Storytime: Sparks

Friendship is a fragile and beautiful thing. The ability to trust someone with all of you, even if just for a moment is what life is made of.

These are just a few moments of friendship because I felt like sharing good stories and even if all my good stories feel more like fleeting moments that slip away too quickly to be counted. Even if they’re small, these sparks as so wonderful.

Drake and I laying on the floor of his father’s basement with the lights off. We’re hurtling towards future disasters at an incredible speed but we don’t know it yet. The inky blackness around us makes me feel warmer than I’ve felt all day. In a way, he’s made this place a sanctuary. There are cascading white sheets hung from the ceiling boxing us out and I can see nothing but an echo of the light from the upstairs through them. Certainly I can’t see his face, all shadows and sighs. The boombox placed next to us causes small waves rumbling along the thick, plush fibers of the carpet. As the song changes to something slow and soft, he reaches for my hand – comforting and close.

I’m alone but I’m not alone at all because I have a roommate. Almost everyone else left for the summer so it’s just my roommate and I, the distressed heatwave, the lack of money, and the slow, debilitating terror of unemployment with no place to turn to when the money runs out. But then Shane sends me an email.

I had sent out emails earlier in the summer to my friends hoping that we could combine old and new, snail mail pen pals and technology blending into one and the same but his is the only reply I get. The email is standard but the feeling isn’t.

One night when the heat is so sweltering that clothes feel like a prison I print out on the email, strip to my underwear and lay on the cold concrete balcony outside and stare up into the sky. It’s the middle of the city so there’s very little to see. Even when not looking skyward, the balcony overlooks a parking lot full of disused cars and torn up concrete. Where Shane is, it’s much nicer. In the middle of the countryside where he’s slowly going crazy from his family but at least he’s somewhere that’s poetic about it. Somewhere the smell of acrid trash and rot doesn’t reach him.

I close my eyes, place the letter over my heart and it feels like we’re somewhere together. Free and clear.

The series of events leading up to this moment isn’t so unlikely. Strangers from the internet who become flesh and blood before my eyes are actually starting to become a normal part of my life. So being in the living room of a man I had known only as “Shambos” for two years doesn’t even feel like much of a struggle to explain to myself anymore.

The day had been full of wanderings and concluded with sitting on a Californian beach, toes in the sand, watching the sunset. It’s not that this man is a stranger, after all I’ve spoken to him nearly every day for the past two years, but he feels like he’s also not yet a friend. The shape of his face is too new and the tone of his voice in person is softer and less wavering. When he laughs his blond hair drifts over the top of his head like a hurricane and his the lines on his face crease. These new details overlay with my memories of his stories creating a brand new 3D movie of him with every movement.

The two of us sit around a laptop in the single digit hours of the morning and he shows me music videos he made. I know that nothing has changed because he was the same person before as after, but everything has changed. These are a secret he is sharing with me because I am here, with him. And he is here with me just this once.

I’m so nervous to meet her because she seems so brilliant. I arrive on the hippest street in Ballard nearly ten full minutes early worried she won’t like me if I make a mistake. She laughs when she sees me, sharp and sweet. All the air feels like it is kicked out of my lungs because she looks so alive. We eat at the restaurant and we both talk a mile and minute. I tell her that I worried we would run out of things to say and that prompts another laugh, this time softer and warmer, more like a hug.

We talk so much we end up at a bar, sipping on soda so I can us drive home. We talk about the past and present and side skirt the fact that everything is temporary. That she’ll be going home and it’s a gamble if one day she’ll be back here or I’ll be back here or we’ll be together.

We have now, which is why I diligently wait until I drop her off at her apartment to start crying tears. Equal parts joy for the experience and sadness for the loss.

This is the first time in a decade that I am going to a place I have never been alone. It’s terrifying but what we do for love, for friendship, is not a calculable sum of actions.

What I expect and what I get are two very different things but I said I’ll help in any way I can and I love you, so that’s what I do. Like I promised I clean your closets, I organize your kitchen, I talk you through boxes and clothing and feelings and memories and when it’s all done I go with you to the store to make sure you have a place for all those things you laid out in front of me. All the sadness you bore.

But it’s not all take, you give me piece of mind. As we drive to an art exhibit your face bursts into light as you tell me a wild story.  I feel very possessive of the secret joy you have inside of you. I feel honored you would dole it out for me. I try to keep it with me, I try to return the favor.

The four of us are standing in the Japanese Garden in Portland with hangovers. It’s a miracle I managed to talk us into coming but I wanted it so much that somehow I got it.

We walk along the thin winding path and we stand all together under a wooden structure overlooking the pond. It’s the peak of autumn. Everything is bursts of oranges and yellows backlit with muddy reds and browns just starting to take over. We stand in dead silence as the first drops of rain start to fall. They’re big fat drops that splash noisily on the fallen leaves, and yet, there is a spark of something soft inside of me. Neal leans his weight on my shoulder for a moment and without exchanging even a single sound, there is a familiar tug at my heart.

There is something here I want to hold onto but I know it is made all the more precious when it passes.

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