Apparently he had been circling our table for a while, but we hadn't noticed.
[He found this increasingly frustrating.]
But I am ahead of myself.
After making absolutely SURE that the Loch Ness Scotch would never be seen again, Deana and I hitch hiked to the north eastern coast of Scotland and took a ferry to the Orkney Islands.
[Known for their disturbingly small ponies.]
After spending a lot of time at the wharf pretending that the ferry horns were the sound of my mighty wind escaping, we found our way to the local pub.
It was 10:30 p.m., but we were so far north that outside the windowless bar room it was still quite sunny.
We did not yet know that drinking (excessively) in an establishment without windows in the far north of Scotland would result in the eerie experience of stumbling out to broad daylight at midnight only to find yourself surrounded by a swarm of short, fat ponies.
[Effing scary Shetlands.]
Anyway, Deana and I were in the bar talking to each other about the year 1066, the Battle of Hastings and the awesomeness of flipping ones bean, when we failed to notice the tall, lanky guy circling.
Finally he gave up and came up to our table.
"When are you guys going to notice me?" he asked.
[Some line, we thought.]
"Seriously, I've been trying to get your attention for an hour. I'm by myself. You have to adopt me," he said.
He was really tall.
[He even had really tall arms and legs.]
His face kind of reminded us of Howdy Doody... if Howdy Doody had grown up to be handsome.... and really, really tall.
"I'm Hal," he said, "from Idaho."
Deana and I were from Chicago and neither of us had ever met anyone from Idaho.
Idaho was an idea as far as we knew.
Hal pulled up a chair and spent the rest of the night introducing us to his many charms.
When we finally left the bar, we saw the northern lights for the first time.
[Beats the HELL out of those weird little ponies.]
Hal traveled with us back across the water to the mainland and then down the length of western Scotland.
He parted with us at the road to the Hebrides, at which point Deana and I set out for London. I had to meet my family who were coming to spend a few weeks in Europe.
Hal met up with me in Rome and traveled with my family throughout southern Italy.
He and I parted with them in Pompeii and traveled on to Greece where I was scheduled to meet my friend Sophia.
Corfu, Athens, Santorini... Hal was there for all of it.
There was never anything romantic between Hal and I, nor Hal and Deana, but a deep and lasting friendship was created that summer.
I guess I'm thinking of Hal and Deana this morning...
Five days ago Hal and his wife had their first child, a son named Calvin.
Then, yesterday, my friend Deana put her dog Cosmo to sleep after thirteen years of loyal companionship.
Hal is elated. Deana is devastated.
Maybe it's the proximity of these happenings, birth and death, joy and grief, that remind me of the night we all met.
The sun too blindingly bright, too late, followed by the magic and mystery of the northern lights seen for the first time.