Meeting her ‘my gay best friend’
SATURDAY, February 27 – We arranged to meet in Le Fromagerie, a tiny and, thus, overcrowded cheese shop. Jenn and J used to meet here for lunch that would often drift into happy hour, or started with a cup of tea that would end with dinner. They talked and talked, the two of them: she a garrulous American, he a gossipy guy from Portugal.
She called him “my gay best friend”, something that many women in their thirties and forties cultivate. He played the part with verve. He’d volunteer advice on her derierre and her breasts, which he referred to as ‘your tits, darling’. Together, they laughed their way through life, but it was more than that. The two of them had had a deep and strong friendship and I wanted to taste something of the joy they had shared.
Jenn had always said that J made her feel happy: ‘Wherever we are, whatever our mood, we always have fun together.’
He and I were now celebrating that friendship with a wine and a cheese platter. When we raised our glasses, I started to cry – just for a moment – but, still. I had expected him, not me, to give way to emotion He’d been the sensitive violinist who, during the cremation ceremony, could scarcely hold his instrument; I was the one now who unsuccessfully fought back tears.
Maybe it was because, as he explained, he was too sad to cry. ‘I’m not depressed,’ he explained. ‘but I no longer have the energy to enjoy life. It’s beyond me.’ We talked about the past. About certain choices that Jennifer had made during her life. About things she had done, sometimes behind my back. About everything he knew, and didn’t know. About his understanding. About his disapproval. About him and her. About her and me.
I was touched to hear him talk about the adventures they’d shared. I knew most of the stories, since Jenn always enjoyed recounting them as soon as she got home, usually at the kitchen table. He now confirmed the fun they had shared often using the exact same words and gestures. Their friendship was unrivalled and irreplaceable. Again and again he sighed deeply. ‘That’s the way it is. That’s the way it is.’
His words kept resounding in my head; even if, not particularly eloquent, all things considered I found myself wondering what is the way it is? And, besides, what does that even tell us?