We told him we were thinking about moving to Portland, and a few minutes later, Mario was in the middle of telling us how much he loved Texas and would never leave.
‘It’s big. It’s chill. The people are pretty cool. I mean, some of them are a little bibly. Bibly or racist – take your pick. But I love it here. I would never ever leave.’
It came on like the shadow of a soft cloud. I realized that Mario and Cherie, Josh and Jolene, Brad and I would probably not share many of these moments again. Josh had already made it clear he wanted to move to Oklahoma eventually. This might be the last few months we’re geographically this close…ever.
I thought back to the last visit we’d made to Mario and Cherie’s house. Mario’d had us in stitches telling us what had happened to him in the years between high school and the year we reconnected at one of Josh and Jolene’s parties. In another person’s voice, it could have been a tragic story, but Mario understood why the context of his life had been ridiculous then, and he had the grace to appreciate that it wasn’t his life now.
I thought about the sermon that followed on why George W. Bush was the best president ever because he was ‘morally centered.’ ‘He didn’t know what he was doing, but he was always convinced that what he was doing was right. Remember the Bush tax credit? “Oh, you’re out of money? Here, have some!” He was morally centered, I’m telling you.’
I thought of all the brilliantly hilarious YouTube videos and great music he’d shared with us. He gave us Sexy Saxman; we repaid him with Jaco shreds. He gave us Madeon; we offered back Juno-60 improvs.
I thought about the parties that Josh and Jolene threw several times a year. I thought of the cooking lessons Josh, a stellar amateur chef, had offered to give me, and the dinner parties with Mario and Cherie that we’d planned.
We’d had summers at the lake, barbecues, dinners out together, plenty of evenings over beers, in someone’s garage or at any number of bars. We’d commiserated and celebrated.
And I realized we’d always stay in touch – of course we would. But I would miss what we had. I’d been looking forward to the move for so long, I hadn’t given myself much time to feel the loss that would shimmer on the other side of it.
By the time we got ready to leave, Mario was complimenting Brad on his mandolin.
‘You know…I’ve got a xylophone.’ He turned to me and said, ‘I’ve got a tambourine if you want to play.’
‘I have a banjo!’
‘Bring the banjo! Why not?’ he laughed.
‘And a tambourine!’
And we parted company intending to assemble an impromptu jam at Josh’s upcoming birthday party.