Since Dude lives nearby and has the same awful sleep schedule as I do, he sometimes texts me at weird hours to hang out. Not as a booty-call, actually hanging out. Often somewhere along the bike path that connects our neighborhoods. Tonight, after the usual Hey Here's This Thing I'm Doing That's Exhausting Me, Why Do We Have To Work For A Living, Men Sure Are Awful Except For Us Of Course, We Should Hang Out More talk, Dude starts to get super sad.
Me: What's up?
Dude: Nothing. I was working on a song tonight and it reminded me of someone I used to be close to.
Me: Ok. That's what songs do, though.
Me: What song?
Dude: "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now."
Me: Ah, I love that song. It reminds me of someone I used to go to high school with.
Dude: Was he super depressed all the time?
Me: No, he was always super happy. He was one of those infectiously nice people.
Me: So, probably, yea. He was probably depressed. High school sucks.
Dude: Yea. Do you talk to him at all?
Me: Not in years. Last I knew he was in, I'm not kidding, a Smith's cover band in New York.
Me: Do you know him?
Dude pulls out a cigarette.
Me, thinking he's about to unload some shit about how this guy dumped him or how their love crumbled or one of our occasional discussions of Exes We Are No Longer Friends With: My senior year, we entered a lip sync contest and did a routine from Animaniacs. I was Wakko Warner, and he lent me his blue nightshirt that hung down below my knees. I think I kept that nightshirt until I moved to Boston. Like, what high school student had a nightshirt in the 90s? I am definitely going to look him up on Facebook tonight.
Dude: Was his name Will?
Me: No. It was...Billy.
Silence. Intense drag on cigarette. No eye contact.
Me: How did he die?
Dude: Don't look him up on Facebook.
Me: Are you ok?
Dude: You went to High School with him?
Me: Yea. We were in a couple of plays together, we both sang in chorus--
Dude: You were in chorus?
Dude: I'm not sure whether it's weirder that you knew Will or that you were in chorus in high school.
Dude: Did you guys...were you ever...?
Me: No. Just friends. I wasn't out in high school. I guess neither was he. Though I don't think either of us would be surprised to find out the other was gay.
Dude: He wasn't gay. He was pan.
Dude: He loved Everyone.
Me: Are you sure you're ok?
Dude: Yea. I'm more weirded out that you knew him than I am sad anymore.
Me: Glad I could accidentally help.
Me: Accidental emotional help being my specialty.
Dude: And singing, apparently.
Me: I was happy in a haze of a drunken hour but heaven knows I'm miserable now.
Dude hugs me.
Dude: I have to get some sleep.
Me: I think that's off the table for me tonight.
Dude: Sorry. I had no idea you knew him.
Me: It's a small, cruel, miserable world.
Dude: Don't say that.
Me: Ok. It's a vast, unknowable world filled with a variety of locations, some wonderful, some awful?
Dude: Do you need to come over to my place?
Me: No. I'm ok. You're the one who's sad. Do you need me to go over to your place?
Dude: We'd wake up my roommates.
Me: Yea. I thought that was a really weird time to bring up sex.
Dude: Good night, then.
Me: Yea. Want me to text you tomorrow? I'm working until 1ish, but I don't have to work on Thursday.
Me: See ya.
Dude: Don't look him up.
Me; The more you say it, the more I have to know why.
He waves his hands dismissively at me as he walks away.