Ever since Peter, Bart, and I became inseparable, I wondered what force of time or love or occupation would tear us apart. And, to my dismay, Peter was more sweet than bitter to the fact that he was uprooting his life here. “I feel this weight just…gone,” he told me as we packed boxes in his apartment. “I always wondered how things would come to an end in New York, you know, just afraid of ever letting my momentum stop. And now, it’s over. It ends with you, and Bart, and Tyler, and, well, that’s perfect. Part of me worried I would be stuck here for 50 years, incapable of giving it up. Thank God I got my ticket out when I did. Maybe I’ll be able to afford a house in Berkeley and have a family and send them to public school and have a yard and be on the school board. I feel like I have a more sustainable life ahead of me, finally.” His sentiment and projection certainly left me feeling more bitter than sweet.
Losing Talia to the midwest was a warmup to this. Heck, it was a warmup to losing Bart to Manhattan, and now this was the granddaddy of gut punches. My darling Peter, the loyalest of them all, felt no loyalties to his investments in the most vast, lush forest that was our city. To see him balance nostalgia with excitement was sobering and humbling. Selfishly, I worried about my own ability to replace him. He and Bart were the true loves of my life, more than any bedfellow could ever be. They knew my faults and I knew theirs, and my late twenties were fruitful because they were by my side. I wanted to go to Peter’s old office and knock out every tooth of the guy who laid him off, the same way Peter had pounced on Sam in my defense a half year earlier. I worried what my fragile mind would do without Peter to ground me. Where Bart is a wolf—good for brutal honesty, quicker to the punch—Peter is a guard dog. He is patient, selfless, observant, and loyal. Once a wolf myself, I was a lamb of late. I needed that guard dog.
Peter hosted a small goodbye party in Williamsburg, mostly per our nagging him. “Besides you guys, I don’t see anyone regularly enough to have them see me off,” he said as he created the Facebook event. While clicking through his list of invitees, he hovered over one name: Dale, his ex. “I should have un-friended him after the fact,” Peter said. “But I wanted to see if he would do it first, and he never did. He ‘liked’ my status update about moving to San Francisco, which I took as support instead of good riddance.” I could tell Peter was trying to rationalize inviting his ex. “I think it will be safer to not include him,” he concluded, now scrolling through Dale’s photos. He landed on one of the two of them, dated 13 months old—just before they broke up—looking blissfully happy. “I hope it’s sooner than later that I get to find this again,” he said.
The going-away party was small, and very manageable for Peter to relax without having to entertain everyone with the same transitional small talk about his new life. It was mostly our peripheral gay friends, plus a few of his old coworkers and classmates. I was somewhat relieved that Joanie was traveling, to spare our melodramatic reunion happening here and now. Peter seemed indifferent to the whole sendoff. “That was nice,” he said in the taxi home. “But I feel like I did that more for other people than I did for me. So they know I care about them without vanishing. You know, give them the chance to validate the friendship by formally saying goodbye. Whatever… wow, I sound terrible, don’t I?” I shrugged. “Maybe you’re just eager for that next step,” I said. “Since right now it’s dangling in front of you. Drawing out the goodbye is agonizing. But keep in mind that some of us do need that validation before you disappear. I wish I could draw it out another 20 years, Petey.” I squeezed his hand, and rested my head on his shoulder.
“Great news!” I texted Peter the following afternoon. “After the film premiere in LA next week, we have an extra day where we can drive up to San Francisco. Bart, Tyler, and I can fly home from there.” He sent back a text with 30 grinning emojis. We would get to see his new world as it started to unfold, maybe help him unpack his Nob Hill apartment and find a couple cool restaurants, even though he was well acquainted with the city. Mostly, I just wanted to check in, to see that everything seemed safe and happy and upright, and to maybe better understand his excitement by experiencing the newness with him. I wanted to quietly approve of his new life before accepting my own.
We had our true sendoff for darling Peter the night before he flew out—just the four of us. It doubled as our goodbye party for Miss Walnut Creek, so we dolled her up and went out into the humid summer night for a final hurrah. “This is my retirement party,” Peter—nay, Miss Walnut Creek—exclaimed loudly as we “turned down for what.” “What! You’re not going to bring her with you to SF?” I replied. “The drag culture there is so much better. Plus, it’s her homecoming—she’s a Bay Area Beauty Queen!” Peter widened his stance and grinded low enough to be eye level with me (while wearing heels, no less). “No, she was born here. She gave me the escape I needed this past year. She had thicker skin, but I’m gonna try that without the disguise now. I think it’s important that she stays here forever, that we put her to rest.” Before we got in the car home, Peter hurried to the corner trash bin outside the bar, discarding his wig and heels, then sprinted barefoot back to the cab. “A few less things to pack,” he huffed. “Now I need to get out of this dress.”