Shortly after my surprise encounter with Lee and his fiance, Hillary Emails me to tell me that they’re planning a surprise birthday party for Lee. I’m invited, but there’s bigger news: She asks if I can be the decoy, to lure him out of the house while she’s preparing. This is all to take place on the following Sunday, at the end of the weekend I was planning on spending in DC, catching up with friends. I consider as I squint at the laptop, too late at night in the pink bedroom in which I’m staying. Doing this will require being back pretty early, by 1pm or so, which would mean leaving DC fairly early. But why not – how often do I get asked to help conspire for the benefit of anyone’s surprise birthday party? It feels like a pleasantly intimate request, one that instantly turns me into a trusted friend. I reply to tell her I do it, and coordinate the whole thing with Lee by Email. Lee agrees to meet me at 30th Street Station when I get back from Philadelphia, and the plan is in motion.
Coming out of the airplane at the Philadelphia airport, I feel sad. Philadelphia is not a happy place for me, despite all the good things that have happened, all the opportunities it affords me, the friends that live here.