Three years ago, I was enduring work when the new American guy on our team, Darren, asked if I would go for a pint and talk about writing. I am always up for conversations about writing but I couldn’t work out what he actually wanted. I was suspicious of his motives. It turned out he was after a little guy I like to call friendship.
A year and a half ago, Darren made me attend a Super Bowl weekend trip with him and his friends. I spent the whole time wondering why anyone cared about the Super Bowl if it wasn’t to watch Justin Timberlake perform the half time show. We got very drunk and played a lot of board games.
He then started dating someone and told me I had to meet her. I could tell by the spark in his eyes that this was different and special and as soon as the three of us sat down over gin and tonics I realised that Darren and Laura had something special.
Last year, when he told me he was going to ask her to marry him, I was so happy. I felt like I had been there since the beginning and it was the most natural thing for them to become husband and wife.
Being the brilliant, bright and organised couple they are, it wasn’t long before invites were sent out. I was asked not just to attend their wedding in London but also the American leg of their wedding party. As a mutual friend of both of them, they asked if I would come to Iowa.
Knowing that there was nothing I would enjoy more, and that I would never have a better reason to visit the Corn State, I told them I would be absolutely delighted.
The three of us flew to Iowa together. I cannot put into words the incredible hospitality that I enjoyed while I was there. I stayed with Darren’s mum, Monica, and stepdad, Craig. They could not have been kinder to me. I felt not only like a friend, but that they saw me as family.
Monica made fresh cookies from a secret recipe while Craig barbecued steak out on their deck.
Monica poured litres of cold brew coffee to share with me while Craig loaded a cooler onto the bed of his truck to take out to the lake.
Monica engaged me in deep and interesting conversations. Craig took me out tubing on the lake and made harsh turns so I flipped off into the water. I had the most incredible time and felt very free.
I also spent more time with Darren and Laura than I ordinarily would. Aside from our Super Bowl weekends and their visit to Southend, our time together was limited to sneaking out of work for coffee and nights out. Unlimited access to their fun, intelligent, wonderful friendship was a gift in itself.
I also got to see more of Darren’s brother, Carey, and his girlfriend, Sarah, who are so New York cool that I couldn’t help but talk too much in an effort to impress them.
I spoke to Darren’s father, Dan, who is the reason Darren is as enchanting as he is.
It was also a chance to get to know Laura’s parents, Peter and Jane.
Peter spoke with such affection for their daughter that I couldn’t help but be drawn into their wonderful relationship.
Jane joined me in bouts of binging on margaritas until we were giggling in the corner and drawing suspicious looks from her only daughter.
I got to try a keg stand (and fell on my face) and mastered beer pong. I played basketball in their suburban driveway. I ate so well that I started working on a plan to refuse to leave their guest room until they learnt to love me. I fell asleep on the floor of the den. I played shuffleboard with Peter. I lost spectacularly at Harry Potter Dobble, but most of all, I got to witness the love between two of my friends and I felt very lucky the entire time.