Friday, February 5, 2010

Fond Farewell at Americano

A colossal orange shopping bag dangles at Maijken’s side, the words "Kate Spade" looped across the front. I don’t notice she’s been carrying it five blocks. With her left arm, she swings it in rhythm with her purse and the other totes that she lugs to the office with her every day.

It’s 5:30 p.m., twilight. The January breeze plays with our hair, which we sprayed to perfection just moments ago in the lobby at Luxury Condo. Maijken and I wander from work to a bar called Americano, where we’re joining a group of friends and coworkers for jazzy martinis and cheese and other delicacies that are slightly too posh for our tastes, but we’re not footing the bill so we don’t care. Our conversation is chirpy and weightless, despite the fact that we know it’ll be our last – in person, at least – for a long while. Each day since I moved to the city, we’ve made a point of congregating to dish the dirt on everything from Maijken’s job to my sisters to the bimbos on The Bachelor to in-vogue nail polish colors.

In the pit of my stomach, at this moment, I’m inconsolable. I haven’t had to leave a best friend since childhood. I nod along to Maijken’s words as they descend into unintelligibility under the roar of traffic.

In two days I’ll be home, where I’ll cook dinners with my mom and shoot the breeze with my dad – using brainless lines from Tina Faye flicks like Mean Girls and Baby Mama in my dialogue – and play unorthodox versions of Scrabble with my sisters and rub my cats’ bellies, and I will be part of a family again.

Until then, I am here, bidding adieu to a different kind of family.

Dim lights splash the low, wooden tables and leather couches that line the circular bar as we enter. A few of my favorite folks from Luxury Condo have arrived, and we greet them at one of the empty tables while ordering our first round of drinks. After the second vodka-something, I’m alive and tap dancing for the herds of people who trickle in to say farewell. I see almost everyone I know.

“Here, Megs,” Maijken reaches for the king-sized Kate Spade bag she’s been carrying all night. I still haven’t noticed it. “This is for you,” she says, trading me my drink for the bag, allowing me free hands to dig for the bag's contents.

Surprised but pleased, I fight for breath. “For me?” I repeat, like I’m a toddler just learning to speak. I didn’t expect a gift. Hugs, kisses, tears, and an open bar, yes. But a gift? Definitely not. I reach inside the bright orange bag, tear open an envelope that houses a Hallmark card, and pore over the notes scrawled inside. I stand for a moment, absorbed. Strings cinch tight around my aching heart.

My bottom lip quivers and escapes, folding over to expose the inside of my mouth and a miserable frown. Someone pushes it back in place. I laugh.

The gift is a Kate Spade computer bag, in which I’m supposed to store my MacBook when transporting it to and from groovy Portland coffee shops, where my friends say I should go to perfect my resume and send applications, to write blog posts, and to begin the next great American novel.

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  1. SF sightings:

    Bus 19: man dropped a joint in the middle of the bus, looked around, and picked it back up.