I have this friend who lives in New York. She is one of the most amazing people I've ever meet. Ever. And I stupidly forgot her birthday.
I met P. on Halloween weekend in 1998 in NYC. I was there to watch our mutual friend Scary Red Wine Girl run her first-ever marathon. Scary was cool enough to invite me along to meet several of her MBA friends, and I mixed with that coolest of groups all weekend long. They took care of me, they made me feel welcome, and one of them even housed me (as I had arrived in Manhattan on a Friday night without any accommodation organized, planning to either stay out all night or sleep in my car).
From that first weekend, I thought P. was pretty damn cool. And when she was next visiting Vancouver, Scary invited me out to dinner to join them with a few other friends. It just kept happening from there: P. moved to Vancouver, I moved into the apartment directly underneath hers, every so often she'd tap dance over my head, we had a great limbo/housewarming party at her pad, and a slightly less-refined housewarming at mine.
The first time I introduced her to my circle of friends, it was at a lounge-type place on Georgia Street, where there was music playing and couples slow dancing. She and I did a brief spin on the dancefloor and several of my friends were convinced that I was turning to the dark side -- the straight side : ) That is how freakin' good we looked together! For months afterward, my friend Willy would ask me why we didn't get married: "You guys just looked so great dancing out there. I think you should marry her," he'd advise me with a smile and a fake air of resignation in his voice.
Several months after she moved to Vancouver, P. started having thoughts about heading back to the big city. While she made an honest go of it in Vancouver, I think she recognized that the business opportunities that she needed to pursue just weren't prevalent in the West Coast city. While she was still wavering on whether to go or stay, she returned to NYC for a Labour Day weekend visit, and I thought I might just be able to do something. I realized that this trip back would probably convince her to move back, so I thought I'd at least give her some reason to consider staying in Vancouver; to remind her of the people who loved her and wanted her to stay there.
I remember surreptitiously finding out when she was flying back to Vancouver, and hauling my ass out of bed to surprise her. I met her at the airport at 12:50AM so she wouldn't have to take a cab home, and would have someone there to meet her, hug her, and take her home (because not having someone to do that for me is always a tad depressing). I loved seeing P's expression as she caught sight of me in the arrivals area, but the thoughtful person she was, all she was worried about was the fact that I had gotten up late at night just to pick her up. What she didn't know was that I was totally giddy at the opportunity to surprise her by doing something nice just for her. I get off on that kind of thing, so it was totally cool for me.
In the end, P. moved back to the big city to relaunch her career, even managing to keep the faith during times with some very dodgy companies. I remember the relief in realizing she was out of town on business when 9/11 hit, and I heard the stories of the Great Blackout of 2003. But I always knew she was available if I needed to talk, or if I wanted to hear about the latest adventures of her two nephews.
In late Summer 2003, at the same time I was readying to move to Australia, P. was in the starting blocks of an amazing round-the-world backpacking trip. We had both found ourselves at crossroads in our lives, and I'm glad to say that we each had the guts to take a huge leap of faith/hope/desperation/confidence in search of something enlightening. During her odyssey, P. saw some amazing things, met some amazing people, and underwent some amazing experiences. I marveled as I read her online travel journal and tried to comprehend everything that she was doing. Heck, she even had the good sense to meet the Australian half of my family while she was in Brisbane! But, in the end, I was most struck by her realization that there's a bigger purpose in this life, and how she strived to help those who needed her help the most.
P. is starting a brand new opportunity in a field that she was born for, taking her ace marketing skills to a non-profit company. And I'm so stoked for her! Her willingness to seek out new and interesting things -- things that I don't think I'd ever consider -- amazes me. I marvel at her ability to continually seek growth and improvement, to help others, to find a productive and meaningful path in this world.
She and I will have visits again in the future. We'll keep in touch (when I smarten up and get my priorities in place), and we'll be friends for a long time to come. She'll always figure prominently in my thoughts. Most importantly, though, P. will always be the woman I love to slow dance with.
Love ya, P. Thanks for your wonderful e-mail the other day. I love the fact that you're involved in putting smiles on children's faces, because I smile like a kid every time I think of you!