Category Archives: friendship

Meeting Darrell

“An impulsive act of one, often leads to a pleasant surprise in another. I truly hope it has done so for you.”

30 years ago I was an awkward-yet-happy freshman at Syracuse University, idealistic about so many things. I felt like Katrina from Katrina and The Waves. I walked on sunshine. The bloom was still on the rose.

I lived in an all girls dorm (with a somewhat developmentally slow girl from the Bronx who was swept up in a matter of days by Jews for Jesus.) I think we said maybe all of 100 words to each other in a year. Oh, and one time she threw up (not from drinking, mind you) and left it on the floor for a week.

My dorm was known for having the best dining hall on our side of a massive campus and people would come from other dorms to eat. Every morning I would watch as an extremely handsome, tall, wiry guy with a mustache, blew through the line carrying a rather cumbersome art porfolio. He would get his cereal and sit at a solo table. This was not a man who should have been eating alone. It made no sense. And, there was something very strong in me that said I needed to KNOW him.

Right before Christmas break, I wrote him a card, with the italicized words above (and later had it framed for his 30th birthday), walked right up to him in what I remember as a black mumu and a felt hat (I know it wasn’t a mumu but I think Darrell remembers it as being rather Maude-like), said “this is for you” and placed the card and a chocolate santa in front of him. He looked at me, stunned and grateful. The note included my dorm phone #.

When he showed up that very night, I beamed. He came with a poster that he had designed (graphic artist still to this day) and as I remember it, it was a quick and comfortable visit. He told me he was going home to his small town outside of Binghamton the next day for Christmas break and that we would get together as soon as we could when we both came back from our respective corners of New York. And then began what can only be described as a life-long friendship cram session.

For five months, every single week night I went to Darrell’s very large single dorm room (his roommate had left school and noone was ever reassigned.) Our ritual consisted of sitting across from each other at his dorm desk, lamp on the side (with a shade that Darrell sometimes stuck his head under in order to help him sneeze), a bong being passed back and forth, and chainsmoking, he Newport Lights, me, Marlboro Reds (because I used to run out of cigarettes before him, I got so used to smoking his, that Newport Lights became the only brand I could smoke.) We managed to learn each other quickly and intensely. I learned that Darrell loves orange and vanilla ice cream. I learned the weird thing about him sneezing.

He would go home to see his girlfriend at SUNY Binghamton every weekend. It only bothered me in the sense that I hated losing our momentum.   When he ended up transferring to be with her, after only one semester of our knowing each other, college was never quite the same.

Darrell moved to Manhattan via Brooklyn, really, the only place that makes sense for him to be. Every once in a while, he’ll call me all breathless and say things like “Gayle, you should have seen this runway show. The models are like giraffes.” Or “the so and so hotel is so fucking cool. I wish you lived here so we could go have a drink.” There are things that I think are so “Darrell” that doing them with anyone else seems like a compromise.

Now Darrell and I are both middle-aged parents. I wouldn’t dream of going to NYC without seeing him for at least an hour. When this happens we just look at each other and say how fucking fabulous we look. Darrell has aged better than anyone I know. In a way that my gay, male friends don’t, Darrell can tell me how “fucking hot” I am (and that’s how he would say it, without it being a come on.) We laugh a lot and that laugh is precious to me.

Even though I would have written “Meeting Darrell” eventually, I do it now as a way to remind him how dear he is to me, on the week after his father’s death. Darrell, what you have brought to my life is invaluable and namely what that is, is light.

Now go have a cig.


The Great Equalizer

There he is…second row, far right, yellow and green striped shirt with Ms. Uzman’s hand gently placed on his shoulder. How I would have LOVED to have had my hand on Eddie Ward’s shoulder. Eddie is the first boy I ever had a crush on (Oh, I’m the big one in the middle, the 8-yr-old who looks 13, all messy hair and big teeth.)

My 8-yr old daughter, Amelia, has had a crush on the same boy since first grade-Jay Tucci. I’ve told her about my crush on Eddie, how my heart used to beat really fast when I drove by his house, how I hoped beyond hope that he would be in his driveway. I would call his house in the hopes of him answering, and ended up hanging up on whoever did.
By 5th grade my heart had moved on to someone else, and by junior high Eddie was dating a much “purer” girl than I would have pictured him with (over dinner he revealed that she tried to “reform him.”) In our 7th grade yearbook, they won Cutest Couple and I won Best Personality. My world and Eddie’s had virtually no overlap and in the middle of 10th grade I moved away.
30 years later, enter facebook. Through a circuitous route, Eddie and I became fast “friends.” I had heard a bit about him through a mutual friend about 10 months ago, how he was divorced, a NY City Cop, and that his daughter went to BU. Soon after, he appeared on facebook. He quickly told me that he would soon be in Boston, driving his daughter back to school after break and we made plans to get together.

I just knew that it would be a wonderful and easy evening. Eddie’s absolute love and commitment to his daughter just beamed through our brief e-mails beforehand. When you have the joy of parenthood in common, that amazing equalizer, how can some time over dinner and drinks be anything but easy.

We ran into each other in the underground parking lot, both getting to the restaurant at the same time. It was just amazing, seeing this person as a grown man, big and easy smile, FANTASTIC Long Island accent that I have long since lost (except for a couple of choice words that Amelia still imitates every time she hears them.) Eddie’s lost his curls (well, all of his hair, actually). Hugs, locked arms. Pure amazement.

Dinner was casual, not rushed. We talked about our divorces, fortunately mine being much “easier” than his. Eddie’s wife, due to some circumstances, had left him utterly without self-esteem. The vulnerability was heartbreaking. He has been left to parent two grown children on his own, no doubt, rather brilliantly.

We talked about our work (I felt my very first gun, strapped secretly to his leg) and held a real police badge in my hands. I told him about my work and fearlessness in dealing with some rough kids over the years. My favorite and most astute question that has been asked of me in a long time was “How did you get so tough?” Our very different worlds and upbringing, have toughened us both in very different ways.

This will be the first of many meetings with Eddie Ward. We made some promises to each other about keeping the glass half full at all times and about him forging ahead and after three years, entering the world of middle-aged dating.

I always come back to the sheer joy that facebook has brought me. Some people in my life don’t understand this. They’d rather not be “found.” It’s circumstances like this, though, seeing the first boy who ever stole my heart, at 45, that really keeps that glass half (even 3/4) full.