It's been really hard to be a good friend lately. For months I've been busy traveling and working away from home on a level that I wouldn't think possible to sustain but I'm doing it. We're getting by. When I'm actually home I try to relish each moment but still get caught in front of the computer, settling the past week and setting up the next. I recently fell asleep on the new couch, curled up with Matthew and Patsy, our arms crossed over each other, noses tucked underneath shoulders. When I awoke, groggy, I thought, this is exactly what I've been craving, a family puppy pile.
At home my priority is those two and I do my best to pay attention. Then I try to call my parents. I reach out to my friends but it's been hit or miss and that hurts because in many ways my friends have been the most important thing in my life. I don't think I would have survived to now without them. Yeah, you guys have made me laugh a lot but SURVIVAL, YO. The concurrent shift to a marriage I love, with Matthew both as husband and friend, and a job that is wonderfully rewarding but as consuming as it gets is a delicate balance in and of itself. Eking out hours for myself is tricky. I get so mentally exhausted that at the end of the day, I can't always speak to the world outside of my four walls; all I can do is Netflix or read fiction before falling asleep, usually before the end of the program or chapter. Giving as I should to everyone is impossible right now. I can't explain in any interesting manner the way my hours and days unfold. The only person who really, reeeeally knows is Matthew; he sees it when I'm home and hears it when I'm away. He understands how happy I get when I feel I'm doing it all well and witnesses my tears of frustration when I'm not. He tells me I'm being too hard on myself and I say that's easier said than done.
A few weeks ago Sara wrote and asked if I had any photos of us out in New York with her uncle Jimmy. It must have been 2003 when we went drinking and dancing with Jimmy, known to us also as "Tito" and "Charlie". I think I called him Tito the most and he calls me "The Rev". That night, St. Patrick's, we went to an Irish pub and then to another Irish pub where we danced salsa with junior firefighters under green shamrock garland and Sara and I shook a leg with a little old couple whose collective age was right around 170 years. Tito is fighting cancer now and Sara wanted to show him those photos if I still had them. It would bring him joy, she said. That night was one of his favorites. I wrote back and asked her to send him love from The Rev and told her that the photos were still in a shipping container in Nashville but that as soon as we moved in Feb 1 and unpacked, I'd find them. When I finally dug them out, these flimsy scans of xeroxed copies, two dogeared images from a great night almost ten years ago and sent them to Sara, she was sitting with Tito, watching the Super Bowl.
I think Sara's been on an old photo kick because around the same time that she asked for the New York photos, she sent a link to a group of us who all went to school together and met in Ecuador in 1997, a link to a website that contained incriminating shots of all of us in South America. Doing drugs? Naw, though I did spot evidence of drinking beer on the roof of a moving train. The main offense, in my opinion, was our egregious choice of pants. Our jeans were nipple-skimmers. And huge. I do recall my Ecuadorian boyfriend telling me that my clothes were too floja: literally "lazy". "What is he talking about?" I wondered at the time. But the first photo I saw of myself, slick with Amazonian sweat, inspired me to shriek to Matthew, "My jeans! I look like I have a dick!"
I was not alone.
The photos from Ecuador made me stop for a minute and think about the last 15 years, about how I got from this hill outside Baños to where I am now.
I found photos I took of Sara the last time I saw her in New York six months ago and thought of how much her life too has changed since 1997. Change is to be expected, right? I love change with all my heart. That's not news here. We act the same together now as then: killing some wine or ill-advised shot before having a serious conversation, asking each other what is this like for you? What do you think about that? What does it mean? Right before laughing like stupid asses and smirking over someone's shoulder. Note: we both smirked a lot over one another's shoulder at the audience when we officiated each others' weddings.
I don't feel like I'm losing anything or anybody being so absent right now, I just miss people and parts of myself. Matthew supports me and my work, my friends and parents give me a hard time now and again but know that I haven't disappeared for no good reason. I have reasons even if they aren't always fully understood. I just never want my life to narrow, I want it always broad and full of many people and many interests. I want the people I love to feel it deeply and not just believe it because I tell them. I want my friends to know I'm thinking about them so often, because I am. I want lots more photos 15 years from now. I want to curl up and fall asleep on the couch with Matthew and Patsy, our arms crossed over each other, noses tucked underneath shoulders.