I know y’all wanted to hear about something else this week (because I promised it,) but something came up.
The last time I saw FNOG, he did a double-take after he noticed me, as if to say: is that really Miranda? What is she doing here? And then he broke into a wide smile, and wrapped me up in a hug.
And I never even worked for him.
I was just a customer, but he treated me exactly like one of his other misfits: he waited patiently, without judgement, for me to make good with my life. Though he always hated it whenever I was living in Texas.
He died when I was alone in Johannesburg.
All of my feeds were filled with heartfelt, impromptu eulogies, and because I didn’t have anything more important to add than had already been said, I wrote nothing. And instead I cried alone in my cement-floored loft.
But back then, though I didn’t yet know everything that would happen, I felt like coming back to the states was an inevitability. And so I steeled myself with the idea that, when I could, I’d return one day and pay my little, dumb respects at the bar and restaurant that he owned. The very same next-door-duo that captured so much of my life. That epitomized whatever I had in my hometown from about 14 until the last time I was there, in 2018, when I had just turned 38.
And now. Well.
Now it doesn’t look like any of us know exactly what’s going to happen, just like how we all felt when the pandemic started.
About half of folks are saying that it’s over. Another Seattle institution will be closing its doors, for good, tonight.
The other half says it’ll reopen in 3-6 months.
I’m not really sure, but everyone I’ve ever loved who worked there all seem to agree that this is it: Labor Day. This is the day it will close for good.
While I am sitting in Albania.
When I saw the first post I texted Ben. “Is Beth’s closing?!” I wrote, frantic, because unlike some of the other important milestones in the history of that cafe and bar (Rice’s last day, Jackie’s last day, Naomi’s last day, and yes, even Voldemort’s last day) I knew I was too far away to fly there on a dime.
“Fuck,” he said. Because the prospect of them being gone is more than any of us want to bear this year.
There’s a ton of stuff I could tell you.
I could tell you how we had our prom dinner there. I could tell you about my 21st birthday that I spent there drinking imperials of Hoegaarden. I could tell you about my four going away parties or the 12-egg omelette I ate exactly one time.
I could tell you more about FNOG, too, but honestly, what he did for everyone else was so much more remarkable than anything he ever did for me. He knew I was on a path, and he never interceded much. But goddamnit if he didn’t welcome me to a barstool every-single-fucking-time I came back.
It all seems like a blur now – especially all those years between 2004 and 2016 when you could barely drag me from that place, even though I was rarely in town.
I have a few friends from school still left in that town, but most of them – like, the vast majority – I met at that goddamned diner and bar. And for someone like me who has nothing to come “home” to, it feels terrifying to know that like…I really have nothing to come home to.
I’m in Tirana right now. I thought Istanbul was home, but here I am, only two days in feeling happier and more stable than I have in weeks. And yeah, there’s so much I want to see, especially between here and Trieste and Odessa, roughly, but also? Maybe this is the place I dig in a little. I don’t know.
Home for me hasn’t been a place for a long time. It’s more like an idea, or a person, or something that inspires a specific kind of nostalgia.
But when everywhere is being stripped of all of those things, what’s left?
A photo on the internet. A memory suspended in your mind’s eye. A bar at the end of the universe.
And me, out here, wishing for a way to have all of it. All at once.