In the spring of 2016, I went to a party with Shawn at Momofuku. The firm that had invited Shawn to the event had rented out the entire restaurant. The night before, we had been talking about our upcoming days, and he said, “I’ll be a little bit late. I have to go to this thing at some new restaurant.” The second I found our it was Momofuku, I freaked out and immediately began texting babysitters. “I’m coming too!” I told him.
Shawn always loved that I liked his parties more than he did. I would spend the evenings trying new food and drinking with the most interesting people. Frequently, I’d be having so much fun that Shawn would need to drag me home, rather than the other way around. Maybe it was because it wasn’t a work event for me, or maybe it was because I am a true extrovert, but either way, I loved his parties.
So I jumped at the chance to go to Momofuku. I’d been there once before, and the food did not disappoint. Everyone else there was “talking shop” about foreign policy so I was free to hang out at the bun station and sample every variety. Shawn made the rounds with everyone he knew, discussing the upcoming election. He was working on the Clinton campaign, and lots of people wanted to know what he was thinking.
I remember watching him talk to a group of his peers from a distance. He spent a lot of time listening to what they were saying (this was one of Shawn’s best qualities, and probably the reason he was such a good match for my chatty self) and then he’d offer his ideas. Sometimes, he’d scan the crowd and spot me, giving me a look with his eyes that told me how much longer I had at the party.
I remember that event specifically, because it was where I got into a conversation with a Republican defense analyst about the “never Trump” memo that a number of his fellow Republicans had published a few days prior. He had signed it, and his boss at the time had told him that doing so “was a huge mistake.” We discussed the difficulty of standing up for what you believe in while also maintaining a career in a political city. I found the whole discussion fascinating. In fact, I got a bit lost in my conversation and forgot about Shawn for a moment.
Eventually, there was a break in conversation, and I went to get another famous Momofuku bun. As I did, I saw Shawn on the other side of the room. He caught my eye, but then went back to talking to the group around him. I went and chatted with the guy working the bun station.
This continued for the entire party. I don’t think I hung out with Shawn for more that 10 minutes at that event. I knew he was in high demand and I was enjoying the food and the conversation with random people.
But I knew he was there. I knew if things were dull or frustrating or if I just got tired, I knew I could turn to him.
He was my home base.
I know it may seem like a small thing, but damn, it’s what I miss the most at parties these days. Knowing that he was there.
Now, of course, he’s not there. And that changes the way I feel at parties. The other day, for example, I was at a neighborhood gathering. Kids ran everywhere, and I sat with a group of friends drinking summer beer. The evening was perfect – not too hot and very few mosquitos. It was one of those parties that makes you happy to be alive. I laughed a lot and probably had one too many beers.
But at some point, I started to feel uneasy. I could not put my finger on it, and at first I thought I was nervous because I couldn’t easily spot all three kids amongst the group running in the alley. So I went and checked in with each of them, and returned to my friends.
Still, the unease remained. It took probably 30 minutes to realize why.
I had been standing with a group of female friends. I wasn’t feeling excluded in the slightest. No one was discussing their husbands and everyone made me feel like I was a part of the group as a whole.
But what I didn’t have was Shawn across the room. Even at parties where we spent little time with each other, I knew he was there.
He was my home base.
Now, when I find myself at parties without him, I sometimes can’t quite figure out why I feel off. There was absolutely no reason for me to feel a pit in my stomach at this party, and yet I did. The feeling I got – it feels like I’ve lost something. You know, that feeling you get when you can’t find something really important (or even when your young children are temporarily out of your sight) and you feel that sense of unease? Honestly, it’s the same feeling, though maybe a bit more intense than if I just lost my wallet. Even now, when I get that feeling, I look around for what I’ve lost before realizing I won’t be able to find him again.
I love parties. I remain an extrovert and I get energy from others. But without my home base, I always feel a bit lost. It happens at almost every single party, and honestly, I don’t know how to fix it.
Maybe it’s not fixable. Maybe, like a million other things, it’s something I just have to get used to. Cognitively, I accept that my home base is gone. But at almost every party, I look around and wonder, “how is it possible that he is not here?”