December 17, 2016 — Back in New York and I’m ready for the holidays. I have all the gifts bought and wrapped. NYC is alive with decorations and tourists. I’m excited because Mario planned a last-minute getaway to come up. But first, his best friend Matt — as well as Matt’s son and Mario’s 16-year-old son — are staying with me to see the sights. My house is full of people. Matt is over 6-feet tall. He and the boys are tired from the flight, so I take them to get some NYC pizza and see the tree at 30 Rock.
We ride the subway and walk by Trump Tower where there is a political protest taking place. Matt and I verbally dance around our differing views. Back at home, I plan to make steaks on my grill for everyone. The catch: I am a terrible cook, but usually I’m good at the grill. Tonight, I get distracted and burn the steaks into charcoal. Embarrassed, I quietly throw the steaks out and run to the store to get some more steak — this time Mario’s son helps me make them on the stove.
Mario arrives a day later. He’s up to take care of some business, including fixing a paperwork problem. He was born in Korea, but he became a U.S. citizen at age 6. At some point a few years ago, his ex-wife burned his immigration papers and his U.S. passport (she swears she doesn’t remember doing it). He researches how to get copies of his immigration papers — it will take over a year. He hires a lawyer to expedite the papers — it still takes over a year. I research it: yep, a year.
None of this would matter except that various of his papers are expiring (or expired) and he needs a second form of I.D. — a near impossibility without his immigration papers. We try to get him a New York City I.D. card. But, because of the holidays, they aren’t taking appointments until January.
We walk around looking at Freedom Tower and then head to the 24-hour passport office in lower Manhattan. They send us to a post office down the street. The lady behind the counter is in a good mood and tells me to sign a statement that confirms Mario’s identity. Since I’ve known him for 24-years, it isn’t a problem. He pays extra fees and we submit everything. Fingers-crossed.
Here’s me, looking like a tourist:
Meanwhile, tension is brewing in the house. Mario’s attention is torn between spending time with me and getting his paperwork fixed; Matt and the kids feel slighted. “But I see them at home all the time,” Mario says. However, Matt is recently married and in the process of moving to Thailand, where his wife is from. We realize it is extremely hard to divide our attention — in part because of the day-to-day distance (and also because we just can’t get out of bed). He makes efforts to talk with them.
The next day, my car tire is flat. Mario tries to patch it — he’s laying on the sidewalk with his head under the rear tire! I’m in awe. But because of the angle and size of the cement nail in my tire, he can’t fix it. He puts on a spare and we take it to the shop. We hop in an Uber and head to my house. We listen to music and fall asleep kissing.
When my alarm goes off we wake up kissing. He comes to a school play that my kids are performing in and we sit with Jake. My kids seem to like Mario — but they absolutely love his son, who is incredibly patient with them.
Once everyone leaves, I have to face Christmas week without Mario. I don’t want to get out of bed. I revel in the fact that we enjoy so much of the same, we have similar tastes and that our differences aren’t jagged, but embraced. He’s truly become my best friend.