In the era of Facebook, where I basically have reconnected with everyone I have ever worked, studied, lived, or had sex with, seeing an old friend probably doesn't have the same cachet it used to. However, what if that friend never got on Facebook? What if this person was an integral part of your puberty; a bestie BFF whom you once saw or spoke to daily who moved away before you turned 14? Seeing a person like that again would be extra special, simply because you think you've lost them forever.
That's why I was at the Ferry Building on a Saturday. No one would ever go to the Ferry Building on a Saturday unless they were meeting a long lost friend or had dressed up like a hip-hop C-3PO for spare change.
The place was beyond congested, and by congested I mean it was full of snotty people poking heirloom fungi or nibbling on goat cheese samples. I was super early and very nervous, so the fact that everyone in front of me was pulling some sort of luggage on wheels was okay, because it killed time.
My friend, whom I will call Sophie, suggested Bouli Bar because she has a severe peanut allergy and she said this was one of the few places in the city that has zero peanuts on the premises. In the few little correspondences we had before our meeting, I learned that she had become an "animal rights lawyer," so I worried that gluten, meat, and a sense of humor might also be off the menu.
Bouli Bar is an adjunct of Boulette's Larder (which is temporarily closed for some reason). It's an open room with a Scandinavian feel and long, blond-wood tables that seat everyone family-style, whether you know each other or not. Luckily I scored two seats at the banquette along the right side and buried myself between large, black, fuzzy pillows that looked like demonic tribbles.
My stomach was in knots. I remember Sophie as being very beautiful. She was petite with perfect hair, and I always envied how slim she was, which was of course the roots of an eating disorder that would swallow up my next 10 years. We were in junior high but still children. We would spy on her dad and his girlfriend while they made dinner and pretend that we were detectives or something. We wrote a newspaper for our block, made a comic book based on a nerdy classmate (we both feel regret for that, yes), and would walk to school singing punk rock versions of '70s light rock classics.
Before I had time to choose the right way to sit so as to look the best to anyone who might approach the table, there she was. We hugged and it was a little awkward but that soon faded. It's a cliché but we both told each other that we looked the same. We both admitted we were nervous and that also helped.
"Hello ladies!" said the waiter, who had given us plenty of time to chatter before he took our orders. He recommended the rosé, which also thankfully was the cheapest one on the menu. I pointed that out with glee but was quick to add, "But I'm a big tipper!" One doesn't want to appear cheap.
By then every table in the place was filled, and waiters and busboys wove in and out of people refilling glasses and recommending small plates. We were in our own little world though, just like when we were kids.
"We were creative," I told Sophie, plainly. "When I think back on it, something about the two of us together sparked plans and ideas." It was true; no other friend since then has done that for me. I've had friends who were really funny and we created inside jokes upon inside jokes, or catch phrases only we knew, but Sophie was the last person I ever did "projects" with. I wondered what sort of things we could do together now.
She told me all about her life. She felt family pressure to go into law but really wanted to go into fashion. She left her practice a few years ago to go to Parsons to study with Tim Gunn, but came back. When she started out, there was no such thing as animal law, so she invented it. She's not a vegan though. In fact, PETA gives her shit all the time because she's not hardcore enough. Music to my ears! "It's not a radical idea that an animal shouldn't be tortured before you eat it," she said plainly. "But it's a lot of working within the system, and PETA doesn't like that." Just to get an extra inch of space for a chicken in a cage takes work of Jarndyce and Jarndyce proportions.
We talked about her boyfriends and her marriage and I remembered why we grew apart 30 years ago. Sophie was moving on to being a teenager and I wasn't ready to do the same. She moved to L.A. and wrote me religiously with all the details of her life. She told me she had met a boy she liked, that they kissed, and that "hands were wandering!" That sentence made me cry. She was doing what everyone does, and I knew that I wasn't going to be like everyone. I didn't even have my first kiss until I was 20 and I have still never married.
I have, however, had a nice writing career. I am independent and gainfully employed. I kept creating things and making projects by myself. I've had passionate love affairs. I watched my friends make out with dipshits and get their hearts broken, or get divorced.
I told Sophie these things. I saw the same sparkle in her eye that helped me define myself at 13. She liked me, so I liked me.
I am never losing touch with her again.