What a long, strange trip it's been.
That was the e-mail I got from an old friend I hadn't seen in well over a year, with a promise to tell me the story over lunch.
Because we've had so many outstanding meals at Bistro Bobette over the years, we agreed on that as our destination.
I walked in to find a blast from the past, a former bartender from a neighborhood haunt now waiting tables.
"I knew I'd see you in here eventually," he said hugging me.
Once seated on a banquette in the back, another smiling, familiar face arrived to greet me, this one a former Carytown restaurateur, whom I'd seen the last time I'd been in Bobette.
I got my first clue of what was to come when my friend surprised me by saying, "Order wine if you like, but I don't drink any more."
Nothing could have surprised me more. "Or smoke," he continued. What in the world?
We decided to order so he could start sharing. I went with the chickpea crepe of crabmeat and mushroom while he had sauteed rainbow trout with haricot verts.
My crepe came with a beautiful side salad made all the more delectable for the abundance of multi-colored grape tomato halves studding it.
We're so tragically close to the end of good tomato season.
Food in front of us, my friend began explaining all that had happened in the last six months.
He'd decided to give up alcohol and cigs because, as he put it, "I needed to before I die."
That had been followed by his wife of many years informing him that she was leaving, precipitating some serious depression on his part.
Like lay-in-bed and don't-get-up depression, not at all like my friend's usual busy days.
It's hard to know what to say when a long-time friend (18 years) tells you what a hard time he's been having after not seeing him for so long.
I was happy to hear that meds and therapy are helping him cope, as is sincere effort on his part to put things back together with his wife.
We decided to toast his efforts and hoped-for success at that with desserts: chocolate mousse and fig/red wine ice cream, both stellar.
It's sobering to realize how easy it is to let people drop off your radar when they stop reaching out to you.
The fact that we hadn't met up in more than a year I had attributed to my lack of initiation, never suspecting that his life was taking a downward spiral.
Talking and eventually laughing together, I realized how far he's come since his world fell apart and how restorative it was for him to be out with an old friend, just enjoying himself.
I remember when my own world collapsed a few years ago and what a process it had been climbing back out of all that for me.
Fingers crossed that he can piece together a new reality as satisfying as the one I fashioned out of my dark days, whatever that means for him.
What I'd learned was that sometimes long and strange just come with the territory. Now it's his turn.
You can do it, friend. Hang in there.