About a thousand years ago I was doing GRL in Albuquerque and like I usually do when I sign up for events, I was a little bit lost. And then Ethan Day, the organizer, contacted me and asked if I wanted to do my panel with him, because he wrote comedy and he'd heard I was "kind of funny" and he thought that would be a good mix.
He added ZAM to the roster, and we said we'd talk about the panel when we got there--ha! He was one of the organizers of the event--he had a thousand people talking to him almost constantly, and I had a surprising number of people I was excited to meet as well.
Finally--about fifteen minutes before our panel together, we had a quiet moment to talk. He'd ordered pizza, and he offered me a couple of pieces--neither one of us had eaten lunch. We ate in blessed silence, and then collaborated on the panel, giving Zam the details when she was done with her other events, and then we went and did our thing.
The con was busy--GRL is always sort of a riot--but I remember Sunday morning. It was my first con, and I hadn't yet discovered the joys of Sunday morning--it's the day you finally get to talk to people you've been trying to see for the entire event.
Ethan was drinking a Diet Coke--at the time, it was my drink of choice, and I told him I was jealous, because neither of us had a chance to get a drink or even breathe to ourselves. Everybody was saying goodbye--so damned many friends.
And we were still talking to other people, and we met eyes, and suddenly...
We were on the same page.
"I'm so done," he said with a little laugh.
"I've got to be alone," I completely agreed.
We managed to escape and made our way to our own rooms, but when we saw each other at dinner (a huge dinner so many people) we had a word about how rare it was. We were both pretty good with the public, but to be able to meet someone's eyes and say, "I need to be alone!" That was pretty special. Not everybody got that about us--but we got that about each other immediately.
The next time we met was at Romantic Times. I was talking to Damon Suede and Heidi Cullinan as they waited in line for a party that I had no intention of going to, when I caught sight of Ethan, plowing through the crowd--a pizza over his head.
When Mary and I got back to our room, I texted him. I saw that.
You escaped through that crowd with pizza.
Yeah. Don't get in the way of a bitch and his pizza. I will cut you.
Ethan was such a nice guy--I laughed about that for a long time.
Next time, share.
And we did. GRL, Romantic Times--whenever we were at a con together we managed to find a quiet moment together. Often, there was pizza--but not always.
Not this last year.
This last year, we were doing a panel again, and I was talking to people as they came in and sat down. He sat and said, "So, we don't have a moderator. How about you do it?"
"Sure." (You have to imagine me with big eyes as I say this. I tend to have a BWAK BWAK SKY IS FALLING! reaction to every new thing introduced to me.)
But I did it--I gave Ethan and Jordan Castillo Price an introduction, and I was going for, "Introducing them like the gods that they are!" and I hope I did them justice.
We found quiet time at this event too--managed a meal even (thanks, Carol Lynne for inviting me!) and we promised to stay in touch.
We've texted and skyped through the years, lots of e-mails, lots of making each other laugh. We wanted more Skype--he liked showing me his yorkies, I liked sharing my Chi-who-whats, we both got each other's company, and although we were both busy--demands on both of us, pretty much throughout all of our time together--we always managed to find that quiet moment, that moment to connect, because that first meeting we had seen a kindred spirit--the person who loved people, and loved a crowd, but sometimes just needed to be alone.
I know I was not Ethan's best friend, or his oldest. We were afterthought friends--our circles were just out of distance from each other. But whenever we cycled around, we found a reason, a way, to reach out and clasp hands and touch.
Those touches were important, to both of us. It's not often you find that person who gets the two sides of you--the introvert and the extrovert, the happy public and the shy private person--with just one look and a fondness for the same drink.
Ethan was only Ethan Day to the M/M community--and he was so much to us. He was one of the first people to write gay romance funny, and to think funny was important. He gave a lot of his life to making GRL for us--because he believed a chance for our community to connect was so vitally important.
He was such a big part of this genre because of his tireless energy, his enthusiasm, and his vision--his press Wilde City was such a generous idea.
But he could have been all of this and just been an authority figure, someone to talk to when I went to GRL, someone I saw around on the net.
He was my friend because he was kind, and he was funny, and because we would both escape a tornado just to sit alone and eat pizza--or something better for us, as we grew older--and have a chance to talk alone.
I have so many Ethan stories, so many moments of remembered kindness, of humor. I can't believe there's no more to come. We had such plans to fight the tornado this year, to push all the other things outwards, and sit in a quiet center and share dog stories. And Skype.
We were both aware that having a friend was precious and we didn't want to squander that.
Goodbye, sweetheart. I will miss you at totally stupid times when I think I'm thinking about something else, but you will pop into my mind. When my kids want pizza. When I'm walking my dogs. When I hear someone else's story about how this totally mild mannered person actually did something that involved stupid, naked, and alcohol when they were too young to know better.
When I hear a voice from Missouri or Ohio, or see someone with a glorious albeit shy smile.
And sometimes I'll miss you at really appropriate times, like tonight when I cried through the last twenty minutes of Bohemian Rhapsody and wanted to ask if you'd done the same.
And you weren't there to ask, because our circles had gone around one last time, and GRL was our last chance to touch.
Thank you for all the times you made plans with me to push back the tornado. I treasure every moment. Thank you for thinking I was funny, and for looking at me when we were both cooked and done, and seeing a friend.
Goodbye, sweetheart. I'll miss you. I can't believe our last hug was our last hug. I hope we see each other again, when all our tornadoes are blown out, and we have a chance for a quiet room, and all the time in the world.