FRESH YARN presents:

Plan B
By Molly Each

So, my Plan B just got married. And before I continue you can stop with any judgment and oh my god she's so shallow thoughts, because I know at least half of you have a Plan B. It's that person who you think you could definitely spend the rest of your life with, provided that your plan A never shows up, or disappears, or ends up being a plan A-hole. It's the Plan B of your future; in case you don't find your one true love, at least you get to spend the rest of your life with someone that you love (or at least like), or are comfortable around, or could probably live with. Like my friend Megan? Her Plan B was to end up with her friend Jeff, and even though he's gay they'd totally have a super fun rest of their lives together. And my friend Lindsay? Her Plan B is that ex that she knows will always take her back.

My Plan B was my best friend, Youssef. Youssef is this tall Egyptian dude with a semi-large afro who always wears Minnesota Timberwolves t-shirts and who walks like he's on his way to the beach. I can't tell you exactly how we met, just that it was in high school, but I can tell you when we got tight. It was sophomore year in college. A bunch of us had been planning a backpacking trip through Europe but when it came time to buy the tickets, nearly everyone bailed except for Youssef, me and two other guys. But we were undeterred by the lameness of our friends and the four of us went anyway.

By the end of a backpacking trip you either loathe your companions or you become besties with them (you know, best buds, BFFs). Which is exactly what happened with Youssef and me. Drunk conversations in London pubs, high conversations at the cafes in Amsterdam, sleepy conversations on the overnight trains -- by the end of our 6-week journey Youssef was much more than my pal from high school.

So with a friend like Youssef -- a guy who lives to travel and experience life and do awesome things -- there are too many stories to tell and only half of them will even be mildly funny to anyone because so many stories are of the "guess you had to be there" variety, so here's an abbreviated list, a Top 5 moments of our friendship.

5. The summer we were twenty-one we drove six hours to Missouri, dropped a hundred bucks or so on fireworks, turned around, drove home to Minnesota and lit them off the edge of his parents' dock on Orchard Lake.

4. A couple years later the World Cup was in Korea, and all the games were on at 4:00 a.m., and I would set my alarm for 3:30, drive over to Youssef's and we'd watch England vs. Portugal or the US vs. Brazil in tired silence before passing out on opposite ends of the couch.

3. Then next year he visited me when I was teaching English in Madrid, and we spent every night eating tapas, drinking sangria, and rolling home as the sun started to rise.

2. When we were twenty-five, we went on a camping road trip from San Francisco to LA where we pulled up by the ocean at night, and just drank wine and roasted shrimp under the stars.

And #1: I won tickets on a radio show for an all-expense-paid trip to the Bridge benefit concert in San Francisco -- yeah, people really win these things! Naturally, I took Youssef. Now this moment probably ranks in my top ten moments ever in my life: Sitting in an open amphitheater on a perfect sixty-degree Northern California night listening to Eddie Vedder join Neil Young on "Harvest Moon." I got that absolutely, unbelievably happy feeling, where your heart is like, taking up your whole chest and you get this like, fizziness in your nose and you could burst into tears at any moment out of pure joy if you're one of those happy and sad criers and your mind just stops to take a picture of everything about that moment.

Okay, I know how this sounds. Drinking wine under the stars, going on vacation together -- I bet you're wondering why he wasn't my Plan A, right? Well it just wasn't like that! He didn't give me butterflies and I didn't want to jump his bones when I looked at him, or spend an entire Sunday in bed with him, and I never wanted to cuddle up into that awesome spot between the shoulder and neck. He was always so Youssef -- just comfortable, cozy, accepting and indispensable.

So he was the perfect Plan B. And sometime just knowing that makes things so much easier. Like the time I was being dropped off after a first date and the guy asked, "So…are we going to fuck or what?" I closed the door thinking, "I can always end up with Youssef." Or after an emotionally draining five-hour (FIVE HOUR) breakup -- I went to sleep thinking, "I can always end up with Youssef." Or when my heart was basically tossed into a blender and pureed by an old friend that I started to date when he took this other girl to see a Beck concert in St. Louis after he'd already invited me and didn't tell me and I only found out because one of our friends slipped up after too many Jack and Cokes and when they came back and he called me to say it probably wouldn't work with us I could hear her voice in the background giggling wildly, I thought between sobs, "I can always end up with Youssef." I had it all figured out in my damaged single girl mind (a sometimes insecure, needy, and occasionally hysterical place that no one wants to be).

The other day I was telling this story to my friend Bobby -- a tattooed, goateed guy who is so alpha he can't even pretend to understand the beta side of things -- as we watched a baseball game in a dingy bar. At one point, he turned away from the game, took a sip of his bourbon and said, "Molly, what the fuck. Hold on a second."

"What?" I said.

He stroked his goatee, confused. "Are you trying to tell me that all of those times you two were alone, fuckin' lying on docks, looking at stars, drinking wine, all those times this dude never made one move on you?"

"No! We were friends, and he was a total gentleman!"

He shook his head hard. "No way. That's impossible. I don't know a single guy who wouldn't have at least brought up the idea of dating you."

I took a sip of my beer. "Well, I guess it came up once."

"I knew it! I knew it!" He slammed his hand on the bar with each word. "How…?"

"We were driving from Madison to Minneapolis a couple of years ago, listening to Wilco and chatting when he looked at me and said, 'have you ever thought about us dating?' Bobby, I swear I got this weird knot in my stomach and my mind instantly fast forwarded through a relationship, an ugly breakup, and us seeing each other only at weddings and reunions and so I said, 'yeah, I guess, but I'd be devastated if anything happened to our friendship.' And he said, 'yeah, I guess you're right.'"

"That was it! That was him trying!"

"No way! He'd just been on a couple dates with this really awesome girl…"

"I don't care how awesome she was, that was his last ditch attempt to see if there was a chance with you."


Bobby took another sip, turned back to the TV and looked up at the game. "I'm just saying."

Bobby got the wheels turning for a minute, but before they could make a full rotation, they came to an abrupt halt. Because when I think about it, once I met the awesome girl it was obvious that Youssef and I were never meant to be. She was clearly made for him. After they'd been on I think four dates, he called me.

"Can you please come out with us tonight? I need you to meet her." Of course I went. It was my best friend duty. So over darts and pitchers of Grain Belt premium, in the diviest of Minneapolis bars, I got to know Andrea, this soft-spoken, dry-humored girl who was seriously kicking my ass at darts. At one point, as she reset the scoreboard, Youssef pulled me aside. "What do you think?"

"I like her," I said. "I like her a lot. She's really cool."

"Good. Cause it's really important to me that you get to know her."

Even though they were together for three years, the phone call still came out of nowhere.

"Guess what? I proposed and Andrea said yes!" I gasped, then screamed, then yelled, then asked a million questions. Youssef asked me to read at his wedding and I said yes, as long as I didn't have to read that Corinthians 13 love is patient, love is kind thing, because I've heard it at twenty-seven of the twenty-nine weddings I've been to and frankly if I have to hear it again I might yak. Sorry, God.

The post-engagement tweaks in our relationship were small, but significant. I moved to Chicago for grad school and we maintained our best friendmanship via phone calls and emails, but now talk of music, family, and jobs was occasionally infused with mentions of churches and reception halls. An extra week or two came between our conversations, and often Andrea would yell in the background, "Hi Molly!" To which I would say back, "Tell her I said hi," and Youssef always would. I pictured them cooking dinner together, whipping up a gourmet Pad Thai while we talked on the phone and the image in my mind helped me hear the way his voice was steady, ready for the calm and stability of settling down. I understood. Kind of. Finally, a year and a half after the engagement, I was handing my ticket to the Northwest Airlines agent, boarding a plane bound from my current home of Chicago to our hometown of Minneapolis, my best friend's wedding invitation tucked neatly in my purse.

The tears started mid-flight. I was staring at the clouds below and thinking, "Holy shit. Youssef is getting married!" In the car on the way to help him with the place cards, on the way home from picking up my dress from the dry cleaners, to and from the rehearsal dinner, every time I thought about Youssef getting married, I started to bawl.

Okay, I bet you're expecting a tale about how I realized I was truly in love with him and decided to totally sabotage the wedding by spreading rumors between the bride and groom, sending fake emails and then ultimately cornering Youssef and saying, "choose me, marry me," then stealing a bread van to try and get them back together after I ultimately realized how selfish I'd been. But no, I didn't pull a Julia Roberts in My Best Friend's Wedding, and THANK GOD because I don't know how that woman even showed her face at the wedding.

But our relationship was definitely going to undergo a makeover.

My Plan B was officially off the market. I saw myself at eighty, clipping coupons while surrounded by my creepy porcelain doll collection, eating ice cream on the couch, never having lived with anyone, never having had kids, going through the next hundred painful breakups without the cushion of Youssef making it all a little more bearable.

I finally got my tears under control on the way to the wedding, as I'd spent a lot of time on my eye makeup. I went to say hi to Andrea as she was getting ready.

She turned away from the mirror where she was straightening her veil. "Have you seen him? How is he doing?"

I thought about how I'd hung out with Youssef a few minutes earlier and he was all smiles. He was like this enormous ball of energy and couldn't stop hugging me and was pretty much skipping from car to bathroom to church.

"He's bouncing off the walls," I said. "I've never seen him so excited." She teared up, then quickly started fanning her eyes to preserve her mascara. "Oh my gosh, he is? Really? That makes me so happy!"

Now that was a Plan A reaction. And my best friend was going to be with his Plan A! He found her. All this Plan B stuff suddenly seemed ridiculous because how could I have wanted anything less than a Plan A for my bestie? I wouldn't want him to end up with me, even if we were both old and lonely, because I would never tear up after hearing something like that about him.

I sat in the second row, holding my reading (NOT the Corinthians stuff, thank you) and as I watched Youssef I knew that our relationship was just headed to the next phase. That phase that involves wives and husbands and kids and careers and moving and settling down; which is probably the most exciting thing to happen to our friendship. To take our relationship through the different levels of life is going to be an adventure and he is my clear-cut, no-doubt-about-it Plan A for that. And you know what? He'll still be there for me at the end of a hundred horrible break-ups, making it all bearable. But now Andrea will be there too.

And just as that Duh-Duh-Duh-Duh began, Youssef looked right over at me, smiled and winked. Then he looked towards the entrance of the church as the doors opened, and Andrea started walking down the aisle. He stood up straighter, this enormous smile spread across his face and I saw tears shining in his eyes. And I got that absolutely, unbelievably happy feeling, where my heart is like, taking up my whole chest and I got this like, fizziness in my nose and I could burst into tears at any moment out of pure joy because I'm one of those happy and sad criers and my mind just stopped to take a picture of everything about that moment.



©All material is copyrighted and cannot be reproduced without permission