This was the question I woke up thinking on repeat – you know how brains do that, sometimes? I’d just had a very familiar dream. Like every time, he was there – wearing a prosthetic, in good spirits, healthy, laughing. Like every time, the feeling was choice. Do I follow this path? Do I still know you? Did I ever?
What’s your life like?
So I send him this message – I do this, maybe, once or twice a year. Often after I’ve been thinking of him, or after one of those familiar dreams.
I lie in bed a while longer, anticipating him asking me the same. How you been? What you been up to? I’ll tell him, I’m mostly good. I’ll tell him I’ve been teaching improv, writing, researching, currently house-sitting for my parents who are on a trip. Maybe he’ll smile and remember this house; it’s where I grew up. It’s where in high school, he’d tap on my window to say – life is waiting out here. Let’s go, into the night. Let’s live.
He was the first person I fell in love with, in that crazed, wild, stars-are-aligning sort of way that comes with youth and adrenaline and a feeling of invincibility. Dying was for the old, we thought. We could live forever fueled by such a love.
But he did, die, that is. For at least a little while. Just after high school, he was in a terrible boating accident; he was in cardiac arrest for over 45 minutes. He left this place. But then – somehow – he came back.
You might know who I’m talking about, if you know me.
He was in a coma in the ICU – in my memory, it was for at least a week. Maybe more. But I really don’t know; it could have been only a couple of days.
I remember the kids showing up from high school, all holding hands in the ICU waiting room, heads bowed, tears dripping from noses, praying. I remember going to the bathroom, panicked, repelled by their words to some God in the sky I’d never known. I remember falling to the tile floor, back against the bathroom stall –
I don’t know God, but if there’s anything that has any power here, please, please help.
More things happened: doctors made grim announcements. It didn’t look good. A friend handed me a bag of coke at the hospital, he was keeping it for someone else. I’d never seen a bag of coke before.
I slept on a bench in the waiting area. I smoked cigarette after cigarette outside in the thick, sick summer heat – doctors and nurses in scrubs joined me in between their shifts.
I wore a red spaghetti strap shirt and his lucky pair of shorts he’d left with me some time before.
I counted all the times we’d fought and hated and loved each other. I revisited every time I’d been cruel or distant or jealous.
But more than that, I counted our kisses. The moments we sat outside of that coffee shop that’s not there anymore and laughed and I’d sit in his lap and one time, just there, we smoked salvia and the world fell away for a while.
I counted the times we said I love you. The times we snuck into buildings to just look around. The times he’d come into my art class during the school day, because we were young and in love and invincible.
And as I write this, I think about how life has such a high price. How so many of those friends we sat around with outside of that coffee shop that’s no longer there, are also gone. How unthinkable it is to be alive in a body in one moment and the next be something else? somewhere else?
and how he vanished and came back
and life took us away from each other; or maybe we did that
but I can still see him when I close my eyes and dream.
So I send him a text –
what’s your life like?
And I keep moving. And I sit at the kitchen table where I grew up eating spaghetti and applesauce and later where we were all notably missing – in our own corners of the house, drunk, or working, or hiding our pain. And I work – I work on the improv curriculum; I work on the research; the writing. And then I write a blog to update you all about my life –
I was going to tell you – I’m mostly good. I’ve been teaching improv, writing, researching, house-sitting for my parents who are on a trip…
And maybe it’s sitting at this very table in this very house where I heard the news –
He’s been in an accident. It doesn’t look good –
And maybe it’s that I had that familiar dream again –
Do I still know you? Did I ever?
– but this is what wants to come out, fingers tapping away, tears dripping down my nose. This is, in this very moment, what my life is like. And reliably, it will shift and change in a moment. And I’ll get back to my day, and you yours, and memories will arise for you and fall, and in the end –
I wonder if there is an end –
is just life.