Be friends with the kid with diabetes. Seriously. Because inside the front pocket of his backpack, it's like Halloween.
"Do you want a Lifesaver? Gum? Fig Newtons ..." No. 9 said digging through his haul.
"Nah," I said. "I mean, yes. I'll take a Lifesaver."
I would later come to call this bag 'o loot his "diaper bag."
I can't remember the exact moment that I decided No. 9 was one of my new favorite people. But I know I was eying him for awhile, like a coach looking to fill a gaping hole in a depleted roster. Sitting in a class and watching him Google "Donkeys wearing costumes" and the like, then pasting the images onto his Tumblr. He was a natural, with a scientific knack for noticing what made one donkey funnier than another donkey. A particular neck ruffle, or an eye patch. Other times I'd see him spill something on his sleeve. I don't know. Ketchup? Lick his finger. Scrub it off.
The deets: No. 9 is a 20-something who lives in Buffalo. He has been called "the future" because of his involvement with entrepreneurship. He sings like an angel. He uses 1990s technology for instant messaging, and wants you to, too. He has a fantastic laugh. One of those that goes of suddenly, picking up where it left off last time.
"I just love the number nine," he told me one day. "I don't know why."
"What about the number six?" I asked.
"Yeah. I like six, too," he said.
No. 9 was wearing a black T'shirt. The front featured the body of a mini headless karate man. If you squinched your eyes and cocked your head, you could imagine his head upon this foot-tall T'shirt-man. That day we were dance partners, we aped each other's moves or whatever. I kept staring at the little man on his shirt and giggling.
"I like things that are disproportionate," he said. "Like miniature ketchup bottles."
Pee Wee Herman's chair, I'd imagine. Tiny off-scale dishes. On his YouTube channel, he futzes with a giant remote control.
I have a pretty visual sense of humor, and in my favorite moments of comedy I am riffing with someone ... building a scene that becomes increasingly ridiculous. When I find someone who can do this, and do this well, I suckle at that teat. No. 9 said exactly the kind of things that I think are funny. Consider this text conversation we had en route to a dinner party.
No. 9: What if when we got to [her] house and it's a little hut on the side of the road. Awkward!
Me: And a midget answered the door.
Me: Or when we walk in, her grandma is taking a bath in a claw foot tub in the middle of the living room.
No. 9: And it's Cloris Leachman.
No. 9: Dinner is a fire-roasted goat. Which she sacrifices live during cocktail hour.
Me: Only if she can't find a virgin ...
No. 9: I wouldn't assume the red wine isn't goat blood.
Me: I wouldn't assume the cream sauce isn't breast milk.
I had been carrying around a mini cheese, crackers, and fruit tray from Starbucks for 10 hours. It was supposed to be my breakfast. Then it was supposed to be my lunch. Then I forgot about it until we were sitting in the front row of a play.
"Brie?" I asked him, pulling it out of my purse.
Within 10 minutes he'd gotten the strangers next to us involved in the conversation. Can one eat brie that has been out of the refrigerator for 10 hours?
One of the strangers was a scientist. He said: "I wouldn't eat it." Hinting that this would result in a poisoning that would have me spinning and spurting and sputtering like a double spouted sprinkler.
A few days later No. 9 got his own version of this magic tray, and ate it in a timely manner.
No. 9: Did you eat those crackers? Tasted like hardened doilies.
Me: I thought they were delish.
No. 9: I don't know what crackers you have in Duluth, but these are about as interesting as a box of hair.
Me: I LOVE BOXES OF HAIR!
No. 9: What kind of cheese do you eat with your boxes of hair? I like sage derby or Camembert.
Me: Camembert tastes like belly button.
No. 9: Stilton tastes like old man feet. I've heard.
"I heard we are going to be near an In & Out burger," I told my friend.
"Au. Ma Gaad," he texted.
The In & Out virgin had big plans to go off-roading with his order. None of this pedestrian menu business, he was tapping into to a super secret internet legend: the double double animal style. I think he had it written down.
I envied No. 9, enjoying this for the first time.
One day I got a text from him that just said this:
"Channel 19 is so weird."
I told No. 9 that I was going to have a celebration of him on this here website. He asked if it was like an obituary. "More like a nonsexual love letter," I told him.