On my way back from Galesburg, I stopped by my Auntie’s house and spent the night with her. While I was there, I looked up my old friend for lunch, and ended up spending the night there. I hadn’t really seen my friends in 10 years, and I was shocked at how much I had genuinely forgotten. The summer of 1999 was my summer of freedom. That time was when love was the purest, and the day never seemed to end.
Part of the tragedy of my life was the death of trust, the murder of the belief that the world was a safe place and people were fundamentally good. Now I remember why I felt that the world was good and that people naturally loved others. I wasn’t just a naive child, delusional and unfocused. I was lucky enough to be surrounded by love, filled with it, and not even see its radiance. I had so much love around me that I took it as a matter of course that love was easy. Back then it was. Relationships were based on that natural attraction two humans have, un-influenced by politics or necessity.
Remembering how easy and free it used to be was too painful to remember. While I was in Des Moines, I finally got a hold of the person I love best in the world. These past 10 years have been painful for more than just me. My joy at seeing him combined with my grief and guilt in losing him somehow broke through. The sudden burst of sorrow cracked my heart open like an eggshell.
I remember how I used to hang out at Greenwood Park and the weekend long parties and when I stayed with my friend’s family. I remember him knocking on my apartment door and telling me that if I wanted, I could stop by anytime. I remember braiding his hair, and us falling asleep watching TV. I remember telling him not to worry, that I would be right back. Only I didn’t come back for 10 years.
I have always been a traveler, moving easily from place to place. It didn’t matter much because I formed friendships easily. But I lost those friendships even easier. How could I not even think about the people who set the stage for who I am now? The person I stayed with that night in Des Moines was my best friend during my summer of freedom, that bridge between teenager and adult. Yet somehow, I never made the effort t to keep in touch. How fragile relationships are, how breakable. It was frightening to realize that I still love all the people I have ever loved.
Is it arrogant to believe that one person can change a life? Perhaps. I still wonder what the quilt of our lives would look like if my thread had been included. Would the picture be different? Of course. Better? I suppose that’s subjective. Richer? Without a doubt. I have to move, grow, and still hold on to the people I have in my life. People haven’t changed. I have. I stopped making the effort.
The change starts today. I’ve been hurt in the past, and I’ve made mistakes. I didn’t need to be alone in these experiences, and I won’t be again. The only thing that matters is the people in your life. Hold on to them, and don’t let go, no matter how far life takes you. They are precious.