life had begun to feel like a vicious joke.
i’d been in california for over a year, crisp to the wonders of temperate mini-climates, tanned legs, and things i’d only read about back home now within biking distance…things like the ocean.
the wal-mart just off campus stuck out like a sore thumb, tucked in between the authenticity and organic-ness and fresh sushi there were signs that people actually live in califorina all the time.
that excitement fell through the rusted well grates along the side of campus drive on its way from my dorm to yours, apparently, and never negotiated the long slow curve i’d spend the next few years running every afternoon while i should have been in spanish class.
the same road i’d get myself arrested on for driving under the influence at 10am on a sunday morning.
no, you were in your dorm, behind closed doors, suffering.
whatever universal forces brought us from a childhood spent two miles apart, in the same classrooms and on the same soccer teams and pictured together every week in the local newspapers, to an island of beauty, intelligence, and opportunity two thousand miles away, had somehow morphed into forces that delicately drove us in different directions. we were magnets with the same charge.
and you didn’t know it, but i was watching closely.
i was watching from a distance and i was looking in through the eyes of your girlfriend back home and the updates from your dormmates and through conversations with our head coach during road trips you stayed home from.
i was intently and desperately imagining your emotional strife and i was cowardly doing that from behind the scenes. i was afraid.
but you see, at the time i could understand.
you’ve always been like a brother to me, and for all our apparent similarities we’ve always been acutely aware of our differences. for every comparison those journalists made to our talents and success, we were one another’s foil, our grandeur exposed in one another’s weaknesses.
i could understand how hard it was to be away from her. i could understand the mountain such an intelligent person would have to climb to defeat the depression wreaking havoc on his heart and thoughts.
i could understand that i was the last person you could look to for help. that i was the inappropriate joke in your dark comedy, dressed in your clothes but smiling like an idiot. i saw the clouds in your eyes, and i quietly respected the distance that i knew you hated but couldn’t traverse.
i promised her i’d take care of you. and i promised everyone i’d take care of you, because you had to be okay for me to be okay, as selfish as that sounds to me now.
the reflection in my mirror was dying and i would be there when that reflection looked back at me, gave me the slightest sign i was needed on the inside of an inescapable nightmare.
you were running through the night so fast that none of us could catch you.
i rode along campus drive faster than i ever would again that night, as if there was a speed that might take us all the way back to the beginning. i left my bike on the ground and i glistened with a nervous sweat as i trotted through the hospital looking for you.
i walked around that white curtain and i saw you before you saw me. you were wearing dark washed jeans, a blue collared sweater, and nine months of exhausted anguish.
we saw one another and you immediately knew i knew everything.
i saw that realization wash over you and i saw you accept that you weren’t alone.
and we sobbed.
and we sobbed.
and we sobbed.
and at the universe.
it’s gonna be okay, i sputtered.
and we got about climbing that mountain.