I met up with a childhood friend of mine, a man I shall call Harpua, an explanation of that name I wonder how I can even attempt to explain. We had been trying to meet up for awhile, and I was only going for one drink, which now that I see it written down, would be the perfect title of my first book.
“I Was Only Going For One Drink” on this day would open to me thinking it really strange I was meeting him at the same Sushi place I had gone to meet Clyde on our first blind date, except that Clyde was in a different location that night. I had gone to the Buckhead location, of course, the wrong freakin restaurant, which is why I felt suspicious of this suggestion, the second time at the same bar, probably twelve years since I had seen him last, so I must have asked a few times if he was absolutely sure this was where he wanted to meet. He was sure.
The history of how I know him I am split on if I should write about, the writer in me loves the story of it, unheard of, fabulous actually and authentic, but the little kid in me knows that would blow his cover entirely, and I kind of want to keep him a secret. I am the worst at keeping secrets, especially good or fun ones, and I still at 32, a grown ass woman, find myself wanting to blurt out the gift I bought, too excited to wait for the very person to finish opening my own gift I wrapped to disguise.
I had been on somewhat of a binge of going out, especially for Phish, so I set up my own clear cut boundaries and rules, satisfied that by meeting up in Buckhead, a location far enough from my house, I calculated one beer, maybe a tall one, since I am a light weight, and a terrible driver, facts that would inevitably lead to me being in my bed by midnight. I needed the sleep, to save money, and by meeting him there, I would not have much of a choice but to drive home responsibly.
I had no idea his home was located on top of the Sushi bar.
Seriously, though. Who would? I know this answer would normally sound like an excuse, one I would give my mom as a teen, “But, mom, you don’t understand. He LIVED on top of the Taco Mac. SERIOUSLY.”
I figured he was a regular, the bartender grabbing him a beer, sliding two shots of some clear blue liquid in front of us, her eyes not coming off the computer screen, him thanking her like a friend, not a customer.
That is not unusual, but when he stood up with the beer still in his hand, asking me if I were ready to go, I thought it was strange we were walking towards the back, and she yelled at him to put his beer in a paper cup. I ignored that and said, “Why were we walking towards the back?” a question he laughed at, like I were being a smart ass.
No, but seriously. Now we were heading up concrete stairs, and he looked at me funny, the thought not occurring to him I didn’t just KNOW most people don’t walk to the back of Macaroni Grill, fall through a rabbit hole, and land in their house.
21 floors higher, the last one, and a corridor of rooms reminding me of a hotel I stayed at in the Blue Ridge Mountains led us to his home, with a view of Atlanta that physically took my breath from me, and I was stunned to silence at the beauty of the very city I had never believed beautiful.
Things are never what they seem these days.
It was even cool, with a breeze, the lights of Atlanta lighting the sky, blinking, flashing, the little cars moving like tiny ants, and I was beside myself, pointing out this and that, my excitement unable to contain.
“WHO LIVES LIKE THIS?” I yelled to him, feeling like I had been one of Oprah’s surprise guests, thinking I was getting a 3.00 draft, but being put on a balloon ride by her crafty producers, feeling certain an audience would be clapping at my shock by Skype.
He smiled. He looked exactly the same as I remember at seventeen, but what I realized was that I didn’t know him at seventeen really, just his family, our joint friends and siblings, all thrown together by our religious background. There is something sweet about reuniting with anyone who shared your own backdrop though, like being part of a club, and ours was certainly unique, and I wondered who he was now, what he thought about all the things we had witnessed growing up, if he had any idea about my father, if he remembered me differently or found me to be the same.
What I found is that what I am passionate about is the evolution of people, however that appears for each one of us is vastly different, and that to realize yet again, nothing is what I expect, but that to listen to how people evolve in the world in this human experience thrills me.
The guy I remember was quiet, passive, stoned or perhaps checked out, in love with his girlfriend, in a way I felt certain would mean marriage the way his life revolved around her. I was now looking at someone passionate and even radical, his eyes on fire as we discussed politics, religion, our love for our family, how and where all of our relationships with our siblings had gone and grown. He was exciting, smart, authentic, and we were practically yelling over each other, the conversation endless and timeless, and in the tiny breaths of the night, I wondered why he never looked at me. He always looked up, away, down, or to the side when he talked, and on one hand, I thought it a breath of fresh air to be with a man who spoke to me like his equal, a friend, with a great deal of respect. On the other hand, I am a woman, and I hope not that hard to look at, felt the warmth and subtle ease of chemistry, and had brief thoughts of not minding being too respected.
That being said, it was a low blow, for him to grab his guitar and play Waste, his glass of wine by his feet, his hat turned a little to the side, his voice confident and beautiful, to all things Phish, another passion we have in common, and I sang along, dancing in total ease, sharing the stories of where we were behind them, what the messages meant beneath them. That is part of the reason why I call him Harpua, a song about a man who lived in a great tower, a man who seethed in anger over what civilization had become, while my friend pointed over all the lights of Atlanta, fuming over Bank of America, the only unlit castle in the sky, the symbol of greed and bankruptcy. The story of Harpua goes on to explain how a friend equal in his wrath came to join him, as my friend told the story of the fury and triumph one friend of his played in him coming to buy the great tower he lived in. It was a huge business risk, one that no one believed could happen, and just like the story of Harpua, he sat up there watching his view change, pointing out all the tiny details of the city, his thoughts on our country and financial state powerful and provoking.
Yep, I went out for one drink, and did not come home by midnight.
I rolled up that next day, without an hour of sleep, with a UFO tshirt he had pulled out of his closet for me, groaning over having to go to work, my girls running to hug me, all my work clothes cleaned and dried, by the lovely Divorcee, who laughed when I walked in the door.
“One drink, huh?” He was reading in his meditation chair.
“BUT YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND!!! I said. I met HARPUA, climbed his tower, on top of a Sushi bar, looked over the city, and danced to music, all the while, uncovered the mysteries of the universe. I did have to smile, seeing that one night of being completely blown away by me could be viewed to him as just one more typical Saturday night.
“At least it was worth it.” He said it in amusement, asking me if I realized I had only one work shoe on, Lola bringing me silly bands, Kat asking the same hundred questions she had left me with from yesterday, my phone buzzing somewhere in my car.
One drink is always worth it.

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