(written September 2018)
Strava informs me that you biked 30 miles this morning. I can see the GPS track on my phone, a little blue line snaking around the familiar landmarks of my hometown. I imagine the hum of your tires as they rolled down streets I haven’t walked in 20 years. My old neighborhood. It is autumn now, the season punctuated by sweet decay as billions of leaves turn golden and crimson, then brown, then fall. You must have smelled it too, that pungency, as you sliced through the morning air on your way to work, the long way.
The fall holds no sweetness here, 2000 miles away. It is simply hot, and stays that way until summer finally relents and then suddenly it is winter. This won’t happen for another two months, maybe.
The GPS tracker shows me your morning route, my imagination ably filling in the gaps. It feels strangely voyeuristic since I know little about your life today. It has been decades since we since we whispered secrets to each other as our favorite lake sparkled like diamonds in the late afternoon sun. We held hands as the sun plunged below the treeline and the waters turned suddenly, ominously dark.
Yes, we had a favorite lake, how sweet is that?
I still hear the sound of your guitar cutting the silent, cold air, your voice a low whine, singing songs about deliverance. I hear a creek rushing, the one by your parent’s house, a low murmur in the darkness. We would meet in dimly lit coffee shops, were I would sit on velvet chairs and sip the sweetened drinks that you loved by candlelight. These are the memories that my heart hangs on to but the truth is always a little more complicated. We found joy, yes, but it was a disruptive, frightening joy that left me quaking in its wake. You would, in equal measure, elicit great big laughs from my belly, and unstoppable tears from the sting of small, cutting cruelties.
We were too young, we were too much. We didn’t talk for a long time, and then we did again, but not often, and in another era we would have eventually been completely lost to each other. But now there is social media, the invisible web of a thousand constant virtual connections, the platforms that call us “friends,” still, and perhaps we are. We certainly were, the lakeside intimacy long eroded away. These blue lines pull me back into the illusion of it, into the feeling created in the wake of knowing that yes, you biked 30 miles today. This is were you went. This is what you saw. And I keep watching from afar.