends came to visit me this weekend. He is part of what we have collectively dubbed The Ohio 5… three straight women and two gay men who went to school in suburban Columbus and have been friends through thick and thin for 16 or 17 years now. We’ve scattered to the four winds, and the other two girls have families now, but we keep in close touch. Rarely do we get to see each other, so any time any combination of the five of us can get together, it’s an event.
The second Joey stepped off the bus looking like Michael Stipe in a felt and feathered fedora and a faux corduroy jacket, however, I knew nothing but our ages had changed. He was going to wear me out.
I’m still relatively low-energy, compared to him.
One of my missions is to let my visitors see a side of my town that they wouldn’t imagine exists, so I’m always happy to take them to one or two of the dozens of amazing locally-owned restaurants we have and whisk them through charming neighborhoods full of old homes and reconstruct their image of the place. I got to work straight away, and we enjoyed a delicious dinner at an Afghan restaurant known well to local foodies, but not tourists. We chatted about his work as a playwright and his (paying) work as an executive assistant in Manhattan, his impending move to Brooklyn (which he would have railed against in our younger years and is now happy to make for the sake of the relative quiet) and our plans to see a Sondheim show the next night. We caught up in person and laughed and teased each other and niggled each other’s quirks.
He’s still unbelievably, inappropriately loud. All the time. Which one rather expects from a guy in a felt and feathered fedora. I’m just not sure the Afghans loved it.
We stayed up late watching “For Colored Girls,” which is addressed to neither of us and is a very intense and gut-wrenching film. When it was over, we treated it with serious analysis, then we cracked inappropriate jokes, and after I showed him where the coffee and sweetener and mugs are, and where he could hang his towel in the morning if he got up before me (even though I knew I’d never sleep later than a guest), we went to bed.
I’m still persnickety about hosting.
We had a lovely, leisurely morning with coffee and chat, despite my general avoidance of morning chat. I’m quiet; he starts right in. He probably woke my neighbors with his voice alone, but I learned long ago that shushing him is pointless. I didn’t nag. We just enjoyed the time sharing the space without pressure of schedule or the need to impress. We had a plan, but it was a rough one. He kept ping-ponging about exactly what he wanted to do.
He’s still a little flaky and hard to pin down.
Our plans worked out beautifully without a carefully constructed schedule (though I did plan for time around public transportation schedules so we could avoid worrying about being late to the theater). We brunched at another local gem that I knew he would love, and he unabashedly chatted up the women seated next to us, after he grilled the server about whether he could substitute this for that and get the other thing on the side and could they possibly also do this? I’d forgotten what it was like to dine out with Joey. It’s like Meg Ryan’s character in “When Harry Met Sally.” I am not making it up when I tell you he orders exactly like she did. “I’d like the chef salad, please, with the oil and vinegar on the side, and the apple pie a la mode. But I’d like the pie heated and I don’t want the ice cream on top, I want it on the side. And I’d like strawberry instead of vanilla if you have it. If not, then no ice cream, just whipped cream, but only if it’s real. If it’s out of the can, then nothing.”
On the way down to our destination for the day, I played a recording he had sworn he wanted to hear, of my choir singing some Sondheim songs. Rather than listening, he loudly sang along. I smiled as I remembered he’s always done this.
I still have trouble letting him just be that way.
We traipsed around town, doing the things visitors do, walking a lot. I pointed out fascinating bits of history and connections through time, which he thought was “amazing” and “stunning” and “lovely” for three seconds and then was on to something else. We’ve always been different that way; he glosses over things I find deeply interesting and assigns grandiose words to his minimal reactions; I, by contrast, understate. We had dinner at a place I didn’t know, just because it was convenient, and he kept his menu alterations to a minimum: two changes to the dish.
We saw a show that we both really enjoyed, though he was in heaven because it was Sondheim and it starred legends of the stage, and I know little about the work. I took in what he could teach me about the show and the characters and the evolution of the production since it debuted. We both soaked up the evening of theater. Afterward, though we were both tired, I showed him some sights at night that I feel are not to be missed. He loved almost all the same things I do.
Then he started talking about how badly he wanted ice cream, and I was dying for a bottle of cold water and a caffeine-free Diet Coke. I mentioned my thirst (which I find more urgent that a craving for ice cream – not being an ice cream person, myself) maybe three times. He would not stop talking about the ice cream. For an hour, it was all he could think of. Mint chocolate chip ice cream. It went from “I’m going to get me some ice cream!” said jauntily, in a manner befitting his hat, to “I need ice cream! I really need ice cream! We need to find a place where I can get ice cream.”
Finally, I gestured widely. “Joey, look around honey. It’s midnight. Do you see any place, anywhere near here, that might sell ice cream?”
“No… but maybe we could stop?” he said hopefully.
He’s still like a five-year-old in this regard: when he wants something you find frivolous, he will not let it go until he wears you down. He whines. And stomps.
I’m still like a mother: I hate fits and I rarely give in to them.
We stopped at four different places before our hour-long drive back to my place. My drinks were easier to find than his ice cream. I found my drinks at the first stop. The other three places were just for him, now at 12:30am, desperate for mint chocolate chip ice cream. And it couldn’t be Breyer’s or some generic brand. It had to be high-end.
After the fourth disappointment, he looked ready to cry. Exhaustion was beginning to take its toll on both of us, but I softened for a moment. “I know what it’s like to crave something and not be able to have it,” I said as we got back in the car. “I’m sorry we can’t find it, and I don’t have any at home, and there are no 24-hour places near me. I have strawberries and grapes, if that helps. I have yogurt…”
“No!” he whined. “It won’t. It won’t do. I need ice cream!”
“I understand what that’s like,” I laughed, pulling out onto the street. “But I really am going to need you to stop whining.”
“I’m noooot!” he whined.
“Yes.” I said firmly. “You are. Stop.”
He gave me a look. I gave him a look.
He fell asleep on the ride home and ate strawberries and grapes when we got there and said that was exactly what he needed.
We slept in, and had our coffee, and he journaled while I paid some bills. We each got our showers, he repacking while I freshened up; I checking on the restaurant I wanted to go to for brunch while he got dressed. He loved the place, of course. The wait was long and the wait for the food was equally long, and my exhaustion was carried over from the night before and bleeding into a bit of anxiety about being late for work. But I dismissed it; it was Saturday and all would be well. He did his thing with asking for a special preparation instead of the menu item, and was shot down. But this time he barely protested. I was quieter than usual because I was so tired, and he just stared at me and smiled. I didn’t nag about his ordering. He didn’t bug me about not talking.
We know each other.
When we finished our meal, we headed for the bus stop so he could go home. Bags were retrieved from the trunk. Big hugs and lots of thank-yous for theater tickets and hospitality were exchanged, and he said he’d text when he arrived. Then kisses on cheeks, and off he went, and I headed to work.
Both of us pleased to have spent good time with a great old friend.