"So, I wanted to tell you something."
I was sitting on couch in a complete stranger's apartment with J, one of my oldest friends and the only person currently in Washington who knew me at a time in my life when I wore glasses, braces and a souvenir Les Miserables sweatshirt to school every day.
We were at this apartment because we ran into one other earlier in the evening in Dupont Circle. I was reading and trying to figure out what I'd be doing that night, he had just gotten stood up for a first date with a guy he met on the Metro. We decided it was serendipity and that we would obviously be hanging out.
He told me he'd been at a garage sale earlier and had bought some Christmas lights and a poster of a midnight blue cat (seriously, this is how he speaks-- tremendously deliberate with his words), but that he'd left them at the house because he didn't want to carry them on the date. The people holding the sale were having "a soiree" and had invited him to stop by-- did I want to join? Um, a total stranger's party on a summery Saturday night? Did he even need to ask?
"Great," he said. "But first, can we stop and get some chicken?"
Well, sure. Because when you go to the goodbye party of someone you've never met, it's only polite to bring a chicken.
"No, I just stopped being a vegetarian and I really need the protein. I'll cook it for myself after the party."
Marvelous. So deliciously random. This is why I live in a city.
So we got a chicken from the Soviet Safeway and walked to the strangers' house off U Street, passing several barbecues and other parties spilling out onto the sidewalks. One house in particular was set back from the street, leaving enough of a yard for an enormous peasant table and plank benches filled with people passing huge plates of food and toasting each other as they laughed, probably about something from NPR or The New Yorker. They looked so content and happy in the glow of company and the candlelight that J and I literally stopped in our tracks to gawp at them. He finally tugged at my elbow when they noticed us staring, guiding me back down the bumpy brick sidewalk as he whispered "Someday, EJ. Someday soon."
We got to the house and the hosts reiterated their offer to crash the party, so J and I soon found ourselves standing in their kitchen, drinking Blue Moons as their friends entertained us with stories of their Peace Corps service and spelunking days. We stayed for so long that J realized his chicken was going to spoil soon, and so he asked one of the roommates if he could put his chicken in her freezer. I'm not sure which was better, when she thought it was a euphemism for something naughty or when she realized no, he just had a chicken he needed to freeze.
Which is how we came to be sitting on a couch in a stranger's living room, a little drunk on beer, summer and unexpected coincidences. We were talking about dating and relationships, and I was loudly proclaiming that I'd never, ever again date a bisexual man because there's already too much competition with beautiful, brilliant women and why add in a whole other damn gender and besides, for so many guys being bi is just a rest stop on the road to Gay when J stopped me: "So, I wanted to tell you something."
"What'd you want to tell me?" I asked, setting my beer on the warped hardwood floor.
"You're going to think this is crazy, but I thought I should tell you-- I'm kind of into you."
That one made me sit upright. I knew J was bi, but he was also one of my oldest friends in the world and I'd never gotten a whiff that he might be interested in me. If anything, I worried he was disappointed in me because I'd become too much of a cynic, that I was too dead inside after seven years here.
"Seriously?" I smiled, and he grinned back. "Yeah, I just thought you should know. I mean, I know you aren't into bi guys and that we aren't ever going to... whatever. But I thought you should know. I mean, it's a compliment to you."
I didn't really know what to say, because I wanted to tell J how very touched I was by his complete lack of guile while not being patronizing. Watching him run his enormous hand through his curly black mop of hair, I let my mind fill with all of the great moments we've shared over the years. From dividing up the lyrics of "I Am the Walrus" to quote in our eighth-grade yearbook, to the transcendent naked puppy pile New Years' Eve to earlier that night, when we explained to a group of new friends how we were childhood friends who ran into one another at Lebanese Taverna almost a year ago, surprise!
"J," I said "you know you're one of my people, right? I mean, one of my people-people that you carry with you forever."
"Of course," he grinned back. "And you know you are for me, too."
"I think there's different types of 'into you,'" I said, picking up my Blue Moon and running my finger along the label's edge. "And I'm so glad that you can tell me something like that and know that we won't miss a beat."
"Because I'm your people."
"Because you're my people who talks about midnight blue cats and who stores chicken in a stranger's freezer when we crash their party."
"'Different types of into you,'" he mused, resting his skinny body into the folds of the couch. "I like it." He grinned at me. "So I think we should do this again soon."
"What, run into each other and have a random adventure where you store your chicken in some girl's freezer?"