Tonight I had dinner with a friend who has not allowed me to pay for a meal in the last eight years. Anybody who knows me knows that “allowed” is not a verb I use often when referencing other people, but for this particular friend it’s what he’s done and what he’s always done.
He wanted to take me out for my birthday. I arrived first and ordered a glass of Zin. The bartender asked for my credit card; I gave it to her; he arrived and we sat at the bar the rest of the night. I knew that my card would never get charged, no matter if I asked to pay the tab or not.
When it came time to order something to eat we did the usual waffling. I asked what he was getting. “I don’t know; what are you thinking”? Back and forth, back and forth. Then he said he was thinking of getting The Most Expensive Item On The Menu. Which is what I had been looking at. So I said, OK, I’ll get that, too. I turned to the bartender and ordered The Steak. He ordered…the turkey burger.
I know him well enough that I realized he told me he was ordering The Steak so I would feel comfortable ordering The Steak. Over the years I have tried to pick up the check, operative word being “tried”. I found that the only way I could contribute was to wait until he went to the bathroom and then slip the bartender some money. Tonight I could have argued and said just put it on my card, except that he wanted to take me out for my birthday.
This was a man I dated off and on for my first three years in Chicago. He was just into law school when we first met, and I was just into Chicago. At one point he loved me more than I loved him. At another point I loved him more than he loved me. And then, at some point, we realized that while we loved each other, we weren’t in love and frankly, never would be.
Because my love affair with him is so closely tied with my burgeoning love affair with Chicago, they’ll forever be intertwined. But it’s more than that. I feel like we’ve both come into our own over the last eight years. When I moved to Chicago I didn’t know who I was, but I was willing to take any chance to find out. I’ve watched him grow from someone who was somewhat reticent and shy into a man who’s confident and quirky and confident in his quirkiness. He’s one of the most intellectually curious people I’ve ever met and, by far, one of the most generous. He is truly one of my favorite, favorite people.
And that, THAT, is the most expensive item on the menu.