Bil Browning

31 Days: Bil-Eri (co)

Filed By Bil Browning | September 14, 2011 7:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: Bil-Eri-Co, Eri Howard, Eri Muramatsu, story behind the name

The backstory behind this photo is after the break.


I've been doing a series of posts for 31 days that featured a photo from my personal collections and the backstory behind the picture. I'm using the stories as a writing exercise to help me prepare for writing a book. Today is the last day of the experiment.

You can find the rest of the series posts here:

This has been the hardest story to write of the entire series of 31 posts. Why? Because I feel compelled to do justice to the subject. Many of you know the basics behind the name of the site already, but the bigger story hasn't been told.

"Bilerico" is the combination of founder Bil Browning's name with the first name of his college friend, Eri Muramatsu. After graduation, she returned to Japan and would mail Bil Pokii and chocolate covered Cheetos, while he'd mail her instant mashed potatoes and canned goods. So much stuff was sent back and forth they joked that they should start an import/export business. Hence, Bil-Eri-Co - Bil and Eri's Company.

When AOL became big in the mid-90's, Bil signed up and picked the old joke as a screen name. Bilerico's internet presence was born.

If you've been following the series, you also know I was given as a birthday present. While this gives you the basics behind the make believe word Bil-Eri-Co, it doesn't tell you how we ended up being friends or why my love for her is magical.

When I met Eri I was still dating Rick (the boyfriend who came back from the dead). Rick and I had just moved into our own place after moving to Bloomington, but we couldn't afford cable TV. Instead, we'd go to the library and borrow VCR tapes of old movies and TV shows.

During one trip, as we were checking out there were two young Japanese girls standing in line in front of us. They were having troubles understanding how to borrow the videos and the librarian wasn't being particularly helpful. Their English wasn't the best and the librarian's patience was wearing thin. The two girls retreated to the back of the room to discuss what to do next. Since I speak Japanese, I could understand what they were saying and the predicament they were in.

I walked up to them and, speaking in Japanese, I offered to help. They quickly divulged that they didn't have a library card and didn't know how to get one. I took them back to the librarian's desk explained what was going on and helped them to fill out the required paperwork. I told them how the system worked, when the movies needed to be returned, how many they could check out, and all the information the librarian needed relayed.

We traded contact information and I found out that the cutest, friendliest, and most talkative girl's name was Eri Muramatsu. She was staying in off-campus housing and had only been in the states for a week or so. Other than the girl she went to the library with, she had no friends in the US yet.

I called her later that week and went over to her tiny little room she was renting in a boarding house. It was horrible. Her "bedroom" was originally a walk-in closet. To escape the small space, Eri would come hang out with Rick and I at our townhouse apartment. Soon enough she was crashing on the couch and when our roommate moved out a couple of months later, Eri moved in.

Soon enough we were inseparable. She went back with me to my tiny little Indiana hometown to meet my mom and was a hit with my family. All my gay friends in Bloomington adopted her as our token fag hag. In fact, everyone who meets her falls in love immediately with her gentle nature, strong loyalty, and wicked sense of humor.

Rick used to go out almost every night and since I was under 21, I couldn't go. Eri and I would stay home and play cards or watch TV or work on her homework and improving her English speaking abilities. It was a rough time for me personally. My relationship with Rick was falling apart and I felt trapped. Eri understood and served as a sounding board for my worries and fears.

Since we were a team, if Eri was mad at someone, I was too. If I was upset about something, she'd get worked up as well. That bond was put to the test though when Rick and I broke up. It was a less-than-amicable parting of ways, but Eri was friends with both of us and I couldn't ask her to choose one over the other. I didn't have to.

Rick would send me letters and pictures through the mail after he moved to Texas, but I was still angry and bitter over our relationship. Eri, however, thought of a good response. Very carefully she wrote on a note card in big Japanese lettering - "Rick-u-wa chimpo." We had a neighbor snap our picture holding it and sent it off to him in Texas.

What does it mean? "Rick is a dick." The best part is that he had no idea what it said, but he finally got his reply.

Don't mess with me, fellas. Eri doesn't mess around. Jerame has always managed to stay on her good side.

Eri lives in Norway now with her husband. He's in the military and they've bounced around the globe together. Thanks to Facebook and e-mail we stay in touch, but it's not the same as seeing her smiling face in front of me all the time.

Maybe soon I'll hit it rich. If I do, our first vacation will be to Norway.

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There is something beautiful, yet sad, about this story that made me cry.