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The Flamethrowers, a reader response

Stop me if you’ve heard this one. I met HJ a little more than eleven years ago, and I mentioned the first weekend we spent together that there was a decent chance when we went out in public that I’d run into people I know. It had already happened once at dinner—a woman I’d met in City Hall was seated at the table next to us—and of course a few hours after I mentioned it, it happened again. A guy named Sam, out with his kids and his parents, no one you know. I live in the second largest city in America, so it was not the safest bet, but I stick to a few neighborhoods, so it wasn’t the biggest gamble either. A few weeks later we were at Ikea—bold move for a fledgling romance—and we’d purchased her a cabinet much larger than her Corolla could handle. I looked around the waiting area and there was my friend Darby (Big Josh knows her) and her husband. They let us put the cabinet in their station wagon, and we offered them a bottle of Irish whiskey when they dropped it off. “I couldn’t,” said Darby. “Not so fast,” said her husband.

A little less than eleven years ago, we went to Italy for my sister’s thirtieth birthday, lodging at a former convent that had been turned into a home for wayward heirloom botanicals, gathered from across the land. Rare pear trees and the like. HJ and I split off after a spell and went to Venice just the two of us. I noticed in Venice that I had developed a nervous habit. I was perpetually looking around for people I knew. There were so many people there, and it seemed likely to me, unconsciously, that I was about to run into someone I knew. But of course, I was far out of my handful of neighborhoods. So I just gave myself a neck ache.

A few nights in, we found a small restaurant near the university neighborhood. We were about to leave when I learned they didn’t take credit cards. HJ stayed back while I found an ATM. We left twenty minutes later than we meant to, but at that exact moment, and not twenty minutes earlier, I heard a very familiar voice coming through the tiny dark street. The voice approached and I called out, “Abe?” It was indeed our, your and my, mutual friend Abe. What a surprise, in the way that something your neck has been expecting can objectively be a surprise. We walked over to a university bar and had Spritzes and he introduced us to the girl from the Guggenheim he was walking here and there, and showed me an art project he’d been working on. He walked all over Venice carrying a GPS device in a recording mode, then he printed out the recorded paths and thus created his own personal map of Venice. We hung out the next day, too, riding around in the sardine cans, looking at the buildings from the canals.

The last time I spoke to our friend Abe, he was living in Dubai, and I’m not sure how he knew to contact me but I put him in touch with a friend’s sister who was in Africa working on energy. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of his intentions, but the kind of person who likes to see people he knows also likes to introduce people, and who am I to say that my friend who does energy in Africa shouldn’t meet my friend who wants to do energy business in Africa?  All sorts of schemes make the world go round.

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July 27, 2018 - Posted by | boredom |

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