05 September 2016 – Holiday Monday. Getting ourselves organized for the big trip. Made lists and hauled out camping gear just in case (we’re hoping to find cheapish motels along the way, but you never know). Funny, when checking my passport (to make sure it’s still valid) was reminded of going across the border with three girls from work. If I’ve got it right, this would’ve been the weekend before I trekked out here. In fact, I think my leaving was the whole point of the trip. A last hoorah. Our destination was a casino resort. Not my thing but the other girls were so amped I couldn’t rightly refuse. They wanted to let loose and party party. The first night I joined them in the casino but pretty quickly tired of watching them flirt for drinks. Went off to the slots. Within an hour I won a couple hundred and called it quits. Couldn’t wait to get out of there. Too loud and glitzy for my liking. I went looking for the girls. Saw them in their dresses, arms-in-arms with a couple robust boys about a dice table. I was in too reflective a mood to join the fun so cashed out and spent the rest of the night wandering the grounds. Back in the room I ordered room service and crawled into bed at a reasonable hour. In the morning I woke to sunlight. None of the other girls had returned to the room. I didn’t think anything of it. Just got on with the day. Had breakfast and set off for a peaceful drive around the surrounding countryside, in sweeping autumn glory. When I got back in the early afternoon the girls were in the room but barely cognizant. I made a quiet exit and enjoyed a relaxing afternoon at the spa getting pampered. The evening was moreorless a repeat of the first, save that I avoided the casino and for a little while watched a covers band in the non-gambling bar. Come check-out time on Sunday I had had a pretty restful weekend. Quite the opposite for the girls. They were so out of it that on the ride home none of them had the energy to say much, let alone be angry with me for not participating. I didn’t see any of them again. Not a big deal for two of them, but the third, Natalie, was my closest friend (we went through school together and were tickled to have landed jobs at the same hospital)—close enough for me to have had second thoughts about leaving. After that weekend, though, I had no reservations. Not because of anything she’d done. I think the weekend just gave me time to realize how ready I was to go.
Looking back it’s interesting to note that I had planned on spending two or three days with mom up at the lake. As it turned out this didn’t happen. Mom called to say I could come out but she wouldn’t be there. I don’t remember being all that upset. If anything, I was prolly relieved. Instead I spent a day with dad. Next I knew I was on the road, driving across the country in a loaded-up van. A full two days ahead of schedule. Relevant because, when I arrived at my final destination, and gotten my keys from the landlady, and struggled getting my first load of boxes into the elevator, and standing beside my door with an unruly box propped against the wall as I tried to fish the keys out of my pocket, the good samaritan who came out of his apartment across the hall to lend me a hand was, of course, Griffin. Without hesitation he started legging my stuff from by the elevator. He helped me unload the rest of my van and as if that wasn’t enough stayed with me as I waited for the Ikea delivery that I’d arranged. It was only then that he told me he’d also just moved in too. And it was only after the delivery arrived and we were in my apartment with all my packaged stuff that he answered his phone, which had been ringing incessantly the whole time he was helping me. His moving buddies. Calling from a bar down the street. The fine print here is that during his move a carton of soya milk spilled all over his kitchen floor. He wanted to clean it up before he was in no condition to do so. His buddies were raring for their burgers and beer. So he sent them on ahead.
And then I came along.
Whether or not our stars were aligned that day is hard to say. I mean, it’s not like the miracle of love at first sight happened. And given that we lived across the hall from one another we were bound to meet at some point. Evenso, there was something intimate about that first day. Something to do with the coincidence of me arriving earlier than anticipated and him being detained, combined with the circumstance of both of us starting a new phase in our lives. Seeing each other’s unlived-in, disorganized apartments. The humble comforts of our belongings still packed away in boxes. In some respects it was like we had only the dirty clothes on our backs. No other barriers to hide behind. Both of us at our most basic. Neither of us saying much beyond shortly worded exchanges. The relief we shared when all the Ikea stuff was in my apartment. I remember he asked if I’d like to join him and his buddies. He remembers me saying I was too tired and frazzled for anything more than bed. I remember him offering to help put my bed together. He remembers me hesitating in answer, as if trying to determine whether or not the offer was a pick-up line.