Two weeks ago, I went over a friend’s house to attempt my hand at Spades. Before any cards were dealt, I forewarned everyone that I was pretty much card-retarded, and that it would probably take me awhile to catch on. I was wrong: it was ridiculously confusing and frustrating, and I never really did catch on. We were even showing our hands and every time it was my turn to announce how many tricks (hoes? whores?) I had, I would swallow nervously and ask my partner to do it for me because I just didn’t understand it. Suffice to say, it was not very fun. (Well, until we switched to Uno Attack, which was designed for the braindead, like me.) Still, I left that night hating cards.
The next day, I dwelled on it. I remembered how my old friend Allison (aka Cinn) used to come over and we’d play Gin. Even though I always had to be retaught as the cards were being shuffled, I always associate that game to lots of laughter and good times. And wine, I associate it with bottles of wine and purple-stained lips.
I haven’t seen Allison in three years. We speak sporadically on the phone, but my invitations to her are usually awkwardly ignored. I know she has weird feelings toward kids, and I figured she was being avoidant. But when she said she and her boyfriend would come over that following Saturday to play cards, I couldn’t help but feel excited. Henry frowned and voiced his uncertainty, but I just felt like maybe this was it, maybe this would be the invitation she would follow through on.
I emailed her during the week to see if she was still coming, but she didn’t reply. I called her twice and texted her once the day of, and still nothing. I started sulking, feeling sorry for myself, and Henry was all, “After all this time, you would think it wouldn’t bother you anymore.” And I know it seems like she’s a shitty friend, but the truth is that she was always more than a friend to me, more like the sister I never had. When I really need her, she’s there, and that includes rushing me to the hospital when the occasion calls. Our history is bizarre, abnormal, sometimes laden with distrust and resentment, but I believe that we have a fierce loyalty for each other. I can’t explain it, and I know my other friends don’t understand it. My best friend Christina, who has never met Allison, has admitted that Allison will always be a mystery to her. And really, I guess she is to me, as well.
So last Saturday, I whined about it, I sent out bitter tweets, I cursed and spit at the entire fucked up institution of friendship. And then she called me to tell me that she and her boyfriend Bill were going to be here around 8:30. I know I lit up like a kid whose deadbeat dad had remembered her birthday for the first time in six years.
Chooch was still up when they arrive. He took to her immediately. She teased him mercilessly and he seemed to eat it up. After he went to bed, she admitted that she was nervous to meet him. I know that’s a big reason why she hasn’t been around these past few years, and I hope that will change now that she sees he’s a pretty alright kid.
When we sat down to start playing cards, it was like nothing had ever changed. Cinn started laughing for no reason while I was dealing, prompting me to yell, “What? What did I do? Meanwhile, Cinn is crying from laughing so hard, and I still don’t know why, but this is just how it is when we’re together. I do nothing and she laughs her way to a stomachache.
“Every picture you have of me, I’m either eating, or crying from laughing!” she cried.
Sitting there with her, listening to synthpop, drinking wine from spider glasses, it was like no time had passed. It was like we had just gone to the Dracula’s Ball last week, not ten years ago; it was as though she had just kicked an unwanted Canadian out of my house last month, not eight years ago. (I am not anti-Canada. This was an isolated incident.)
Henry was annoyed because I kept winning. And because I kept taking breaks during hands to play the “remember when” game, and to swivel in my chair to put a different song on, and to continuously splash wine down my gullet until I was so giddy (see also: drunk) I couldn’t see the cards in the discard pile.
“I thought you didn’t know how to play this,” Henry scoffed at one point. My motto was: I don’t care who wins, as long as Henry loses.
And he lost, alright. In so many ways.
After they left that night, I went through that awful whirlwind of emotions that often strikes after a bittersweet encounter. I feel like, even though we let so much time lapse in card-playing and friendship, that it all came back so easily. It always does, every time. I’m trying not to get too excited about it, though, because I don’t want to be let down.
Seeing Cinn again made me realize how badly I miss having a good friend here in this city; someone I can call up just to talk about the day I had, meet up for coffee, or just hang out at each others houses. I haven’t had that in a very long time.
And while I was sorting through all these mixed emotions, Henry informed me that we were actually playing 500, so I got to add “deceived” to the frothy feelings cocktail.