A Frenemy's Kind Words and Last Laugh
“Do you know who Linda Towers* is?” my wife Katie asked me.
I did a quick flip through my mind’s address book and Facebook friends list. “No idea. Why?”
“Someone named Linda Towers bought us a gift from our baby registry.”
Was it a friend of my parents’? Old co-worker? Mother of a friend? Nothing.
Katie gets notifications every time someone buys something from the registry she set up through Amazon and Target. Typically, these notifications come with the person’s email address so we can send thank you cards, or at the very least, a thank you email. Amazon gives the buyer an option to not share that information. However, if you were to opt not to share your email address with us, the name associated with your Amazon account would still come through. And that’s how we knew Linda Towers bought us something. But Linda Towers opted to not leave her email address. So we had no idea who she was and no way to thank this stranger for her generosity. And we would like to thank Linda Towers.
A few days passed and a box from Amazon arrived. It was addressed to “Katie David & Baby Himmel.” Katie was working from home that day but was no longer retrieving packages from the front stoop, what with her wobbly pregnancy balance. I scooped it up when I returned from work and set it on the dining room table as we do with all mail.
“We got another gift from your mom and dad,” I told Katie who was working on her computer on the couch.
“How do you know it’s from them?”
“Because it’s addressed to Katie David & Baby Himmel. That’s how they’ve been addressing them to us.”
Katie looked up from her computer and let out a deep sigh. With exasperation at my not understanding how our registry works she said, “That’s how they all come. It’s automatic because that’s how I set it up.”
It was a nursing/resting/prop-the-kid-up pillow. It looks like those neck pillows you take on the plane only bigger and fluffier. Katie awkwardly got up from the couch to see the gift. “Oh! This is going to really come in handy. You can use it, too! This is the thing that Linda Towers bought for us. You still don’t know who that is?”
As Katie examined the packaging I pulled the small white note from the box. I read the message:
“Katie & David–
Enjoy the amazing ride a baby brings! It’s the greatest joy on earth.
“Holy fucking shit! I know who Linda Towers is!” I shrieked.
In 2003, I was living in Las Vegas. My friend Big John, a former UNLV Rebels lineman was bouncing at Rain inside Palms Casino Resort. Fans of MTV’s The Real World will remember Rain and Palms as home base for the show’s 12th season. Rain, at that time was the place to be, if you were into the club scene. It was where Paris Hilton and other timely celebs would have their birthdays. I was never a club guy but when your good buddy is a bouncer, it can be fun to take advantage of VIP access.
On a rare Saturday night when Big John wasn’t on the schedule, he convinced me and our pal, Chris — my old college roommate — to have a fellas night at Rain. We skipped the long line, walked through the tunnel of neon strobes that opened up to the sprawling club. At the tunnel’s mouth was a group of seven or so pretty girls. Chris and I thought nothing of it. We were not the kind of guys who picked up chicks in a nightclub and certainly not when said chicks are part of an all-female flock. Anyway, I was busy deciding if I should drink bourbon and ginger ale, bourbon and Coke or vodka and Red Bull.
But with all the confidence of a bouncer and as smooth as a smarmy pick-up artist, Big John put his large arms around the flock, bringing them closer together and said, “Good evening, ladies. My name is John. Would you like to join my friends and I in VIP?” The women took a moment to consider the invitation. They looked at Big John, Chris and me for a moment, sizing us up, considering the offer. Sure, they told Big John.
In VIP, the three of us made small talk with the women but mostly left them to do their thing. We all enjoyed the comped bottle service Big John set up (vodka and Red Bulls, after all). And then I got to talking to this one girl. Her name was Weezy.
They were all from Michigan. Detroit area but not the city proper because they were white women, and white women don’t live in Detroit city proper. They were in Las Vegas for a girls’ weekend. Weezy and I got past the pleasantries. I asked the question she was always asked: “Is Weezy your real name?” Her real name was Linda. But she hated that name. I don’t remember where the name Weezy came from. I may have asked her if she was asthmatic. I don’t know. It was a long time ago and there was a lot of free vodka making the rounds. The name fit her. She was short — “fun size,” she told me — with short brunette hair. She was silly and smart. I liked Weezy. And I dug her polka dot skirt.
Weezy and I spent the rest of the night locked in conversation. At one point Chris looked over at us with amazement. On the way home he told me, “I’ve never seen anyone — anyone — go toe-to-toe with you like that.” Sometimes I’m charming. Sometimes I’m witty. That night, I was both. And yeah, Weezy was keeping up with all of it. And I was keeping up with her. Before the night ended, Weezy had exclaimed several times, “Dave, you’re my favorite!”
We had swapped email addresses and became fast pen pals. Our MSN Messenger chats would consume our days at work and then continue late night at home. We mailed each other photos of each other so we didn’t forget what the other looked like. Clearly this was before social media took off. I don’t think I was even on MySpace at the time.
Weezy and I were pals. Good pals. Chris, Big John and any other friends who soon came to know about my pen pal were all convinced that she was The One and that we’d end up married some day with kids and dogs and quiet resentment and all that domestic stuff. I admit that I enjoyed entertaining the idea. At the same time, I was living through what appeared to be a never-ending break up with Karolyn. Weezy was the opposite of Karolyn in every way and a welcomed distraction from the mania. What wasn’t to like? But I had no idea if Weezy entertained similar ideas, and I sure as hell wasn’t going to bring it up. Romantic relationships are the best way to ruin friendships and fantasies.
Weezy had grown tired of Detroit. She wanted to start fresh somewhere else. She considered Las Vegas and I was a fan of that consideration. I told her that I’d do everything I could to help her land a job and get socialized, and that she could crash at my place until she got on her feet and found her own place. I had the room; I was living in a three-bedroom house by myself. She liked that idea.
When my favorite band, Braid, announced a reunion show in Detroit over my birthday weekend, I told Weezy I’d be flying out there to see them. Would she want to come with me? She did and then suggested I crash with her. And so that’s what we did. We did not hook up. I was fine with that. We were still getting to know each other and this was the second time we’d ever been together. Still, this trip further cemented Weezy as a really cool pal.
Then I got the invitation to my friend Nicho’s wedding in Australia. I told Weezy about it. She always wanted to travel there, she told me. “So, why don’t you come with me? Be my plus-one?”
“OK!” she said!
Before Australia, Weezy took a trip back to Las Vegas to see me. Things remained platonic between us, but all my friends assumed and predicted otherwise. But what the fuck do our friends know, right? It didn’t matter, it was great hanging out with her. We did all the tourist shit and I showed her around the better, local parts of town. After that, she was certain that she would make Las Vegas her home. And later that summer, she met me in Chicago while I was visiting family. Chris had come with me, too, along with two other friends of ours, Shana and Sarah. The five of us took in the city, enjoyed a day on my dad’s boat, and throughout the weekend, Chris, Shana and Sarah were certain Weezy and I were headed toward the Great American Romance.
But first, we had to go to Australia. And that’s when things went sour. I don’t know what it was but the moment we landed in Oz Weezy got real grumpy real fast. We were traveling with another wedding guest, my friend Greg, a master of living mellow and even-keeled. Weezy quickly began to stress him out. Maybe it was something I did or said that upset her. Who knows? Maybe Weezy does. All I can say is that from my perspective, the pen pal and girl I knew from Rain, Detroit, that long weekend in Las Vegas and Chicago had gone Jekyll to Hyde without warning, and was showing no signs of turning back.
She chose not to attend the wedding, which upset me because Nicho had accounted for her. The wedding was in Albury, about halfway between Melbourne and Sydney. Greg and I left the friends we were crashing with in Melbourne to make the drive. Weezy caught a short flight straight to Sydney. And that was fine by us. Those four days of the trip were relaxed.
We met back up in Sydney. Greg and I brought along a new friend we had met at the wedding, a nice young woman whose name escapes me now more than a decade later. She was from somewhere in Europe and like us, was using the wedding to get down under and take in some sights. Weezy did not take kindly to the new friend. And there quickly appeared to be two sides: The Three of Us and Weezy. As we bummed around town, Greg, the new friend and I had fun laughing and chatting, drinking and exploring. Weezy mostly stayed quiet, though we did our best to include her.
The three of them did bond one day without me, which was nice. I had rendered myself incapacitated, sick from the night before, a night where I’m convinced I was drugged. That they didn’t kill each other gave me reason to think that I was the problem, that I was Weezy’s trigger.
It was all so very puzzling to me.
Despite the bummer that Australia was for our friendship, Weezy moved to Las Vegas and stayed with me. The wounds from Oz were noticeable. She was still Hyde and I tried my best to be accommodating. I introduced her to everyone I knew, gave her a key to the house and let her have run of it as needed. But she was wearing my nerves thin. She was short-tempered — shorter than I had ever been, and I’m short-tempered quite often. She was loud — louder than I had ever been, and I’m loud quite often. When I brought her to Sunday dinner at Chris’ parents’ house she made herself known by screaming at the TV where her Michigan State Spartans were competing in the NCAA Final Four, “Yeah! That’s right motherfuckers!” after the Spartans scored.
Chris’ parents were used to my brand of loudness and dirty mouth but this was something else. And it’s not because she was a woman and women shouldn’t yell or curse. It was because they didn’t know her yet and it was, well, a lot. The Weezy nickname, once cute and fitting of the spunky girl was looking more and more out of sorts against her new bullish, bombastic personality.
A Cold War took shape in my house. If it didn’t involve groceries or me asking her to park in the garage instead of the driveway otherwise use the front door instead of the garage as an entryway, we avoided each other. She had her wing of the house and I had mine. I didn’t want it that way but such was life.
Into the second month living together, she told me she found a place and that she’d be moving out.
“Where are you going?” I asked.
She had started dating his roommate Anthony and was going to squat in his room. The puzzling nature of the whole thing seemed to only get stranger and stranger. When did she and Anthony even have the time to begin dating? So much for the David & Weezy Great American Romance. You see? Our friends don’t know shit.
I was surprised when I received a wonderfully-written thank you note from Weezy for my helping get her on her feet in Las Vegas and being so generous with my home. For me, it was nothing. I wish I could have held on to my pal, too.
I don’t remember ever having a big blowout with Weezy. But the falling out was obvious. She and Anthony eventually split and she disappeared into the Las Vegas ether for a while, occasionally popping up in odd places like as the executive assistant to the publisher of two magazines I was writing for or next to Chris at a stoplight. None of us ever wished Weezy ill will, but we were fine to have her off doing her own thing.
In 2008, after I moved to Chicago, I wrote a group e-mail — a group Weezy was still on. I received an e-mail back from her.
“Please remove me from this list. Don’t try to reach out to me again.”
Over the years, on occasion Weezy would come to mind. Usually after a few glasses of scotch I’d Google her. The results left much to be desired. She doesn’t do social media. She keeps herself pretty well hidden, which is a remarkable feat, and one I respect.
When I knew her, she was Linda ‘Weezy’ Miller*. Had Katie asked me, “Do you know who Linda Miller is?” I would have been just as surprised but I would have been able to immediately say, “Yes. Strange that she sent us a registry gift. How thoughtful and nice.” I assumed Weezy got married, and it was clear from her note that she had at least one kid of her own.
After I read the note and finished freaking out about it, I called Chris. “You won’t believe who sent us a baby gift. I’ll give you three guess. No, you can have five.” He didn’t guess Weezy, and was surprised and puzzled by it, too.
Because here’s the thing, Weezy and I have no connection anymore. We don’t have any mutual friends. She’s not on social media so she couldn’t have seen through a random friend’s page that I had gotten married and that Katie was pregnant. For Weezy to find this out, Weezy had to be hunting. I am very public by design. It would be easy for Weezy to get curious as I often had, put my name into the search bar and stumble upon, say, Literate Ape. She could read about my getting married and my pending parenthood. But then she’d have to go hunting for a baby registry. That wouldn’t be hard to do but it does require conscious effort. And that’s what’s most puzzling to me.
She told me never to reach out to her again. She clearly wanted nothing to do with me. So what is it that inspired her to not only look me up but decide to buy us a baby gift? And then not leave her email so we could thank her?
Chris and I both went to searching for her online. We found nothing. No LinkedIn, no Facebook, no Twitter, no news, nothing more than one image — a professional headshot taken years ago. The next day, I dug deeper and managed to find an obituary for her father, which saddened me. But the obit confirmed she was married. Her husband’s name was listed in the survivors. I Googled him. I found a thin Facebook page that had only a few photos, one that included him, his son and his wife, Linda ‘Weezy’ Towers. She wasn't tagged in it but the photo was definitely my old pal Weezy.
Why and how Weezy found me and bought us a baby gift is all speculation. It’s the best I have. She clearly still has no interest in being in touch with me because she did not provide her email address on the registry. And though I can look back on those few years over a decade ago when Weezy and I were pals —when I was her favorite — then estranged with a fondness, I don’t feel the need to rekindle our friendship. I can confirm that she’s doing well and she can do the same for me. And maybe that’s all either of us need. Every friendship has its time and place.
Still, I would love to know what inspired her her act of generosity and thoughtfulness. And more importantly, Katie and I would like to thank her for the gift. It’s the least we can do.
So, if I’m correct in assuming that Weezy found me out by reading some Ape pieces, I’m taking the chance that she might read this, too. And, Weezy, if you are reading this, please know that I’m sorry our friendship fell apart. I’m sorry I wasn’t maybe a better friend. I’m sorry if I got a few of the details above wrong. I’m sorry if I outed you too much in this piece — I know how you appreciate your privacy. But hey, the obituary did it first. And, I’m sorry you lost your dad. And Weezy, thank you for the gift. Katie and I are grateful for your encouraging words and for the pillow that will certainly come in handy. I’ll think about you every time we use it.
Wait a minute… I will think about you every time I use it. And when I do, I’ll think about all of this. And so now I’m wondering, Weezy, are you fucking with me?
*Name changed to protect the person who has no social media or easily accessible internet presence whatsoever.