In 2003, Michael and I made one of the most important decisions of our lives: after several years of living in an apartment that was quickly decaying before our eyes, we decided it was time to buy a house. It did not take us long to settle on a cute, WWII-era house in a quiet neighborhood that was almost in Midtown. The house was perfect for us, just what we needed for the right price, and almost immediately it felt like home. Over the years, our house on West Edwin Circle has been the site of many of the happiest moments of my life. From dinner parties, to birthday celebrations, to our beautiful wedding in October, the makings of a full and meaningful life have been formed and kept here. But perhaps the most rewarding consequence of home ownership has been the extraordinary friendship that we found with our (one-time) neighbor, Marlinee Iverson.
My fist real awareness of Marlinee began with the color of her hair. “I think our neighbor dyed her hair blue,” I told Michael one afternoon, after seeing Marlinee through the bedroom window as she was getting out of her minivan, baby carriage in hand. “What does she do for a living?”
“I think she is a lawyer.”
“With blue hair?”
“Who knows? You are so nosey.”
“Should I dye my hair blue?”
“Fool, quit spying on our neighbors.”
The hair was my first indication that the quiet Asian lady next door with two kids and a UT-loving husband was not quite what I thought.
“I think she is my new best friend.”
“I thought the woman at the grocery store was your new best friend?”
“Not anymore, evidently.”
Several months later, the blue hair was gone, and so was the husband, whom I also watched through the bedroom window as he packed stacks of books into his minivan and drove away. Marlinee began showing up at the restaurant where I worked on late Sunday afternoons, a time when the restaurant was all but empty. She would order smoked salmon, sip on a glass or two of wine, and sort through paperwork for her new job. Our conversations were polite but reserved, careful in that way one is when they are trying to figure another person out. Occasionally, however, glimpses of ourselves would pop out, a laugh here, a snide comment there, enough to allow us to let our guards down, even if for just a moment.
And then one day Marlinee busted through my front door. Michael was out of town for some reason, so I slept late and decided to spend the day at the movies. Michael became worried because I wasn’t answering the phone, so he called Marlinee to go over and check on me. I had just returned from seeing “The Constant Gardner” when Marlinee walked straight into the house without knocking, ear to the phone, and calling my name. I can only imagine Michael told her I was dead, because the look of dread on her face when she saw me was quite disturbing.
“What’s going on? That dude’s calling me from St. Louis and saying I need to come check on you,” she said.
“I’m fine, I just went to the movies.”
“He is pissed.”
We both kind of stood there for a moment, unsure how to proceed. It was an uncomfortable situation. We could still hear Michael raising hell over the phone in Mar’s , hand. And then, in perfect Marlinee timing, it all changed. She glanced down at her phone, widened her eyes in a smile, and started laughing.
“You need to deal with him and then we should go have dinner,” she said.
“Give me 20 minutes,” I said as I watched her walk out of the house, still laughing.
The laughter continued over dinner, where we got stares from the other patrons for being too loud. It continued in the driveway of her new boyfriend, a man named Max, whom I met after throwing a rock through his window to get his attention. (Marlinee dropped her phone in the toilet at dinner so we couldn’t call him, and Max lived on the second floor. Throwing rocks seemed the only sensible thing to do.) It reached a fevered pitch in my backyard, where we drank a pitcher of Sangria and screamed Mariah Carey’s “We Belong Together” as loud as possible. We were the neighbors, so there was no one to complain about the noise.
I woke the next day with a smile on my face. I had made a friend.
The friendship formed that night has resulted in the most powerful, meaningful, and joyous one I have ever known. Hardly a day goes by without some form of communication; the phone company did not imagine us when they introduced unlimited texting. Over the years, I have watched as her beautiful children have grown, and seen her marry a most perfect gentleman (or perfect bastard, depending on the day); I have celebrated birthdays with her, run races by her side I never thought I could complete, and even, on one glorious occasion, helped “speak for the trees” by, well, somethings are better left unsaid. And to this day, I have never stopped laughing.
Marline, I love you so damn much. You are the funniest and most amazing woman I know, a friend like I have never had, and a true joy in our already very full lives. As Joni said, I could drink a case of you. I am honored to be a part of your life, to have you as a part of mine, and most of all, to be your Best Buddy.