Hey, Old Friend
A while back, out walking my dog one day, I ran into an old friend from high school. We hadn’t talked in 10 years maybe. He was on the phone, and I was on the phone. I was just back from a long trip, still reveling in my happy place. He didn’t get off the phone, and I didn’t get off the phone, but we stopped long enough to hug and do the air-kiss-on-the-cheek thing. We exchanged enough info to find out he worked right across the street from where I lived. He suggested grabbing lunch sometime. From what I remembered and had heard through the grapevine in recent years, this guy was a bit of a schmoozer who rarely followed through on anything, could be kind of an ass, but smart, funny and sweet at the same time, and actually great fun to hang out with. I called out to him while saying goodbye that I was free for lunch the following day, then off for more travel. He texted that night, and we had lunch the next day.
Lunch with an old high school pal (HSP) whom you haven’t seen in ages can go one of two ways: instantaneous reminder of why you were such good friends, or an even faster reminder of why you no longer speak. We hit it off. There wasn’t enough time at lunch to talk about everything, but there was enough time to have a REAL conversation. In less than 60 minutes I learned that a few years back he was diagnosed with a serious illness that had potentially life-threatening complications. Coincidentally (and miraculously) he found out just the day before our lunch that he was given a clean bill of health – he was cured from treatment he received in a clinical trial. In those same 60 minutes he heard the bullet points of the last 10 years of my life – the good, the bad and the ugly, and thoughts on the future. It wasn’t so much a reunion as it was getting to know each other for the first time as adults with the comfort of a history of an old friendship. There were more lunches, happy hours (HH) and then epic HHs. An epic HH was defined as “A HH that was better than the last, but not as good as the next.” Fast forward to a hot summer night in August.
I’d been working nights, getting in a ton of shifts to accommodate some vacation time starting that morning after my last overnight. All week I’d also been dealing with a frustrating and complicated project that exploded in my face that particular day. So, to start the vacation properly, I met up with some friends, including HSP for HH and snacks. Pretty quickly the crowd thinned. HSP and I lingered as we often did, talking about his stuff, my stuff, and when things got too serious one of us would make a joke to make it all better. We created a safe environment where we both could be 150% brutally honest. Was there attraction? Sure, but this was much more about feeling free to be ourselves, with an agreement that we would not become romantic – this was spoken out loud. It was off limits, which made our interaction even more comfortable to do or say anything.
At our nightcap spot where we both drank water and coke, we talked about night swimming. I fondly recalled swimming in the ocean one night a long time ago with my dad, and feeling like we were the only two people in the world who shared this incredible secret. HSP thought that sounded like like a great idea. It was my first night of vacation. Other than getting up to walk the dog, I was able to sleep in the next day, so in all seriousness I considered it. Two hours later, 1:00 AM, there we were, on the beach, just the two of us. It was the softest sand I’ve ever stepped in at the Jersey Shore, moonlight pouring down on the ocean, beckoning us into the low tide. Hand-in-hand we ran through the sand into the gloriously warm water (thank you climate-change), splashing, laughing, jumping, and riding the waves in. The swim was beautiful, exhilarating, cleansing, and perfect. We ran and walked the beach until the rain sent us onto someone’s covered porch to get dry and get set for the ride home.
After the obligatory stop at a diner for a breakfast burrito and a milkshake at 4:00 AM, we alternated playing DJ all the way home, singing and chatting, so aware of how special the night was. HSP dropped me off at my building just before dawn. My doorman, who’d seen me get in the same car hours before, dry and somewhat presentable, opened the car door for me, grabbed the bag of beach towels, shaking his head, laughing at my ocean wind-dried hair. As I waited for the elevator I asked the doorman if he thought we were crazy. He said “I think you guys are awesome.” That awesomeness came at the end of that very crappy day. And that’s why I love the universe. There’s always something awesome lurking around the corner if you’re open to seeing it. There is always, always, always something to be happy about and grateful for. In this case, it was a whole new meaning of Night Swimming and The Jersey Shore.