Family Membership

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2 years ago | 2 min read

I'm rooting through my wallet for the Costco card, the one that's been used so often that only a smudge remains where the photo once appeared. Tan and I are always going to Costco together. Which is weird, considering there's nobody at home to feed.

"Just come in on my card," Tan says, impatient. He's a hit-and-run shopper; I prefer to linger a bit. We share a Costco family membership. Tan bought it for us around the time Washington state made gay marriage legal.

"Can we do that?" I'd asked at the time.

"They don't care," he'd replied.

The bored guy at the entrance waves us in from the rain, and we join the middle-aged couples in their intestinal journey through the aisles. After so many trips together Tan and I know each other's routine: blow past the flat-screen TVs, the jumper cables, the Vitamix blenders. Quickly peruse the pen selection. Hit the brakes at the pallets of beer and booze. Tan drops a six-pack into the cart for each of us. He's a food-and-drinks writer, and a connoisseur of recreational depressants.

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Here in progressive Seattle, other shoppers see us—two 50-something men pushing a big red shopping cart and kibitzing over olive oil and packs of ham-Gruyère pastries like an old couple at Zabar's—and perhaps they assume we're married. But Tan and I are something rarer than that.

"Is this one of their good ones?" I ask, holding up a bottle of Kirkland Signature California cabernet sauvignon.

"Read my story," Tan snaps, and he breaks for the meat case, hoping for a Wagyu sighting. Clipped, barbed, self-referential—this is how we communicate with each other after so many years. I park the cart and head for the vegetable room. He knows where to find the cart. It's over by the mangoes, where I always leave it.

Tan and I met when we were in our late 20s, in 2000. Both of us were ambitious young reporters chafing at our unglamorous beats in a suburban bureau of the local newspaper. Soon together we rented half of a rickety duplex directly under the surging Queen Anne radio towers, a local landmark. We joked that the reason the rent was so terrifically cheap was that we'd been microwaved until sterile. On weekends I climbed mountains, then hustled back to Seattle to attend book readings. In his free hours Tan, the son of Vietnamese refugees, sniffed out the best pho joints in neighborhoods where recent immigrants had settled. We were paupers-about-town, and with enormous appetites, and we bonded over good books, cheap deals, filthy jokes, and all-you-can-eat buffets.

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