I know this is a totally weird thing to say at a funeral, but I’m having a really lovely time.
The only other funerals I’ve been to were for my grandparents back when I was a kid and I remember them being sad and awkward and uncomfortable and basically awful.
But today has been such an amazing celebration, bringing together dozens and dozens of people I haven’t seen in years in addition to all the others I don’t know except to share this appreciation for being lucky enough to know this woman. I’m not saying it hasn’t been sad. I’ve cried several times – during the service, here at the reception – but the overwhelming emotion in this room is gratitude. Gratitude for this community. Gratitude for the wonderful memories. Gratitude for everything she’s taught us.
Gratitude for the the time we had, even if it was cut cruelly short.
It’s actually been really inspiring seeing the impact one person can have on so many lives. To be so loved and respected and… enjoyed by so many. Inspiring and humbling.
Professor Edwards had touched so many lives, leaving us with so many lessons. I wonder if I’ll be lucky enough to have a fraction of the impact on the world.
A familiar face catches my eye. I’d seen him across the room a couple times now but had yet to make it through the crowd of people to say hi. He’d been at the bar last night too, where folks had congregated as they first got to the city. He’d arrived late with another man I distantly knew but recalled was a friend of his from back in college. His eyes had passed right over me and I admit I’d felt a pang of disappointment he didn’t seem to recognize me. I’d been a couple years behind him at school but we’d gotten along well, I thought. I’d had a tiny crush on him although he’d had a girlfriend so nothing had ever happened between us. A couple times I thought maybe he was flirting with me but always brushed it off. Anyway, I thought of him fondly and affectionately. We connected on social media a few years back but other than a random comment here or there we’d had no interaction since I graduated. His comments always made me smile though, he seemed the same smart and funny I remembered.
He was more slick than he used to be. Shorter hair, clean shaven, fancy suit. Although the suit may just be in deference to the funeral and festivities today. I’m not usually wearing a dress and heels on a Tuesday afternoon.
I guess that’s where he’ll stay though, a fond memory. I shouldn’t be surprised it meant more to me than to him. I was the one with the crush back then. He’d been getting ready to graduate and move on. I take a sip of my wine and turn my attention back to chatting with my good friend and old roommate Chloe.
An hour later I’m heading back to the bar for another glass of wine. I’m moving one direction but still talking to Chloe over my shoulder and walk directly into a solid body in front of me. I’m smooth like that. I look up in to the familiar face of Erik Abbott. Him but different than the man I saw earlier.
This is more the man/boy I remember. Scruffy beard, shaggy hair, no tie. Still in a suit but with sneakers. A vague memory surfaces, clarifying my confusion. Shit, that’s right. Erik has a twin brother. I’d only met him once and just in passing. They’d gone to separate colleges – Erik with me at USC and his brother, Ethan I think, had gone to MIT on the other side of the country.
The minute he sees me a wide grin splits his face and his arms go wide. “Kyle Bennett! How the hell are you?”
Warmth spreads through me, a little giggle escaping as my inner freshman asserts herself. This was more the greeting I’d been hoping for. I step in to his hug. “Hi, Stranger. It’s good to see you.”
“You too! Are you still here in L.A.?”
“No actually, I moved to Chicago a couple years ago.”
“No shit. You know that’s where I’m from right?”
I’d forgotten that actually.
“Where are you at?”
“I’m in Lincoln Park.”
He nods. “Cubs fan?”
I wrinkle my nose. “Minnesota girl remember? I’m a Twins fan.”
He hums, feigning a serious expression. “We’ll work on that. At least you haven’t turned to the White Sox.”
“No chance of that,” I laugh.
We chat a bit longer and I marvel at how easy and comfortable I am. Maybe it’s the wine we’ve been drinking all afternoon but I remember it’s always been like this between us. In college I was fairly awkward around guys, too inexperienced and under confident. But Erik was always so funny and enthusiastic.
Others would probably describe Erik as handsome, hot, sexy even, but I’d never really thought of him that way. He’d been too goofy. It’s probably why he was my first college crush. I’d always felt safe with him.
Chloe appears at my side handing me a glass of wine. I blush realizing I had totally forgotten I was supposed to be getting her a drink when I ran into Erik.
She laughs at me. “No worries.”
“Thank you. Erik, you remember my old roommate Chloe?”
“Of course. Good to see you.”
“You too.” They exchange some pleasantries, commenting on the service, sharing memories of Professor Edwards. I tune out a bit, starting to tire from the long emotionally charged day. My gaze wanders across the room until it lands on another man. He’s turned mostly away from me, barely in profile, but I recognize him.
Oh god. What is he doing here? Why is he here?
Suddenly I’m freezing, my arms feel tingly and somehow removed from my body. Stupid, I yell at myself. Stupid it didn’t occur to you he might be here. I’m not prepared to see him.
Oh my god. He can’t see me. I can literally feel myself shrinking, trying to take up as little space as possible. He can’t see me. I have to get out of here.
Decision made, I realize with a start that Chloe has a firm grip on my arm and is calling my name. I’m not sure if this is the first time she’s tried to get my attention or not. Based on the look of concern on Erik’s face I’m going to guess not the first time.
“Kyle? Are you okay?”
“Too much wine.” I smile weakly. “I should get back to the hotel.”
They walk me out, clearly concerned by my sudden change in behavior. I’m obviously agitated and I doubt they bought my feeble excuse but both are too polite to question me outright. I’m furious that he still has this effect on me. That I’m running away, not even strong enough to say proper goodbyes to all my friends inside.
“You guys don’t have to wait with me. My Uber will be here in a couple minutes.” I wave my cell phone around emphasizing my point. I’m acting ridiculous.
Erik grabs my phone. Before I can ask what he’s doing I see him punching in what I’m assuming is his cell. “Text me when you get back to the hotel okay? So we know you’re okay.”
I nod relieved to see my ride approaching so I don’t have to say anything else. I give them both a quick hug and hop in the car. Once I’ve confirmed my destination with the driver I start shaking uncontrollably.
I was not prepared to see him. I should have been better prepared.
Meet Erik’s twin Ethan here.