Second & Final.

“Did you pick that outfit out yourself?!” McKenzie exclaimed, as she walked across the bar towards me, beer already in hand.

“I did! How did I do?” I asked, as I gestured to my low-cut green satin romper. I had accented it with thick gold necklaces and the high-heeled gold sandals Sheri had given me the previous Summer.

“I love it! You look fantastic,” she said. She turned to my right. “Oh my god, hi!! I have to give you a hug. I feel like I know you already!” She hurled her arms around My Boyfriend. “I’m McKenzie!”

I smiled at them and then looked around the bar. Sheri was chatting with Sean. Caitlyn was catching up with Bea. Marlie was perched on one of the leather couches with my old neighbor, Cody.  Bree, her boyfriend, and Lin were gathered around a tall table, sampling an appetizer platter. My friend Hana, who’d just moved back to town from Boston, was at the bar with our friend EJ. All my nearest and dearest NYC friends, together in one place.

This is what I loved most about my experience in New York. I’d met people from various jobs, or places I’d lived, or friends of friends or wherever but over the years, my good friends had become good friends and in the end, I realized we had created a big, quirky, fantastic, loving family.

And it was this family that was at my Second & Final Going Away Party.

When I’d originally sent out the Save the Date for my first Going Away party, there had been a lot of my close friends who’d not been able to attend. So I’d decided to schedule a smaller gathering for my last week in NYC, when My Boyfriend was in town for my move home. That way, I could be sure to say goodbye to everyone and those who hadn’t met My Boyfriend yet could have the opportunity.

Of course, when I’d gone home to California say goodbye to my Mother in the beginning of May, I’d completely forgotten about pulling the thing together. So when I’d returned, nothing was set. I’d frantically called Thalia. “I haven’t booked the happy hour yet and it’s in two weeks!” I wailed. “I’ll never be able to find anywhere now.”

“Oh. I forgot to tell you,” she said. “While you were gone, I took the liberty of booking the back room at that bar we used to go to all the time on 42nd Street. We have our own bartender with an option of $20 open bar from six to nine. You can order appetizers for half-off for the group until then also. I’ve been meaning to send you the contract. I hope that’s okay?”

I couldn’t respond because by then I’d burst into tears.

What am I ever going to do without Thalia? I’d thought. And then I didn’t really want to think about that anymore.

“Oh my god. Did you pick that outfit out yourself?!”

I turned to the voice. “Lux! You made it!”

“Of course! I wouldn’t miss it!” she said as she accepted my hug. “I can’t drink though. I’m on a cleanse.”

“Oh geez,” I said and rolled my eyes. “Of course you are. Hey, listen, I want you to meet someone,” I said and then called over to Thalia, who was busy making her rounds ensuring everyone was being taken care of.

“Lux, this is Thalia. Thalia, this is Lux. I thought you guys should meet since you’ve heard so much about each other.”

“Hi, nice to meet you,” Thalia said.

“Likewise,” Lux replied.

And then they stood there awkwardly.

“Oh, sorry,” I said and introduced them again. But this time I noted their blog names.

“Of course, Lux! Oh my god, I am SO happy to meet you!” Thalia said.

“Me too! Finally!” Lux said and the two clasped hands, genuinely pleased.

Thalia had made me a beautiful poster with pictures of all of us – various parties, birthdays, happy hours, random get-togethers, spanning over the decade I’d been in New York. What struck me most was how much younger we looked in the earlier photos. And I don’t mean that in a negative way – I mean it was the first time I really saw what a substantial, integral part of each others’ lives we’d been. It was somewhat incredible.

And as I looked over the poster, I felt that now all-too familiar feeling of being very happy and very sad, all at one time.

She had also made me a card with a collection of pictures of me dancing at parties, because that’s my thing, and throughout the evening made sure every single person there signed it. I have to admit now to everyone, I still haven’t read your notes. I haven’t been able to bear it yet.

The hours went by and slowly people started to leave. When they approached me, they would say about My Boyfriend,  “He is wonderful.”

And then we wouldn’t say much else because saying the final goodbye was too hard.

Soon My Boyfriend and I decided we should go before I got too drunk and emotional. And also because the movers were coming early the next morning.

The final picture I have of that night is of a small group of my friends, each from various aspects of my NYC life, sitting together in a booth. All sharing a bottle of champagne, raising their glasses to me,  the moment before I left.

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