The day we went fishing you wore a beat up straw hat and cut-off jeans and a big plaid shirt. It was as if you were auditioning to be Huck Finn. If Huck were over six feet and from Argentina. Your crazy, floppy hair was in your eyes (as always) and your lips parted to reveal those big, white teeth. When we drove to the lake (the lake we eventually discovered to be completely flooded out) I sat between you and my boyfriend. He was your best friend. My leg touched your leg. My leg touched his leg. That was how it was with us. There was lots of good will and very little looking back.
It wasn't as though you and I had really dated, anyway.
In the front seat were these nice, married people you knew. They seemed really adult to me at the time. They always had boxes of crackers and plates of cheese out on the big farm table in their house. (They owned their own house!) They bought wine by the case and drove cars that were big enough and had decent enough tires to take us all safely to the lake.
I didn't have very much money when I knew you. Once you asked me just how much I had and when I told you, you slipped a twenty into my hand.
There was a great night when you cooked for me and my boyfriend (your best friend.) You made veal cutlets and mashed potatoes and a huge salad with tons of garlic in the dressing. I still think of you when I make mashed potatoes. When I think I've added enough pepper, I always add a little more.
You didn't have much furniture, but you had a nice cutting board and good, sharp kitchen knives. When whatever happened between us first happened, you seemed to want it to go further, but I told you that I had too many pots on the stove. And you were okay with that.
I liked watching you bounce up the stairs, your long legs taking the steps two at a time. I liked the way you bombed down these same steps, still buttoning a shirt.
On Valentine's Day, you drove me to a local flower shop and bought me a carnation. We hadn't even kissed. Another night, you knocked on my door and took me to a tiny bar on Melrose where almost everyone spoke Spanish. We played pool and drank beer. You knew everyone in the place.
When I think about my twenties, I think about how lonely I was a lot of the time. I was coming out of a group of college friends and I hadn't yet found another group to call my own. You seemed to recognize that. You were an inclusive person. You liked it when there was a party. Why be alone if you have a choice to be together?
When I moved out of the apartment building, we sat outside on an old wooden table and you said you were sorry it hadn't worked out between us. You were sorry it hadn't worked out between me and your best friend. You congratulated me on making it work with another guy. Any connection was better than none at all. You wished me happiness.
You were a good neighbor. The kind of adventurous, hilarious, colorful neighbor every girl in her twenties should have.