Friday, January 29, 2016

Dear Friend

Dear friend,

You know who you are. Yes, this post is for you.

Although we live a thousand miles apart, I can hear the gentle cadences of your voice, the way your smile comes through when we talk. How does it work, this digital world we've grown old in, your voice beamed through unimaginable miles of cold space from where you stand to a silver satellite we cannot see between us and into the waiting curve of my ear?

We are not really 62. We are 16, standing outside the classroom door, watching the boys. We are 16, on the front lawn of the school eating lunch with our circle of girl friends, the lunch bags spread out in a patchy brown paper tablecloth in the center between us. We are 16, driving to Taco Bell for lunch. We are 16, sprawled across your crocheted bedspread sharing the things we thought might be true, the things we could tell no one else, the things we trusted to no one else. We dared to think and dream those things together, yes we did. We are 16, walking the beach near my house while the moonstruck waves lap at our feet and the stars tug at us to sail somewhere out over the far dark horizon.

We've seen each other how many times since that June night when all the seniors rode the bus to Disneyland? Not enough. A handful of times, no more. You married young, and so did I. You moved east, I moved south, then farther north. Since we left our parents' homes behind, our paths almost haven't crossed, and when they have the time has been brief, too brief, and yet. And yet. It doesn't matter, does it? There might be an awkward hug, a cliché to begin our talk, and suddenly we've slipped into the old familiar way of being with, of listening to, of trusting one another.

There's a kind of muscle memory to our friendship, a sureness in the moves, a thread of laughter that winds its way south along the Cascades, up and through the Siskiyous, and gently between the Sierra Nevada and the Coast Range through your valley, and then back north again. A thread, a current, a drumbeat, mostly quiet, but sometimes insistent like that time you called last year because you knew, you just somehow knew, that I was sad.

To you, my friend, I hold these outstretched hands, cupped, trying to hold on to what? Cupped hands as useless as a sieve while time slips through, and here we are: hanging on tight to this beautiful blue spinning planet, and all I can say is happy birthday, happy birthday, happy birthday. I'm so glad that our times and places on the planet coincided enough that we are who we are: dear friends. Peace to you, and love.

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