It was evening, by the clock, but we were soaking up warmth from a sun that still hung far above the horizon. Summer in the northern latitudes can be like drinking honey from a wide-mouth jar.
Billy sat on the rock wall next to me. We are just friends, now. That other didn’t work out, and we both knew it at the time, so there are no hard feelings. I go to Billy when I can’t figure out men, because he’s ruthlessly honest about his gender. He comes to me to talk about his women.
“She was a remarkable person,” he said, taking a sip of some coffee concoction that I knew would not let him sleep tonight. “It’s really weird. Three dates. Spread out over months. Talking on the phone.”
He looked out over the harbor of Victoria, the most elegant city on the west coast of North America. We’d come over from Seattle to do just what we were doing. Sit on the harbor wall, listen to street musicians, eat East Indian cuisine that tasted like it was cooked just now in Madras.
“She said it was wrong to measure the relationship by the number of dates, or number of months. I don’t get that, but I felt like we’d known each other …forever. I loved the way she said ‘Hiya…’ when she answered the phone. I loved the way she’d say ‘Whatcha doin?’ when she called me. I loved the way she would ask me questions about my day.”
Billy shook his head.
“It just sucks.”
Billy was pretty twisted up by this, and Billy does not lack for female attention. They could not be together. We don’t have to go into the reasons, how long it lasted or didn’t last or why it didn’t. The reasons are none of our business. I wanted to be there for Billy, and I wanted to hear what Billy had to say, because I always learn something from him.
“She insisted that on our third date we had to see if we had ‘kiss compatibility.’ She was pretty confident in her kisses. I guess she had doubts about mine.”
We both laughed out loud. Billy is a very good kisser. Among his other, many qualifications as a lover. “Of course, we had to find out if everything else was just as fine,” he said. He left unsaid that it was just fine.
“I did the right thing. Ending it as soon as I knew it wouldn’t work, with as much class as I could, before we got in way, way over our heads. I don’t know how we got as deep as we did, so damn soon. Three dates!?”
There are times when a friend just needs to listen. Billy wasn’t asking for advice. He wasn’t looking for “feel sorry for me sex.” He wouldn’t nor would I. Like me, he believes certain pains are part of being human, part of the plan, part of our growth.
“It was just so comfortable. When I think of being with her… it’s not thinking, it’s a feeling, really… it’s just a feeling of comfort.” He looked out over the harbor where the sun refused to climb down from its perch, as if it were embracing the harbor, the boats, and Victoria as the crowds embraced the sun.
“Three dates. I’ve been in relationships for years that didn’t come close to that kind of intimacy. That feeling of belonging to someone… Oh, fuck. This just sucks.” His voice strained as he tried to hold back tears.
“I’m sorry, Billy,” I said.
I don’t know how or why we feel that incredible sense of connection with some people. The comfort in the way they speak to us, the way we want to speak to them, the awareness of what they are feeling and desire to make whatever that is more like velvet, the need to be honest and expect the same.
I don’t know what love is, but I know that Billy experienced it with someone he had not known for very long.