Phillip agreed to accompany me to a late afternoon brunch at Good Enough to Eat, a popular Upper West Side eatery not too far from our apartment. I had heard that their menu included biscuits and gravy and, as a connoisseur of comfort food, I insisted on checking the place out. Growing up, biscuits and gravy was a staple in my Indiana home. I’ve missed the fluffy biscuits, creamy gravy and savory crumbles of sausage. Since I moved to New York nearly five years ago, I’ve been on a quest to find a restaurant that serves biscuits and gravy that are made the same way that my mom makes hers.
When we arrived at the restaurant, there was already a line for a table and a caravan of strollers was parked along the white picket fence around the outdoor seating area. Phillip rolled his eyes and groaned. “Great. Children. Why do people insist on bringing their children with them nearly everywhere they go?”
“They kind of don’t have a choice?” I said with a smirk.
Phillip gave his last name to the hostess. “And try to find us a table away from all the kids, will ya?” The hostess shot Phillip a squinty glare but he had already walked away, adjusting his Ray Bans. We stood at the end of the line and I tried to distract an obviously irritated Phillip with details about a party I had recently attended.
“So, the waiter had a tray of chicken skewers and I was like, ‘What’s that?’ and she goes, ‘Chicken,’ and then I was all, ‘Well, duh, but what kind of chicken?’ and she just kind of shrugged and said, ‘Hot,’ but I was like, ‘Hot as in temperature or hot as in flavor,’ and get this- she shrugged again and said, ‘I dunno.’ Can you believe that?” Phillip was not listening. He was staring off in the distance, towards uptown, with his arms folded and his lips pursed. “Um, what’s with you? You seem really annoyed.”
He loudly cleared his throat to speak and I smiled because it reminded me of Loraine from Mad TV. “I’m alright,” he said. “But Kristoff and I aren’t friends anymore.”
I raised my eyebrows. “Whoa! What happened?” This was shocking news. Kristoff and Phillip were best friends, practically joined at the hip. They attended the same AA meetings and went out for dinner together nearly every night. It was inevitable that where there was Phillip, there was also Kristoff, both of them dressed to the nines, huddled together, giggling and whispering.
The line was moving rather quickly and we were next to be seated. Phillip shrugged. “It was amicable. It wasn’t really a healthy friendship. He was very negative and it was wearing me out. We went for a couple of days without talking and then, it was just, like, over. We agreed to not be friends anymore.”
“Wait, how does that happen? There was no drama? No fight? You just agreed to not be friends? Like a break up, only as friends?”
“Yeah, pretty much.”
The hostess called Phillip’s name and we were seated at an outdoor table, where, incidentally, there were very few children. I immediately ordered a spiked pink lemonade and something called The Deep South- scrambled eggs with biscuits and gravy. Phillip ordered the same, minus the spiked lemonade and waved the waiter away as I wiggled in my seat with anticipation.
I’ve had friendships dissipate with distance and time, and I’ve had serious disagreements that have abruptly terminated some friendships, but never have I simply agreed to end a friendship. I found it bizarre.
“So, how do you feel about this?” I asked.
Phillip paused before answering. He has a habit of exuding a steely, cold and unaffected appearance, but really, I know that he’s incredibly sensitive. Even when he says he’s alright, he’s not. I suppose, as his roommate, I’m privy to those moments.
“I guess I’m alright,” he said. “I mean, as good as can be expected. I just wonder what he’s saying about me. I already heard that he’s going to the AA Halloween party dressed as an Indian. I’m going to go as an Indian. He knows this! We talked about it before we ended the friendship.”
I chuckled. This sounded silly- like something Serena and Blair would whine about on Gossip Girl, not grown-ass men. “Well, you’ll just have come up with another costume.”
“Fuck that! Like hell I will. I’m just going to make sure my Indian headdress is bigger. And I’ll show more skin.”
Our food arrived and, as I began to dig into my scrambled eggs, I thought about how we can bond so quickly with someone. We can’t imagine what our lives would be like without them but then several years- or, in some cases, months- down the road, we’ve lost track of them. It’s a shame that instead of staying in communication, we rely on Facebook to know who’s moved, changed jobs, or in some cases, died.
I also thought about the friendships that have come and gone in my life. Some have faded through the years, like my friendship with Zoe. Ten years ago, we were inseparable. She got married, and slowly but surely, her devotion to our fun-filled weekends of shopping and partying gave way to a devotion to a quiet, domesticated life. Over time, we drifted apart and now our friendship only consists of a yearly Christmas card. Some friendships, like the one I had with someone I’ve nicknamed Dorito Lord, have dramatically exploded in an angry tornado of misunderstandings and passive-aggressive tweets. And more recently, I abruptly ended a long standing friendship with someone who had betrayed my trust, kept important information from me, and, in a scene worthy of Queer As Folk, was caught making out with a guy I had a crush on.
My heart sank as I stood in the middle of a crowded dance floor and saw them huddled together in a dark corner, passionately making out. My friend’s betrayal was devastating. The fourteen year old drama queen in me wanted to lash out with a juvenile and bitter vengeance. But I’m not in junior high. I realized that I cherished this friend and that no one is perfect. As hurt as I was, I chose to take the seldom traveled road paved with humility and forgiveness.
“How’s your food?” asked Phillip.
I shrugged. The biscuits and gravy were not like my mom’s. The biscuits were dense and hard. The gravy was all right, but like so many other restaurants, the sausage was links that had simply been sliced and thrown in with the gravy. It did not remind me of home. I suddenly lost my appetite and sat sulking, longing for the simple, uncomplicated days of my youth, when I spent my worry-free summers joyously swinging from the monkey bars with my friends and mom’s biscuits and gravy made me feel like everything was going to be all right.