We haven’t seen each other in years. I am quite convinced the person I have in my head is one I’ve created over the years of our absence. I wait nervously as the heat of an extended summer swarms around me. My palms are sweaty. I’m not sure if it is the sun beating down on me or the excitement building up inside of me. His car turns the corner. He looks so much different than before, but his smile is still the same. A smile that has beamed in my mind for almost 10 years. He reaches the curb, and we hug awkwardly. I want to drop all of my luggage and bury myself in his embrace. I don’t.
With my overstuffed bags squeezed into the trunk, we’re off. We only have 2 hours together when 2 weeks would hardly be enough. With a departing flight weighing down on me, our adventure begins. We spring into a restaurant both more concerned with learning of the other’s life than deciphering the menu. We have the waiter choose for us and assure him anything he brings will be welcomed and enjoyed. He is clearly caught off guard but content with leaving us to our catching up. Just like old times we begin a rapid fire succession of topics ranging from photography to family ailments, dreams to regrets, whether we feel we are living life or arriving too late. There is no small talk, no moment to breathe, no beat skipped from our last encounter 4 years past. We talk and eat, excusing ourselves from common dining room courtesies. I eagerly consume his stories and curse the clock for counting down so quickly.
I find myself taken aback and slightly shaken to discover the man I’ve held on a pedestal for so long doesn’t exist and likely never did. The person sitting before me is lost. Lonely. Fractured.
He is real and beautiful and perfect.
The world I remembered being created between us years ago that was the culprit of so many stolen hours was not a fabrication, however. It is past and present and timeless. I take that back. It is not a world we created but a world that travels with him through this realm the rest of us know. To be near him is to escape gravity and the laws our universe relies on. In his presence everyone instantly becomes the best version of themselves for in his smile is endless, unconditional love. It peers at you from a place far beyond his eyes and assures you there is magic in our midst. Within each instant I want to both never leave that moment and never waste another one not pursuing my truest bliss. He is both familiar and wondrous, and I delight in the uncertainty and comfort I feel sitting across the table from him.
Alas, our time is running out and our adventure has just begun. “There is something I want to share with you” he says, and for a second I forget anyone else exists. We settle our bill, thank our waiter and rush out the door. He asks me a simple question, but I remind him that I know no short answer. I do my best to speak as quickly as possible to get him up to speed on the major changes in my life, of which there are many. He listens intently and comments at all the right places. Confident his surprise will be worth the risk of missing my flight, he wades through the traffic like sneakers through the mud.
At last we arrive and are burdened with finding a parking spot in an over crowded lot. I’m excited but quite stressed out about the time. We turn the corner and he tells me, “I make only one request: get the snow.” A most mysterious request indeed. He opens the door to a small shop with only room for 3 tables and hardly the people to occupy them. It is filled with items and offerings I don’t recognize. I follow his request and order snow in a flavor I can hardly pronounce. Within minutes I am presented with a large bowl containing a fluffy mass in the color purple, my favorite. Back on our feet with rush to the car. Opening the container on the way, I’m frightened to see my spoon has taken on a new shade. From white to blue, it signals I am in for a surprise. I dip it into the snowflakes and am greeted with a heavenly flurry of flavor. It is soft and lovely. It can most closely be compared to something you would indulge in during a childhood dream where your mind can conjure up an assortment of mythical treats. It doesn’t take long for me to start feeling angry with him for introducing me to such a delight just as I’m leaving town!
With no time to spare we arrive at the terminal. He takes extra care to get me to the counter quickly and with minimal effort on my part. I am not accustom to having someone working to make my life easier, and I am conflicted. Part of me wants so badly to be taken care of while the other part assures me I’m not worth it. For the sake of time, I offer no resistance.
I get to the counter too late to check my bags, but the woman is sweet and understanding and promises to do her best to get me on the plane. We move swiftly to security and have no option but to exchange a rushed goodbye. I am grateful and sad and motivated and anxious all at once. We hug, and though it is less awkward than our original, it is surrounded by me saying the wrong things and losing my presence in the moment. It is insufficient and over all too quickly. I hop in line for the check point. He makes his way to the exit. I watch him as he nears the doors. All of a sudden with a subtle theatricality, he turns around and throws his hand in the air victoriously. I laugh and wave back and wish with all of my being that I didn’t have to get on that plane. He moves through the sliding doors. I am happy for our time together but disheartened that I don’t know when I will see him again. Our relationship has never been consistent or understood. My love for him cannot be molded into a category. It is one I have never experienced before and one I have never heard mention of in song or prose or poetry. It is not romantic or sexual or lustful. It is not that of friends or family. It began the moment I met him and has only grown as I’ve watched him do the same. It is a love that has always existed even when we were not here to share it. A bond that was sculpted from respect and wonderment and freeness. A connection perhaps cultivated in another lifetime. It need not be defined or explained or monitored. It will always move and change as we do. I am not sure why I have been given the opportunity to know him, but I will forever cherish any part of his life I get to be a part of.
There is no time to dwell on these feelings as my flight is beginning to board, and I am nowhere near the gate! I do my best to hurriedly remove my shoes and sweater, the contents of my pockets, both of my laptops and everything in between. Before putting my phone in the basket I see a text that reads, “Did you make it through yet?” I assume he is simply checking up on me and mentally affirm that I will alert him when I make it to the other side. I put my phone back in the bin and turn around once more to emotionally part with the city that holds a permanent zip code within me. My eyes widen and my heart jumps as I see him standing at the edge of the divide searching for me past the security gate. I shout to him, “The answer to your question is ‘no’. I haven’t passed through yet.” Already smiling, he turns my way. With an array of bags and bins on the belt awaiting my crossover, I rush to him forgetting my place in society momentarily. He hands me a book that he is convinced I will love. That is one of my favorite parts of our relationship. Every one of my most beloved books came from his hands. He has both excellent taste and a keen insight into what will make people happy. I abandon all thought and throw myself into his arms. He grabs me tightly, and it feels as though he would be perfectly content in never letting go. I know I’m holding up the line of grumpy passengers that lurch behind me. I don’t care. For this one minute in life I’m not concerned what others think of me or how I am potentially inconveniencing them with my existence. I would have missed my flight a hundred times to stay in his sanctuary. In that hug I realize he has met me without judgement, without expectation and without shame.
It is real and beautiful and perfect.
And fleeting. Just as snowflakes in a gust of winter wind our paths blow in different directions.
I don’t miss my flight, but I will always miss my friend.