It's finally HITTING me tonight that the man who has been my best work friend and drinking buddy for more than three years has left town. Off back home to Boston for law school, thanks in part to a recommendation I wrote. The move was hastened by wedding plans set for June and his fiancee getting a lucrative job offer that requires her to move from Washington to Boston right away.
I'm gonna miss our common interests, marinated in similar working-class backgrounds and comfort with ideas. We were also completely on the same wavelength, even though he was far to my left (as is 90% of the US populace, but whatevs). With both of us in a state of inebriation, I could say things (and remember this example specifically) like the self-coined-on-the-spot term "embourgeoisification" and he would get it as if he had heard it a hundred times. He and his fiancee are both lapsed Catholics ... collateral damage from the collapse of the Church's credibility in the city at the epicenter of The Situation. He's wandered from a vague interest in Unitarianism (the only kind imaginable) to attending an Episcopal church. When he said the liturgy made him nostalgic, I told him that if coming back to the Church isn't a short term option, that's better than nothing (something I did not say about the UUC). Hopefully, time healing wounds and ECUSA's silk-stocking style and PC earnestness (to which he's not blind and we both joked about) will nudge him back home. And he listened to my woes -- I probably imposed a bit much on him -- but was clear-eyed about it. At one point when I thought I may come down HIV-positive (I had had some inconsistent tests) he made me promise to fight it and not be ashamed to file a health-insurance claim (i.e., tell people at work) for anti-HIV drugs. "I think you might deliberately not take care of it and let yourself die," he said.
Though he is by far the bigger ice hockey fan (played in college and still does rec league games, in fact), every spring he and I would follow our teams through the Stanley Cup playoffs and watch some games together. The NHL regular season has one week to go, so I'm gonna miss the ritual of following my Capitals and his hometown Bruins. And frankly my taking advantage of his better hockey knowledge. But he knew not to rub in too hard the Capitals' first-round playoff collapse last year -- up 3-1 in the 1-8 matchup against Montreal, the Caps lost three games in a row, two at home despite getting a zillion shots on suddenly untouchable Canadiens goalie Jaroslav Halak. Like everyone else in Washington, I thought last year, when the Caps had the league's best record, would be The Year. But my heartbreak didn't stop him from IM'ing me after Game 7, "I guess the H in 'Jesus H. Christ' stands for Halak." We also would follow the simultaneous basketball playoffs, a sport in which the interest is a bit greater on my part (the NFL and baseball not so much).
We went out with his fiancee and a couple of his other local friends for a farewell evening last week, after his last day at work, and he left a couple days after that. We parted on a DC street with a hug. I hugged his fiancee as well and whispered in her ear "you have a good man there."
So I guess one could say I loved him. But I was never "in love with him." As the "fiancee" bit indicates, he could not be interested in me. And while I would probably be tempted if he had ever come onto me, I am absolutely certain I did not think of him in those terms in any but the most-theoretical of senses, like when typing this sentence. I told him directly once that there wasn't the least chance I'd proposition him ("you don't crap where you eat," I assured him).
Mind you, it has happened. Twice in my life, I've fallen in love with a male friend, sub rosa. Not only did neither ever become physical but I never so much as broached Topic H, except in the context of political discussion of related topics. In those cases, I probably was too terrified; now, I'm probably just past the point of caring who knows, at least in private and personal circles. I told him fairly early on and, having gotten over the surprise (I apparently don't register on men's gaydars at all), it was no big deal. Probably because it couldn't be, what with all the sports talk and beer and jokes about his shacking up with his old lady and whatnot. I realize how frivolous this may appear, but precisely because sex between us was not on the table, what it was in both our lives (good or ill) was aboveboard and freely discussable -- the subject had been neutered, as it were.