November 24, 2013

the surprise of the week / was that I never heard the sound

I made three mistakes at once when my phone buzzed: I swiped to answer without seeing who it was, I didn't excuse myself from the table, and when I looked at who it was that was calling, I didn't think about the last time we'd spoken.

We were out for 5/6ths of an anniversary, which is an admittedly ridiculous thing (but par for the course, given us;) checking out the soft-open at a gastropub deal whose fame was wrought from a hundred and forty separate taps for beer and a small town of infrastructure spent on dispensing it. Prior to that, we'd put ties on for no real reason and followed pizza with gelato (though they didn't have the apparently elusive lemon cake gelato flavour that we enjoy enormously.) Until this point it was a fairly pleasant evening; full of both pizza and adoration, I sat behind a beer and made small talk, pausing occasionally to squeeze a thigh or lean over for a kiss and associated pleased noise.

In the brief moment between swiping to answer and putting the phone to my ear, I'd assumed that the call was something groomsman-related (though it was still a couple weeks away, the wedding in Toronto loomed large for a number of reasons,) when it was, in fact, a reenactment of the last time we'd spoken on the phone, when Jordie had called to tell me one of our friends had died (two days after a call to ask for a recent photo, because he was missing.)

Rob i—was.
Rob was someone I'd met via friend Jackie, whose partner he'd been until fairly recently, and whose first introductions to the gang involved us referring to him as Dr. Dreamlove, largely as a method of reducing confusion with the other Rob we all knew. What I'd taken for some initial reticence turned out to be a charming awkwardness combined with a tendency to observe, and so through combined forces of time, conversation, and fragments of shared writing, we developed what I'd like to think of as an understanding and eventual fondness. We bonded over unclehood, the intermittently incomprehensible difficulties of religious families, and later on, about beards (his was denser, but I had better volume.)
Rob had been found in a hotel room, alone; whether it had been old habits gone awry or old ghosts that had pushed him into a place we couldn't follow would require a toxicology screen to determine (though I know one was done, I don't know if I want to know what the results were.)

I'd seen him last from afar at a concert, and remembered that he looked more different than a mere change of haircut should have entailed. The last time we'd spoken was after Trevor's wake and the weeks of packing away an apartment, divvying up the things Kate couldn't actually bear to look at, and heaving deep sighs over drinks.

Conveniently enough, there was a drink in front of me, so I sighed, took a sip, and sent a text, partially because I was unclear on etiquette for texting a friend upon learning of the passing of their ex-partner but mostly because I didn't think I could have handled a phone call at that particular moment.

When the phone rang the second time, I checked who it was (Jackie,) excused myself from the table, and rushed past a gauntlet of what appeared to be decorative brewing equipment before answering, literally bracing myself into a window frame, exchanging condolences and messages of love, brief life updates (we're okay, still, somehow, should stay that way, jesus, lather, rinse, repeat,) and managing, through barest margin and greatest exertion, not to cry while on the phone in the foyer.

It didn't take much to make us old hands.

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