It’s a debate I often have with myself: Is it possible for someone you’ve never met to be one of your best friends?
Today is a “yes” day.
Apparently, October 26 of last year was a “yes” day, too.
So was November 24.
Okay. Never mind — it’s not a debate. It’s totally possible.
I’m going through e-mails this morning that I’ve sent to this best friend I’ve never met, to write about him for his birthday. Because it’s beyond the feeble capabilities of my near-exploding brain to have actually sent him a card.
Never mind the tiny text up there; I’d have done this even if it hadn’t been my task for the day to write about e-mail.
His name is Apron. My Masonic Apron.
Dear, dear Apron.
I don’t know when I started reading his blog, and for the life of me, I can’t find the first hopelessly awkward e-mail I sent him to the anonymous junk-mail-and-spam-from-blog-readers address when I decided he and I needed to be friends and told him so. (It wasn’t even an option for him, except, I guess, that he could have ignored it and never responded. But that’s not his way. Any opportunity to put more words out there is one Mr. Apron seizes. [New York Times–style courtesy titles today? Sure.])
It’s stressing me out that I can’t find those first few e-mails, because I knew from the start that we actually would be friends. That I would ultimately find out his real name, start corresponding with him at the non-spam address, make things Facebook official, stalk the online White Pages for his home address and send him…snail mail.
It’s reciprocal, of course: He sent me a calculator watch for my birthday. In October.
My birthday is in April, and he knows that.
The first message I have from that real e-mail account dates to almost exactly a year ago. I guess the dates don’t matter, really. As with any good friend, it’s hard to imagine my life without him in it in some form. What matters is that in the past year — or however long it’s been — Mr. Apron has become the first person I reach out to in crisis and triumph, and often the only person I write when I have something grossly inappropriate to share.
Breakups. Makeups. Sex-you-ups. Family squabbles. Fat-kid revelry and fat-girl self-loathing. He’s definitely the first person who knew I was…QUITTING MY JOB:
(Oh lord, I’m just dying over here. What a whore. But for the record, I absolutely would have Asian Supermanned out the window of my office onto a blimp if I had a flair for that sort of physical drama.)
Anyway, he gets me. He’s 750 miles away and I’ve never met him in the flesh (I imagine we’ll laugh about that later), but he gets me. I often don’t get him — he writes in bizarre metaphors, makes disgusting bodily references and peppers his missives with Yiddish phrases (or maybe that’s me) and Gilbert and Sullivan lyrics — but I’m content to be deliriously mystified.
His words have this awkward poetry about them that put me at ease before I’ve even opened a message from him. I know I’ll be smiling soon, if I’m not already.
I don’t write him as much as I’d like to anymore. (Since I started this job, I don’t do anything as much as I’d like to, including breathing.) But he’s always told me not to apologize for it, so…I won’t.
Mr. Apron is living proof, again and again, that a person’s blog scratches only the surface of who someone really is. And I can only guess that e-mails go only a little deeper than that. He called me on the phone once for advice, and that freaked us both out. (I don’t do phones.)
But until he decides I’m allowed to see him eat and I have enough money to travel those 750 miles to ambush him and his wife, we will have our e-mails.
On Wednesday afternoon, shortly before my date — which I now feel immensely awkward even referring to because, of course, the Flightless Bipedal managed to find my post about it before we went out — he wrote me an e-mail that was mostly very sweet but ended with this:
I don’t know if tonight is the start of something awesomeballs for you, or if it’ll just be… balls, for you, but, at the very least, may it be an evening filled with wit and wisdom, the required awkward silences, visions of giraffes and tigers, titties and beer.
It’s not so much e-mail that’s changed my life but the people I’ve come to know because of it. So happy birthday, Mr. Apron, and thanks for all the e-mails. This oink’s for you.
* The title of my post is the title of a Gilbert & Sullivan song. I hope he knew that before he read the footnote. I’m sure he did. And now you do, too.