We stood side by side, the last two remaining spellers, ready for the final round of the competition to begin, as the Morseland patrons milled about, chatted, laughed, and had their drinks refilled. To the right of the stage was Our Booth: my friend Gina from work, smiling; Erin’s dad, arms stretched out around his whiskey on the table in front of him, head down a bit, still grieving the recent loss of his wife to cancer; other assorted chatty friends and theatre pals; and our dates, Rob and Chris. They’d been dating for a long time by then, but for me and Chris, it was one of our first. As we watched the judges gather at the table down front, flanked by big plastic jars full of paper strips, she gave a sigh that took in the whole crowded room, leaned toward me and whispered, “If they only knew.”

Many years on – so many shows, dozens of barbecues at the Metreyeons, several New Year’s Eves and D&D games, innumerable dog-trade-offs, two weddings, and one cancer diagnosis later, Rob and I were playing a heated round of Magic the Gathering while Erin watched the match and made her observations in anticipation of perhaps one day soon taking on a match herself. I remember appreciating how with Erin there is very rarely any small talk. I don’t care much for small talk with friends anymore because it is a waste of time. We’re all too busy to spend enough time together and I don’t want to waste it on the goddamn weather. Talk to me about what is actually happening in your life and what you’re learning about it, how it’s changing you, what you want, what you dream, what’s bothering you. Let’s fix the world in the one or two evenings a year where all we have to really do is fix the world.

That night, at that moment, we were talking about dieting and food and a bunch of non-cancer stuff that I had been writing about lately, when she suddenly stopped, gave me that trademark coy-smile-with-eye-twinkle of hers and asked, “Do you wanna see my stent?”

My point being, Erin puts a button on a scene like nobody’s business.

She won’t likely get a chance to do that this time.  (more…)