It was Saturday and we were sitting at Bob's Java Hut, as we‘ve done on other days, as we‘ll do on other days. She took the last few sips of her iced chai and we switched seats in a vain attempt to deflect the sunlight enough for me to be able to see the computer screen as I wrote. The open window let in the still unfamiliar and refreshing cool air of early autumn.
"Sometimes...” she said as she looked absentmindedly out at the people passing by and stabbing at the ice in her plastic glass with her straw, "sometimes I just want to be written." Her eyes gleam with the familiar blend of yearning and optimism that often appears on her face when we talk about such things. Sometimes, this look is accompanied by fierce hand gestures or an excited half-skip, half-prance as we sit or stand or walk around talking, imagining what finding that special person would be like. Imagining what that special person will be like. Today it’s more subdued, tired. If ever eyes were the window to the soul, these would be the ones. I’ve never known anyone to live quite like she does, feeling it with her whole self, unsuccessfully adopting cynicism in brief statements or rants, held to optimism by a faith that seems unwavering, every bit of it evident in her eyes. Of all the many forms they take, it’s the tears that are the most powerful - her eyes fill to the brim and become glassy with them, you pray for them not to spill over, lest they dampen her spirit. They’re not falling today.
I knew what she meant even before she started babbling her explanation.
I knew before I made the requisite comment about how I would love to do it, had thought of doing it, that we’d both have to admit that it wouldn’t be the same. Sometimes it aches that it’s not the same. Sometimes you wish it were. Instead, we fight side by side in the War on Singledom. We both carry our war wounds, take turns changing the dressings so that they’ll heal properly, mystified at the seemingly endless and yet totally infrequent could-have- might-have- would-have-beens, carrying each other as best we can out of bouts of loneliness, inactivity, mediocrity, ennui. Hope comes in the form of new love. The right kind. The kind you can’t be jealous of, because it isn’t and can’t be yours. They aren’t and can’t be you. They are for each other. They are for each other what her author would be for her. Hope comes in the form of a night of flirtation, physical contact, an ambiguous (but not!) note that he knew she would see. Sometimes the reality is not so exciting as the dream, but it only means you haven’t found the right reality yet. She teaches me these things. Sometimes I teach them back to her.
It’s Thursday and we’re sitting at Bob’s Java Hut, as we’ve done on other days, as we’ll do on other days. Drinks that burned our fingers a couple of hours ago have hit room temperature and fall as the barista opens the window to clear out the stuffy air and cigarette smoke. The open window lets in the bitter chill of mid-autumn. Our breath is visible. She sits across from me in a red sweater drawn from the pile of castaways from my closet, joyfully playing with the sleeves that are too short for the new millennium, tying and retying the pink scarf that has become her new favorite accessory. She’s reading a book she despises, stabbing at it violently with a pen, resolutely dredging through the pages toward the as yet unrealized but highly anticipated end. She’s all smiles today, the windows sparkling, telling the story of one of the good days, punctuated by matching dimples on our faces. It’s infectious. It always is.
“Sometimes I just want to be written,” she told me not long ago as we sat across from each other in this same spot.
I would love to do that. I’ve thought of doing it. I’ve thought of writing about how she has my favorite eyes, how they tell the truth even when she doesn’t, how they break my heart when she’s hurting and lift me up when she’s not. I’ll write the stories of our song-filled mornings on the North Shore, and how waking up to her smile and laughing at our mutual recollection of early 90s hip hop lyrics is a part of that experience that I’ll never forget. I’ll tell about the first time I saw her light up at the attention of a boy, how I was sure it wouldn’t be the last time, how I was so happy for her but so irrationally afraid of losing her that I didn’t quite know what to do. How I burned with jealousy that a stranger could take her away when I wasn‘t ready to let go. How she inspires me. How I delight in her strength, her beauty, her intelligence. How I miss her when we don‘t hang out for a couple of days. How excited I was as we chatted after the Monarchs show at the 7th Street Entry, my voice cracking with smoke damage, chattering on and on and finding more and more things we had in common. How I hadn’t connected with someone like that in a long time. How I knew she and I were destined to have the kind of rare friendship that lasts a lifetime.
I think about writing these things so that she knows she’s already been immortalized to me, and to a lot of others like me.
I know it’s not the same, but I think it’s nice to offer.