Three years ago I was nagging a very old, close guy friend, Tim* about introducing me to his eligible single friends and he did just that. He and Joe were best friends, went to college and med school together, and were both in Chicago for exams, so we met up for dinner and an evening out.
Word to the wise, don't have the lobster bisque soup at Mike Ditka's. I did and found myself, just minutes later, hovering over porcelain convulsing and sweating as my body fully relieved itself of the fucking disaster Ditka's called "viable restaurant food". Thankfully, Joe didn't show up until later. Can you believe management of the restaurant still made me pay despite my green coloration, testimony from the bathroom attendant and my friends' debate? Yeah, won't ever be spending a dime there again.All I can say is nothing can perk you up like some fresh air, a brisk walk and a martini - dangerous on an empty stomach. Joe showed up about 30 minutes into our nighttime bender and the rehashing of details of my very memorable dining experience. The second Tim introduced me, Joe was on me like flies on stink. He immediately squeezed himself onto the banquet next to me, threw an arm around the back and started conversation as if no one else was in the bar. We danced, talked and later made out like bandits. Hey, few of us are strong enough to resist the words "you're beautiful" and deep eye gaze even if you think the guy's a player. The next morning, as I stumbled out of his hotel room, before I could be spotted as an official "walk of shame" in the lobby (note: always, ALWAYS pack sunglasses and a rubber band), I recounted the night's fun and festivities, thinking that was fun but he's not quite geographically desirable - East Coast.
Geography, schmeography. Turns out this one didn't care. We talked on the phone, sometimes for hours, and he visited a few times (read: he stayed in hotel) and offered invitations to me as well, over the next year. There is no doubt I really liked Joe and it turns out that he was far more into me than he led on. I found that out later....
It was early October, a Sunday and I just had this urge to get in contact with him. We hadn't spoken in a few weeks because he was working crazy shifts at one hospital and moonlighting at another to make extra money (the boy had to pay for his Porsche!). I just couldn't believe how overwhelming the desire to get him on the phone was. I left a message and kept my cell nearby until he got off work and called (he always called during his long drive home to keep him company). We spoke for nearly two hours. We would laugh so much. I remember that he was desperately trying to get me to come out for a big sports event and I just couldn't commit. I suppose that part of me was afraid to get involved with someone long distance, again. Before we said goodbye, he said he was going to do whatever it took to get me out there.
On a crisp Saturday morning, Ilena* and I (who recently moved out west) decided to do some serious shopping at H&M and Forever 21 in the burbs - cuz the stores are bigger, duh! On the way out, I received a text message saying that if you have any photos to share in the memorial for Joe to email them. My heart stopped. What the??? I immediately called Tim. He got the text a few minutes later.
Joe died three days after I talked to him. He had been out running and suffered an inexplicable embolism and fell in his neighbors yard. He was alone. Tim said he's pretty sure that Joe knew exactly what was happening. He was 32 and in amazing shape.
Joe was one of those super amazing, and I mean SUPER amazing human beings. One of the best people I've ever known in this life. I regret now not allowing myself to take that relationship farther. Tim and I had a lot of conversations afterwards when I found out how much Joe liked and cared for me, and that he knew I wouldn't move from Chicago. Based on this he never encouraged a relationship beyond what we did have. I have such regrets.
This week Tim was in town for business. I haven't seen him in more than a year. I have been close to he and his family for a long time. Almost immediately he mentions Joe and I told him I couldn't talk about it with him. Well, I might feel that way but clearly Tim needed to talk about it, so I let him. Later that evening I came home and cried. After he passed, I'd call Joe's cell phone for several months just to hear his voicemail message.
I was SO blind. There's no doubt that I have been stubborn and set limitations for myself (insert a LMAO from anyone who knows me), mostly as defense mechanisms and safety precautions, but no more. If anything Joe showed me that it doesn't matter where love resides. If it's alive than you have to go to it and know that everything else will work itself out.
I still miss your laugh and spirit, and hear your voice in my head often. Rest in peace, friend. You will never be forgotten by anyone who knew you.