I would say that in my life I have had three significant relationships. Several smaller ones and one medium one surround those, but three significant. You’ve hard tales of the ex-husband and of Adam Science. Tonight I just want to tell stories about Brad. I don’t talk about my past a lot (being stuck in the past with relationships, yes, my actual past, not so much).
I LOVE the story about how Brad and I met. I found myself being drug to the campus radio station my freshman year of college by my friend Dominika because she was always getting herself invited to eclectic outings. There were several guys there, all freshman too, and a couple of other girls I didn’t know. The lead guy, the one on the radio, was very interested in one of these other girls so the rest of us just sat around chatting. As is the case when 18 year olds of the opposite sex are together, some people started to get a little flirty. I backed out of the conversation stating, “I’m a goody two shoes – I’m out.” Brad, a total stranger at this point (albeit a super cute one), looks right at me and laughs and says, “Yeah right.” I tell him he doesn’t know me. He tells me he can see right through me. He, I and one other guy all lived in dorms right next to each other way across campus. They offer to walk with me back home. Brad and I are having a really fun conversation and all I can think about is how to ditch the third wheel. No such luck, third wheel and I turn to our building and Brad goes to his. I spend the next day trying to figure out how to get a hold of him when he calls me later that night. He lures me to his dorm room with promises of lemonade and pizza. We were such crazy kids. We stayed up until 3am watching old South Park episodes and playing music (the ethernet and mp3’s were a new thing then). And as two kind of awkward 18 year olds who liked each other but were shy, I think making a move came down to me saying, “If you have this song, I could just kiss you!.” Lo & behold he did, and I did.
This scenario happened just 3 weeks before the end of the school year. I just found this great guy and now school was over and he wasn’t coming back to SIU the next year. We promised to email each other. Our home computer did not have internet. I used to go to the library to email him every couple of weeks. He had taken a job at a company called Fujisawa and I always teased him that he was working for the Japanese mafia. Soon, I was emailing him more frequently and I told my mom we needed to get internet at the house so he and I could Instant Message (Oh, AOL back in the day!). We did. Brad and I started talking more frequently. By the end of that summer I had a trip planned to see him in Chicago. He told his parents a friend was coming for the weekend. It wasn’t until the day I arrived he mentioned it was a girlfriend. We had so much fun I went back the next weekend before leaving for my Disney Internship at the end of August. This was so just the beginning.
At my uncle's wedding.
Brad and I spoke once a week when I was in Disney. We had a weekly phone call after Dawson’s Creek. We talked about everything. We became really good at reading silences and what wasn’t being said. Once I returned to college for the spring semester he and I were able to have a more consistent relationship. I love chronicling our relationship in changes in technology (like the internet and his first pager or my first text message) and growth. For example, I signed up for my first credit card so I could buy Amtrak tickets to see him. That Discover Card remains my oldest line of credit. Or, the way it came to be that my parents bought me a car. My uncle was getting married and Brad was flying to St. Louis for the wedding. My parents were in the wedding and had to be at the rehearsal dinner. Also, someone had to come pick me up from my university 2 hours away. My mom finally said, We just can’t make all of this work, we’re going to buy you a car and drive it down the weekend before. Drive yourself in and pick up Brad. Score! Thanks, Brad!
Grandma's house for Thanksgiving.
He referred to having dinner at my house like being in a game of Hungry, Hungry Hippo. I have 3 siblings and we and my parents always ate dinner at the table. My mom always made rolls and just dumped them from the sheet tray to the table. No plate, no bread basket. Bread was a hot commodity in my family, rolls were the first to go, mom thought it was silly to get another plate dirty. Rolls hit the table and all hands went in for them. I told my mom about Brad’s hungry, hungry hippo comment and she still tells that story today to people who come over for dinner. One year for Christmas he found a shirt for me that had a hippo on it and the shirt read, “Honestly, I was never that hungry, hungry!” I laughed until I cried. It was perfect.
Rain at the zoo would not stop us from taking a picture with a giant ape statue.
We were off and on for years. With him far away he would get angsty about the distance and I would have to reassure him that we were okay. We were constantly getting back together. There was the time he showed up at my college apartment on Valentine’s Day with The Sims in hand. The first Sims game had just been released and I was so excited about it. He brought it to me and then found all the cheat codes so my Sims could have the best house on the block. Or the time not long after I graduated college I went to visit him at his parents house while they were out of town. We ended up playing a drinking game to Monty Python and the Holy Grail with Vanilla Vodka, which was disgusting straight up. His parents had this really ugly armchair in their living room (it had this awful dog print fabric) and, well, we thought we’d give the ugly chair a better life than just being known as the ugly chair. We had a lot of sex on that chair. It eventually ended up in his apartment. Where we had more sex on that chair. Or the time I, in the span of 15 hours, flew to Chicago, met a friend for dinner, made that friend come with me to see his band (he became a really great musician when he started to find himself), kissed him after the show, went back to my friends to sleep, got up at 4am so I could get to the airport by 6am because I HAD to be at work at 8am.
When my dad was sick, Brad came to the hospital with me once. When dad died, he was the 2nd phone call I made. (The first was to my best friend, Laura.) He came down immediately and stayed for days. We weren’t “dating” at the time, but that was our way. We could be so mad at each other, but we were always there for each other. There is a scene in the movie High Fidelity where Laura’s dad dies and John Cusack’s character goes to the funeral and they end up having sex in the car. It was what she needed to feel something. It seems strange, but that was the kindest thing Brad did for me on the day of my dad’s funeral, and something only he could do. And just like in the movie, you just need to feel something on a day like that.
The drama filled off and on of our late teens and early twenties stopped when he finally went back to finish his undergrad degree. One day he just stopped calling me back, stopped returning emails. It was bizarre. I was so angry, so upset and so confused. We didn’t speak for 3.5 years. That never stopped me from sending him some kind of communication about every 6 months. A random note about what I was up to, or an observation or funny story. During that time I stopped being angry. I understood why the silence had to happen. He was in a place where he was 19 again – freshman at college and living in dorms. I was in a place where I wanted to be 23. There was no way for us to successfully be together during that time and still have the life experiences we wanted. During those years I met and married my ex-husband. I learned eventually that Brad kept his own tabs on me as well. He knew I got married. He knew I moved to Louisiana.
It was the week before Thanksgiving – right about this time – back in 2006 that we got back in touch. I was sending one of my regular 6 month update messages, this time a quick note about something to his IM address. I was just about to sign off, because I never expected a response. I just needed him to know I still cared about him and wished him well. And then he wrote back. There it was- B6279W: Hi. I almost fell off the chair. We stayed up for hours catching up. And just like that we were friends again. My husband and I were living in Louisiana still. He was working for Discovery Education and living in Evanston. We were both into food and cooking. We talked about movies and tv. I told him stories of Shreveport living. When I casually mentioned I wanted to learn to knit, the next day I had a picture of a knit hat that looked like R2D2. He told me to learn to knit that. Brad had a good way of encouraging me to finish something.
Eight months after that I was going to Chicago for a bachelorette party. We met for dinner the night before the party. And while we hadn’t seen each other in 4 years, it’s important to note that we had spent a million hours talking or writing to each other. Since we were 18 we had spent more time geographically apart than together. This sounds incredibly hokey, but we knew each other’s silences better than I’ve been able to read other people’s faces. The first 5 minutes of that first dinner I was so anxious. And then I wasn’t. Then it was just my friend who had been with me through so much, who knew my dad, who knew me at 18 sitting across from me. There is never anything I couldn’t tell him. Wanting to keep everything above the board I told my ex husband we were friends again – his response was, “good, I’m glad you have someone you can talk to.” Does that not tell you I may not have been in the healthiest marriage?
As my marriage proved more and more broken Brad was there to listen. He never had an opinion, he never suggested anything inappropriate. He listened. When the time came for me to make the decision to really end my marriage it was then we talked about me moving to Chicago. Only after I decided it was over did he come forward and say that he had always loved me and we should try and make it work. This is a very small paragraph for what was the hardest year of my life. Details aren’t necessary here. I moved to Chicago in March of 2009, 4 blocks from Brad. And for the first time since freshman year of college, we lived in the same city.
He brought me to get my first iphone. And was the first picture I took with it.
We rollerbladed along the lake a lot.
I root for the Cards at a Cards/Cubs game in Chicago. He had to buy that hat at the game. He was not a good Cubs fan.
Chillin' in my apartment before I had a couch. Note champagne flute in cup holder. We were classy.
We went camping! Seriously, I don't camp for just anyone.
Chicago architecture boat tour.
I started calling him pumpkin when we were 19. He called me cupcake.
We gave being a real couple a real shot. Brad tests people. He pushes them away to see if they come back. When they don’t – he says – see, they leave me! I had been through that a lot with him in 12 years. This time when he did it I told him it would be done for good. When my short term apartment lease was up I moved back to St. Louis. We still chatted some. He sent me the greatest apartment warming gift ever – the entire Ally McBeal series on dvd, this red blanket from his couch that we had always snuggled under, and my most favorite t-shirt of his. It’s so old. It has the molecular make up of caffeine on it. Such a nerd. When he sent them he had absolutely doused them in the cologne he wore. I put the shirt in a plastic bag and put it on a shelf in my closet. I was hoping the plastic bag would help it stay smelling like him.
After April of 2010 we didn’t talk too much. This wasn’t that strange. We had gone lengths of time without speaking before. I knew it is only a matter of time before one of us reaches out. Earlier this week I had the strangest feeling I was going to drive up to my apartment and find him sitting on my front porch. I wouldn’t even be surprised. It’s just what we did – we kept coming back to each other.
Only we won’t. Sunday night I found out Brad died. Brad’s gone.
And yet, he permeates my life.
The tv I have was the one he picked out for me because Brad was a tech geek and had to pick out the electronics. He’s there in the first iphone I got. My alarm clock was his. He gave it to me when he updated to some super fancy sonic boom nonsense. He was always mad at the alarm clocks snooze button because he didn’t think it worked unless you hit it in a specific place. I used to disprove that every time I hit it and it worked. My vegan cupcake cookbook was a gift from him. Like I said, he always found interesting ways to support whatever crazy whim I was on. He came to several of my big family Thanksgivings. This Thursday, when my drunk Uncle Floyd starts singing “Whip It” as he spoons Cool Whip onto pie, I’ll remember how scared Brad was of my family gatherings.
He assembled my bookcases.
Firefly, in Chicago, was our restaurant.
I used to drive him up a Quatros pizza when I was still at SIU and he had moved back to Chicago.
He insisted I address letters I wrote to him with Brad Williams, WMMQ (who makes me quiver)
We still made each other playlists and cds. He used to title his cds “Thoughts from a big dumb head.” He’d put Weird Al songs on there because I love him. And Jennifer Love Hewitt’s one song on there because I am jealous of her.
I taught him how to make buerre blanc sauce. He taught me how to make hollandaise.
He kept little champagne bottles for me in the fridge.
I still have this goofy ring he got me out of a toy machine when we were about 20. It was one of those you put a quarter in and got a toy in a plastic bubble.
We watched tv together even when we were far apart. We would sit on the phone or in with computers in our laps so we could talk or IM through tv shows.
He always knew that even when I said I don’t want something to drink, that just meant I was going to drink half of his.
I loved his parents so, so much. I always threatened to call them or visit them without him. He told me they liked me more than him so that would be okay. His mom used to make me frozen drinks when I visited for spring break because my friends would go to warm climates to party and I went to Chicago. His dad made the best omelettes.
We saw Wicked together on this really magical snowy December day in Chicago. Dinner at the Allegro and then the show. It was one of the best days.
My first trip to Whole Foods was with Brad when he lived in Evanston. We bought ingredients to make cookies. We were really happy.
We grew up together. I know he has friends from different time periods in his life. But Brad and I, we kept coming back. We knew each other at every stage. I have every confidence that if he were still here, in the next 6 months or so we would have resumed contact and been in each other’s life in some way or other. We always said no one else could stand us, of course we were going to end up together.
For now, I’m going to pull out an old blue shirt with the chemical structure of a caffeine molecule. It smells like my Brad.