With the planned bar somehow closed Sundays, we found a corner at a place in the next block. We grabbed stools in one of the room’s two window boxes, and I kept my coat on. A cab had flown into the other window box once. I never remembered where but Meghan always did. How we had come to discuss that fact multiple times, I had no idea.
I was stepping off U Street’s curb when Meghan came from the other direction and shouted my name to cross with me. I turned, and the woman in the rain jacket in between us and two steps behind us had a big smile. Friendship! Friends yell each other’s names and cross in tandem. We crossed to find the planned bar, as you know, closed.
In the window, we met up with Emily from our year and Emily from a couple years behind, both also Daily alums. We all still worked on the journalism-to-comm spectrum. We talked about the good olds, as you might have expected, but also plenty about How We Are Now, which I’ve begun to like more and more. The good olds were pure fun when they were new. Years later, they’ve stayed fun but grown more vague. Emily from our year remembering the name of that cute girl from the newsroom with the bob was nothing short of miraculous. “Nancy!”
Last name? We failed. Googled later, found she blogged sandwiches and was thus, though we never knew her well, our kind of people.
But, like I said, the How We Are Now has caught up. We can discuss exes with clear eyes and jobs with fair, critical and almost clear views. Without kids yet, we continue to love work too much. But we can step off the curb in cold and gray weekend drizzle and ignore the weather.
Burning a hole in my hip pocket the entire time was Stephen King’s On Writing. Friend Cory recommended it. In the initial 50 pages, as far as I’ve gone, King tells stories about growing up. He admits at the outset that he doesn’t recall most of his youth in detail, unlike other writers.
What King does remember are stories that retain their meaning. They affect the Now, and they’re comforting. King faces a babysitting terror. He and his brother blow up their neighborhood’s electric transformer in a science project, and police never suspect them. Supporting his young family, prior to fame, he sells attempts at horror tales to skin mags.
And in the middle of it all:
One day in late June of that summer, a bunch of us library guys had lunch on the grass behind the university bookstore. Sitting between Paolo Silva and Eddie Marsh was a trim girl with a raucous laugh, red-tinted hair, and the prettiest legs I had ever seen, well-displayed beneath a short yellow skirt. She was carrying a copy of Soul on Ice, by Eldridge Cleaver. I hadn’t run across her in the library, and I didn’t believe a college student could utter such a wonderful unafraid laugh. Also, heavy reading or no heavy reading, she swore like a millworker instead of a coed. (Having been a millworker, I was qualified to judge.) Her name was Tabitha Spruce. We got married a year and a half later. We’re still married, and she has never let me forget the first time I met her I thought she was Eddie Marsh’s townie girlfriend. Maybe a book-reading waitress from the local pizza joint with the afternoon off.
Our impressions initiate our afternoons to come. We wind up with that girl or, like today, happy in a bar with friends, reminded to tip forward.
Stocking cap tucked in my jacket, I rode the subway and walked home, gingerly only up and down the broken steps of the drug store. I swung a grocery bag under each arm and wondered about How We Are Now, you and I, whether our story began a long time ago or only recently.