I really did not want to write tonight.
With the year finally coming to an end, and a major writing project teetering on the fickle razor’s edge of a final completion, my plans for the last evening of 2020 were rather unspectacular. I was just going to hunker down here in my rather unremarkable bubble, safely insulated from the sickly city streets of Wayne, turn on the playlist hinting at mediocre successes just around the corner, and stare blankly at a meaninglessly sterile screen.
Then my phone bleeped.
Five simple words sent from the heights of the Smoky Mountains greeted my eyes when I managed to wrestle my phone into a sufficiently unlocked state. Five words that were enough to change my whole evening.
I hadn’t heard from her in a while, at least not in a significant manner. Our paths had mostly parted when we no longer worked together inside the depths of that cavernous auto parts warehouse. We had, however, maintained some social media ties and even once managed to meet for a brief coffee, just to catch up and stay somewhat in touch.
But we had really been something together, back in the day. And it all started on our very first day of training, each of quickly realizing that the other was very much a smart ass cut from the same intentionally confrontational cloth, as we struggled to make our way through the mountains of pointless employment forms and the supplementary films very obviously produced in the late 80’s on the limp curls of a shoestring’s budget.
And I think it was the rubber band fight that helped us the most.
From that first awkward day forward, we were thick as thieves. We would constantly make fun of coworkers when not actively employed in more complicated practical jokes and workplace hijinks. More times than not, we worked together and we passed those hours play fighting or just generally tearing shit up. Or talking about anything and everything because between us, there were never any secrets.
We would even hang out together sometimes after work, throwing down drinks and playing endless games of pool to help wash away the stink of a long day spent pulling overpriced car parts.
It was always a special kind of fun spending that time with her. It was simple. We never complicated each other, only enhanced. And in a lot of ways, it was far more intimate than had we actually been defined by a traditional relationship’s binding label.
And then I lost that friendship, for what I thought was seemingly forever.
For reasons I could never fully understand, she kept giving her heart to the wrong kind of man. The kind of man that would belittle, rather than triumph. The kind of man who would threaten, rather than understand. The kind of man who forced control, rather than simply let flourish.
And those same very small men were threatened by the prospect of friendships that they could never understand. For far too many years I had to keep my distance for fear of having my presence, even a virtual one, spark the rage of a jealous soul lashing out.
I simply did not want to make things worse and I could not have lived with myself had I been the cause of even a single threat of violence towards hers.
So I stepped away.
And tonight, she stepped back in.
It didn’t feel like it had been years since we actually had the opportunity to talk freely- hesitant moments at most. Because we picked right back up where we had been once before, each of us sharing snippets of our stories to fill in some of the too many gaps.
She has since started the process of extricating herself from her most recent troubling situation, finally unbinding herself from toxically abusive circumstances. And I am just so proud that I will get to finally see her soar, free to fly unfettered by the crushing burden of others.
She is safe. And she is free. And she is happy.
This year of 2020 started like a motherfucker. And I thought it was going to end in the exhausted whimper of a grueling pandemic’s ceaseless pestilence.
Instead, I find myself ending the year having regained a friendship that means the absolute world to me. And that makes me want to hit those winding roads rolling gently south to mountain’s majesty, hard.
It would be worth it just to hear her laugh again.