Thursday, May 27, 2010

HD and I met at work in September of 2006; his manager was showing him the kitchen around the corner from my office where the sodas were. It was his first day. I walked in to rinse out my coffee cup and his back was to me; he was picking out a bottle of orange juice. His manager said, "Sheri, this is HD, our new API technical writer." HD turned around and was smiling so warmly, the kind of smile that only works because the eyes are cooperating with the whole operation. He held his hand out to shake mine and did that head tilt that says, "I'm truly glad to meet you!"; I gave him a firm shake. This was work. I promptly ignored him for two months, like a schoolgirl.

We had the same sense of humor; this was huge. I didn't think a guy like that existed. Our offices shared a wall, and he listened to what he now calls my "evil laughter" when my other coworkers came into my office with their wacky, ridiculous, hilarious ideas. I invited him to my family's property in the Sierra Foothills for Thanksgiving because I thought he had nowhere else to go - he did, but cancelled. We flirted and avoided each other for 4 days like 14-year-olds. I adored him. He adored how much I loved my family, how we all actually LIKE one another.

We were officially - though secretly - dating 3 weeks later.

Our first official date was at My Thai restaurant in San Rafael. I was going to Seattle for the weekend to visit my dear friend the next day; he offered to pick me up when I returned in Oakland. On the way back to Marin from the airport, he took me to dinner at some little Italian restaurant on Columbus Ave. in San Francisco; the waiter could tell we were on an early date and brought us each a small glass of limoncello to put us at ease. We drove around Pacific Heights afterward, laughing and looking at Christmas lights.

I could go on and on about our adventures; the funny stories, the sad stories, the trips, the dinners, the trips to the laundromat. We're both in 100%.

Move forward to the evening of February 16, 2010. I was dishing up rotelle pasta with red sauce. I had the saucepan of sauce in my hands and I was leaning over the table in the kitchen, pouring it on the pasta, shouting at HD to come in and put his plate together. He didn't come; I repeated myself, annoyed that he seemed to be ignoring me for whatever he was looking at on his laptop. Then he was standing next to me, flatly saying, "D____ just scheduled a 1-1 meeting with me for tomorrow at 9:30 for a half hour."

D____ was his skip-level manager, and no matter how you swung it, that meeting meant the rumors we'd been hearing from various people were true: there were going to be cuts in that group. HD was getting laid off in 12 hours.

The thing that made this so awful and sent me to bed crying without eating a bite was that HD is in this country on a work visa. If he loses his job, he loses his visa, and he has to go back to India. He wasted no more than 10 minutes before he was online searching for new jobs, submitting his resume for critiques by resume experts to increase his chances. He did this until 2:00 AM, woke up, and drove to San Rafael to get fired. I went to my office in downtown San Francisco and walked through my day in a fog; I barely remember what happened, who I talked to.

The next month was more of the same; he would wake up, apply for jobs, eat something, apply for jobs again until 1:00 or 2:00 AM, and then repeat. April 18 was his last official date of employment, so he had 2 months. This was the time that we learned that the people you least expect to come through, do. 3 weeks later, HD had several interviews lined up, one of which was for a large company in Seattle.

You know what I love besides HD? I love Seattle. I first came to Seattle on a school trip in 1998 when I was 16; I have never felt so at home immediately after arriving in a city I'd never been to. It was green and clean and clear and I was in love. In 2005, my friend and her then-boyfriend-now-husband moved to Seattle when he started grad school, so I came up every time I found a cheap air ticket.

Back to this past March. HD went through the phone interviews with this company and did so well. Honest to God, I'd never heard him speak so intelligently and with such certainty. I do not envy him the interviews he has to go through; he had to explain algorithms over the phone for scenarios I will never understand. They asked him to come to Seattle to meet with a team of interviewers in person. Once his ticket was confirmed, I bought one, too.

We checked into the hotel and went to bed; his interviews started at 9:00 and would be finished when they decided they were done with him. I didn't hear from him all day. I wandered around the city in my friend's car, at one point parking next to Greenlake and staring at the choppy waves from the sudden storm and contemplating the contrast of the green grass and trees and gray rainy sky. I visited another friend and drove back to the hotel to wait for HD; I wanted to be sure to be there when he got back. This couldn't go longer than 6 hours.

5:30 rolled around and I started to get sleepy, so I lay down. I woke up at 6:15 when my friend called; we were expected at their house for dinner after HD was finished, and I couldn't believe he wasn't back yet. "WHAT DO YOU MEAN HE'S NOT THERE YET?! THIS IS CRAZY!" she said. "I know!" I shouted, staring out the sliding glass door. "He HAS to call soon, this can't go on much..." I heard the door unlocking.

"Wait!" I said. "He just walked in!" HD was walking quickly toward me, smiling wildly.

"I got it."
Me: "Whaa?"
Him: "I got the job. They told me I got the job."
Me: "What the f&%@?!"
Friend, still on the phone: "WHAT?! AAAAAAH! HE GOT IT?!"
Me: "We're moving to Seattle!"
Friend: "WE HAVE CHAMPAGNE! COME OVER!"
Me: "We'll be there in 20 minutes!"

There was a lot of hurrying up and waiting in between then and 2 weeks ago when we watched strangers pack all of the contents of our tiny 350-square-foot studio apartment in San Francisco. Transferring a work visa is not a quick process. It's a process that involves the Department of Homeland Security, and I don't think I need to say much more about that. But eventually it was all done and we cancelled the cable and the electricity and booked one-way plane tickets. That is a strange thing to do; I think everyone should buy a one-way ticket sometime. It's so final.

We have a lot of friends in San Francisco, and they all made an effort to say goodbye. It was truly touching. The weekend before we left, we had three going away parties. I thought I would cry at each of them, but I was just so happy to be around all the people I love. We both were.

The last night in San Francisco was amazing. HD's new company got us a room at the Westin St. Francis in Union Square; I had never been in such a beautiful hotel room in my life. Hell, I had actually never stayed in a hotel room in San Francisco before, and I always lived within 100 miles of that beautiful city I have loved for as long as I can remember. We slept soundly and woke up to drive to the empty apartment and let the cleaners in, and then ate breakfast at Bechelli's around the corner. We lived in that apartment for a year and never had trouble finding a parking spot; suddenly, the day we were moving out for good and flying to a new city, we had to circle around for 15 minutes to find a parking spot. We were now visitors to our old neighborhood.

I didn't cry until we were on 101 South heading for the airport. All of the billboards we passed had to do with San Francisco; they advertised The Giants, UCSF, The San Francisco Zoo. Suddenly, there was a soundtrack in my head:

There are places I remember/All my life, though some have changed/Some forever, not for better/Some have gone, and some remain/All these places have their moments/Of people and friends that went before/I know I'll often stop and think about them/In my life, I've loved them all...

HD looked over at me in the passenger seat of our rental car and put his hand over mine. I smiled through my tears, comforted that he was the one thing that would remain constant between today and tomorrow when I woke up as the newest resident of Seattle.

4 comments:

Sara said...

Great story, Sheri. I really enjoyed reading about this part of your life that I have missed. It is so great how everything worked out, and I am so glad that you moved to another fabulous city. I hope all is well! Thanks for sharing.

Jackie Bernard said...

Sheri, that was sooo pretty. I almost started crying, myself, at the lyrics. I'm at work. :P

Pam said...

Besides being a wonderful woman, you are a real writer, Sheri. This time you made me cry and you quoted one of my favorite songs of all time!

I love reading everything you write. Please keep it up!

Love you.

Anonymous said...

Just read this v.v. late, I know! Just wanted to say that I am SOOO glad I didn't have to say goodbye to you, because I get to have you FOREVER!