That was John's code. It meant that he had gotten some last night. I would see this message scrawled on a business card left in my cubicle.
It was 1985, and I was working for a major corporation in Michigan. John was my most intense post college friendship,we were like frat brothers who hadn't met until after graduation. He was my IT support person, and the term "Metrosexual" was probably coined to describe him. Our first post-work adventure was shopping at J.L Hudson. I should have had an inkling.
We became close friends, traveling companions, drinking pals and bong buddies. Living in a rust belt town with very limited sophistication, we learned to travel. We traveled for shopping, for movies, for concerts, for adventures. I saw Betty Blue, the Psychadelic Furs, Sid and Nancy, The Pretenders, and Blue Velvet because of him. He had friends in Chicago. I wanted to see the Prairie Home Companion in Minneapolis. He wanted to experience Boxing Day in Toronto. By now we were also workout buddies, and we had both noticed a certain spark in the shower, although we both double dated with women. By now I had noted that my future was elsewhere, but I was yet to act on it.
It was on a weekend trip to Dad's cabin in a Michigan winter that we managed to land the Eagle ourselves. The cabin had a gas powered sauna, which once warmed up, allowed our relationship to find a new level. He admitted that he was bisexual in words moments before he demonstrated it in gesture. At some point his wrist somehow made contact with the heating element, causing a burn which he wore as his mark of retribution for weeks to come. It was one of many inside jokes we would have. And it was the first that I began to notice a pattern of him disappearing for a while after the Eagle landed. But he always came back around, and the situation repeated itself.
I guess it peaked on our trip to Europe. We had both scheduled vacation for the same week. The entire office knew where I was going, and John created a cover story of a camping trip. Only our General Manager's secretary knew the real story, and we sent her a post card from Paris. Paris was wonderful. Our first night there we shared the company of a girl named Gina, on subsquent evenings we somehow got by without her. We discovered early on that wine was cheaper than Coca Cola, so we drank heavily and fucked like dogs. His regret spirals were conveniently short in duration by then, and pretty much gone by nightfall. And while I never thought of him as gay, it became clear that he was enjoying himself. Perhaps this was his week to just let his guard down and live. I must admit he did it well.
Things cooled after that trip, as I had suspected they would. I was now ready to be out, and steered accordingly. I believed he was bi, so his needs were much more supplemental in nature. We spent less time together, although we remained friends. I transferred to Chicago, he took a job in Denver. We saw each other a few times after that. He came up one weekend to Chicago, I spent thanksgiving one year with his new girlfriend and himself. We spoke of the past landings of the Eagle in code.
I guess the letters stopped shortly after I moved to California. I saw him on a flight to Atlanta in the summer of '97, he wore a wedding band and a few extra pounds. We exchanged pleasantries but neither seemed compelled to stay in touch. Our paths were divergent by then.
It was on a whim that I typed his name into google and found a memorial site in his honor. Cancer, at age forty-eight, leaving a wife and two surviving children. Damn. Very sad.
I recall one conversation over Guinness Stout where he asked, "Where are the friends that we are going to know for the rest of our lives?" I wish I had been that friend for him. I'm certainly grateful for the adventures we had.
For John, in remembrance of Paris all those years ago, Edith Piaf from the year of his birth and Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien.
Rest well, my friend. No regrets.