It's lovely loving, isn't it? In fact, I find it almost better, because being loved sometimes embarrasses me, but loving is a gift.
Maybe it is not my duty, but I did it anyway because I am not certain he would on his own and I like to interfere where there might be stories. I want him to have no regrets when New York ceases to be his home again.
I asked if Daniel was available at any point over the weekend and he gave me a probability that he could do something after work on Saturday. Kest returned to New York to help him pack and move another load of his possession to Maryland or, more likely, she never left from the last time we saw them. Her schedule has different restrictions than most people, fixed around shows at which she will be selling her masks rather than a boss breathing down her neck about vacation days. She can linger in his apartment for a week without anyone much noticing her absence from her world.
We had not seen Holly for more than half a year, but I know that Daniel and she were close for a time. How could one not be if one spent an entire day watching the extended edition of the Lord of the Rings trilogy? They shared coziness to which Amber and I, almost neighbors, were not included. We left them to their own devices; we do not need to be invited every time our friends get together. Let their respective friendships grow as they may.
Holly had been withdrawing for a while for reasons that are her own and I was negligent to let her. However, I decided to let her know that Daniel would be leaving, if she wanted to get in a final goodbye. She affirmed that she had not seen him in the better part of a year, but that she could leave her shell for this one last time so that she could see him.
Daniel and Kest arrive early to our apartment. In his hand, he has a copy of World War Z - the novel, not the atrocious movie - and hands it to me. I am confused and he can tell.
"Didn't you lend it to me?" he asks. "I never got around to reading it."
I check my bookshelf and he is right. There is a space where this book should go, though I only hazily remember having lent it to him. Accepting it back into my library feels strange, one more aspect of the end of this stage of our friendship, one fewer thing owed to me.
Holly is already at the restaurant when we arrive. She had driven through snow squalls downstate, straight from a survival course, to be here. I would say that she could have put this off, but that might not have been the truth. There are precious few moments to spare when it comes to Daniel's exodus.
I give her a half hug, because I know that she is not particularly comfortable with physical affection, but I cannot stop myself from going for a hug when parted so long.
Kest introduces herself with only a name, the rest being self-evident. I, almost absently, make introduction for Holly, calling her an amazing artist in a fashion that I realize only afterward should have been more effusive than factual. Once one has seen her skill, it is hard to give it any other adjective, even at I am philistine enough to admit I do not always understand her more exploratory pieces.
She corrects the woman at the desk behind us that it will be five for dinner, not four.
Holly is quiet through the meal, too exhausted from building fires and being stalked by the assistants of the man who was slowly teaching Holly and others to survive in the woods. This was a further attempt at self-reliance, an increased confidence that she can handle what life throws at her, up to and including the end of polite civilization. There will be other courses, I gather, since she cannot turn mountain woman after one day of instruction.
Daniel mentions that, in contradiction to what I thought I heard days ago, his bank is not only not leaving his position empty, they are hiring both a full-time and part-time person to fulfill his duties. I thought it was symbolic that no one could replace him, but it feels more fitting that it takes a person and a half to approximate all he does.
The rest of us banter as we do. I get hung up on recounting all the misconceptions I had as a child, from the precise location of the vagina as a kindergartner (I understood that the belly button was somehow involved in birth, so that might have been it) to a girlfriend with whom I had been numerously intimate confessing confusion as to what my testicles were (she then argued that testicles are, like ovaries, internal. I assured her that I knew better than her in this one topic).
It didn't feel any different from any other dinner. Between miso soup and various sushi, I suppose that we offer lively entertainment to Holly and anyone else who might have been listening. I remember to include her when possible, but I understand that she was either put off by the stranger in her midst or that it had really been too long a day to remain fully engaged with us. Either way, I find ample forgiveness, since she is here at all.
I do not know that she felt she got her final goodbye, or if that even matters at this point. She had spent a year away from him and might not have noticed another once he was no longer a resident of this state. She says nothing that was definitive and final, nor do I suppose she has to. Daniel and Kest spoke openly of the plans for his moving, because it is neither a secret nor surprise to anyone, and Holly nodded along with us.
There was no need for questions as to when or why. Holly understands moving on better than most, though she did not resort to moving away beyond the summer necessity of her Master's in Fine Arts. She has ties here, a community and job that fosters her. If she moved elsewhere, it would feel drastic. With Daniel, it seems that it was only ever inevitable and postponed.
There is no one else I know whom I feel needs a final moment with Daniel, anyone for whom his absence will sting. Now that Kristina and Holly have had one finally meal with Daniel, he has one fewer reason for regret, if that is indeed something he would feel.
Soon in Xenology: Faces. Daniel leaving. New friends.