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October 07, 2005 - 4:40 pm

PIPER

During that best weekend ever, I ended up talking at length toward the end of the trip to someone I called Interesting Character. We’ve been hanging out together a pretty good bit since then.

The first time I heard his name was a while ago from my friend Kristie in the context of “boys’ night out.” Piper went to architecture school with Kristie’s husband John (my ex-business partner), and Kristie said she loved Piper to death – he’s fucking brilliant – but hated when he and John went out together because John always got so wasted he was hung over for days afterward. If you knew Kristie you’d know why this is so funny. She drinks more than anyone I know. Yes, even more than me.

From the first time Piper’s name was mentioned, the phrase “he’s fucking brilliant” was automatically attached by every one. I found this annoying and decided I probably wouldn’t like this guy.

I think the first time I actually met Piper was maybe a year or so ago at a Vietnamese restaurant in midtown Atlanta. I’m not sure if Piper remembers this, but when I was introduced to him as John’s ex-business partner he said, “Oh right! I think I remember hearing about you. Your husband’s a real asshole but you’re alright. Right?”

Right. I was taken pleasantly aback by his candor.

As far as first impressions go, I liked him okay I guess. But there seemed to be something not quite right about that boy. I wasn’t able to put my finger on it, but I just felt that he wasn’t being completely honest about who he really was, if that makes any sense. Not to say I thought he was a fake or a phony, but I definitely sensed there were more layers to Piper than he was letting on – that somehow this was only one of many possible Pipers I might meet on any given day. I was wary.

Then I ran into him again at John and Kristie’s Christmas party this past year. He was drunk. I was drunker. That’s about all I remember of that encounter.

Oh, shit. I just remembered. There was one other time last winter when we’d all been out to a Squat show together. Afterward Kristie went home (drunk) to bed and I went to Krystal (uber drunk) with the boys. John dared me to put on this tacky Christmas sweatshirt he found in the trunk of their car – you know, those ones with candy canes and bows and sequins and shit all over them – and wear it into the restaurant. I was also wearing these black vinyl knee-high boots and a tight green knee length skirt. The combination of the sweatshirt and the boots and skirt made me look pretty much like a crack whore these two drunk fucks had hired for the night. We were all wasted and laughing our asses off. And I can assure you that none of us was fucking brilliant that night.

After that, it was this past June, at an engagement party for Kristie and John. We were introduced again, and this time, when the phrase “he’s fucking brilliant” came out again, I just about lost my shit. I retorted, “SO I’VE HEARD.” Then under my breath: “Jesus Christ, what is with you people?” Depending on your level of intelligence, I can come off as either really flirty or a real smart ass, which only means the smarter you are the more likely you are to realize I’m insulting you, not flirting with you. And if you’re really fucking brilliant, you realize I’m probably doing both.

So three more months go by and here we are at a beach at the wedding of his friend and my friend. And it was more perfect than I can tell you.

Thursday and Friday I talked with Piper and figured out that, as I’d suspected, he was unquestionably an onion. I’m curious to pull off other onions’ layers to see what all’s underneath. This boy got better and better with every layer. And, yikes, what a dancer!

The last night of this perfect weekend, Saturday night, I happened to be walking down the pier steps thinking about taking a swim. There he sat. I decided it was much too chilly and windy that night for a skinny dip and, on a whim, sat down next to this odd fellow. We started to talk.

We talked about nose picking. We talked about repressing violent urges. We talked about his sister who we discovered was in my architecture class. We talked about cartoons and biology. We talked about linguistic aberrations that make their way into speech. We talked about belching (I’m an extraordinary belcher, by the way). We talked about chef’s hats. We talked about Judo and root vegetables. We talked about imaginary axes removing people’s heads.

And, by god, he could keep up with me. He’s like the male version of me. Maybe more of the color-image-negative of me. Something like that anyway. Whatever.

We made out there on the steps of the pier with a small group of people gathered on the balcony just above us, just out of sight but not quite out of earshot. We made out quietly until nearly dawn. He smelled really good. His kisses made my eyes roll back in my head.

The next day after nearly every one else had gone we floated together in the water, mostly quiet, weightless, and so relaxed I couldn’t make a fist all day. And that drive home! I laughed until my stomach hurt! What a screwball. What a maroon.

Piper and I have seen each other just about every day since then, and every moment has been exceptional. We’ve gone to parties, seen jazz shows, drunk margaritas, lounged in bed until mid-morning, ridden his motorcycle, sat on my front porch drinking and talking, wrestled in bed, watched a belly dancer while eating Moroccan food with our fingers, walked my dog, ritually burned stuff on a bonfire, watched cartoons on my couch, made out, listened to music, sat at bars talking and drinking until way too late. And we’ve laughed a whole lot.

Piper’s moving to Los Angeles on Monday to take a new job with an architect he really respects. I don’t mind saying it’ll be hard to say goodbye. Really and truly, though, what we’ve had for the last four weeks could never be anything but what it was because then it would be different. It was just right for the both of us, exactly what we needed at just the right time. But he’s young and starting a whole new exciting life on another coast, his unwritten future just starting out before him, and I’m starting over on my own, rooted in my little community, building a solid foundation to raise my kids on.

I would say: if only things were different…but then nothing would be the same and that’s a silly thing to even say but I’m saying it anyway. I have butterflies in the pit of my stomach because of how sweet and sad it all is at the same time. He’s an amazing person and I will miss him dearly.

So good luck in your new life Mr. Piper. I wish you all the best, but mostly – whether it’s what you want for yourself or not – I wish for you just that you find someone you love who also loves you back, wholly, both of you, without conditions, without demands, like a mama loves her baby, like a brother loves his sister, like family. I’ll miss you, my friend.


SUMMER STORM
by Dana Gioia

We stood on the rented patio
While the party went on inside.
You knew the groom from college.
I was a friend of the bride.

We hugged the brownstone wall behind us
To keep our dress clothes dry
And watched the sudden summer storm
Floodlit against the sky.

The rain was like a waterfall
Of brilliant beaded light,
Cool and silent as the stars
The storm hid from the night.

To my surprise, you took my arm---
A gesture you didn’t explain---
And we spoke in whispers, as if we two
might imitate the rain.

Then suddenly the storm receded
As swiftly as it came.
The doors behind us opened up.
The hostess called your name.

I watched you merge into the group,
Aloof and yet polite.
We didn’t speak another word
Except to say goodnight.

Why does that evening’s memory
Return with the night’s storm---
A party twenty years ago,
Its disappointments warm?

There are so many might have beens,
What ifs
that won’t stay buried,
Other cities, other jobs,
Strangers we might have married.

And memory insists on pining
For places we never went,
As if life would be happier
Just by being different.

~Samantha

recommended:
reading -The Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse
viewing -Lost in Translation
listening -"1952 Vincent Black Lightning" by Richard Thompson

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