You entered through the automatic sliding doors like a guest on an episode of This Is Your Life. From half way across the globe and now fifteen years later, you looked more or less the same, with the same nonchalant grin masking the quiet Germanic seriousness, a stilted gait that swayed you from side to side, and a backward tilt that kept you lingering in the moment that had just passed.
Like a yo-yo, I was flung back to the days we roamed the campus, trying to map out our lives, planning for near perfection, even as we struggled to catch up with our everydays.
There was that morning I overslept after finals week. I called you, desperate to catch my flight. You abandoned your half cooked ramen to fetch me in your Corolla and whisk me to the airport. We ran to the counter only to find out that my flight had already left and that the next available flight would not be for another four hours. You sat with me, in the black vinyl chairs under the dome of O'Hare, helping me to salvage the hours as you so often did. You went hungry because I didn’t want to admit that my wallet was empty and I had $19.91 left in my checking account that let me draw only in $20s. And because I refused your offer of food, we sat and talked about other forms of hunger.
Having read somewhere that one's gait can reveal one's soul or at least character, you up turned the soles of your shoes inviting analysis. I leaned over slightly to undertake the examination. They were worn along the outer sides, as if the middle was too hot to handle and you walked on the periphery of yourself. We wondered what it said about your essence and all that you were meant to be. When you asked to see mine, I shyly shook my head side to side, dug my fingers into the edge of my seat, curled my toes, and planted my feet firmly on the ground to hide the gaping hole.
Now, here we were, in a musty lobby of some hotel just outside of Palo Alto surrounded by equestrian mementos on wooden stands. I didn’t ask what happened to those seconds, minutes, hours, days, months, and years in between. Instead, we talked of kidney stones, investment strategies, careers changes, and other things people talk about when they are trying to catch up.
When we talked about my recent events, you asked what I planned to do now. I looked at you blankly, and quickly blurted out an I don’t know because how do I explain, over a glass of lemonade, the goals, hopes, worries, and needs that clash and conflict and beg for logic in my one human body? And you turned to Jeff, as if handing over the reins, and said with a smile, She's always been like this.
Maybe you're right, that's the way it has always been. Could we have known that fifteen years later, we would still be in the process of arriving? Perhaps, just perhaps, no matter where we are, we are always in the process of arriving...