Who Needs Friends?

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How Needs Friends?

As the plane taxied to the runway, I found myself sitting alone with two empty seats next to me. Oh, joy. I fluffed my pillow, retrieved my book, and stretched myself out under a blanket. All was good. If I had had any idea that the seating arrangement was to be the highlight of my trip, I might have just stayed on the airplane. In making plans for this trip, I forgot that life seldom works out according to nice and tidy plans. Life is, in fact, usually messy. The best vacations aren't always the ones really taken but are instead sometimes the ones you take only in your imagination.

Judy, Lois and I met when each of our lives was in upheaval. Between us, two marriages ended in divorce, one parent died, one daughter moved across the country, one car was repossessed, one house burned down (it wasn't my fault), and one I.R.S. audit was threatening. Together we had been, if not to hell, at least to purgatory and back. Our friendship seemed solid and assured; even when after remarrying, Lois decided to move to North Carolina to be near her family, especially her daughter. This daughter, this wicked girl, waited until the U-haul pulled up, car in tow, to announce that in six months she was getting married and moving to Texas. For Judy and me, it meant a trip, an engagement not to be missed. The three of us together again was going to be grand. I could hardly wait.

I imagined I'd hop on the red-eye and be in Asheville for breakfast. A reunion of unprecedented glee would ensue. After that, we would check out the wedding site, see the monuments to the city's Civil War soldiers, and check out the local watering hole. Later, there would be the meeting with the family and the fulfillment of other pleasantries. Then we would talk into the night, sipping bourbon and tittering quietly so as not to wake the household. The wedding was scheduled for Saturday morning, and I thought it could be potentially awkward for Lois. You see, Lois' first husband, Hank, the father of the bride, would be there. Lois' second husband, Henry, the man she left Hank for, would be there. Lois' third husband, Steven, the man she left Henry for, would be there, too. The only task Judy and I would have was keeping the three husbands at equal distance from each other.

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