Remembering

A Bedtime Story

The air in my room is a little too still, so I crack the window and let the cool November night sing me to sleep. I bury my eyelashes in a soft pillowcase and wish for sleep to come quickly, just this once, a nightly ritual. It doesn’t, as has been the case all week. Despite the restlessness, my eyes are thankful for the rest the nighttime lends. Out the window I can hear cars pass on a highway a few blocks out, a murmur that blends with the breeze.

Clearly, distinctively, the sound of a train interrupts the rhythmic rustling of my body as I kick the sheets away, then pull them back.

I am a little girl again, burying my eyelashes in a soft pillowcase that smells of home, in a blue-walled sanctuary with soccer trophies on a bookshelf across from my bed. A train keeps me awake as it calls in the distance, warning the road of its presence. It’s strange how close it sounds, but it’s not close at all.

I know exactly how long it would take me to pedal there. It’s a long ride, one that takes me around Dead Man’s Curve, down the shaded street with speed bumps every ten yards, past the house with the mean horse, the sometimes-sweet goats, the streets named after flowers, and all the way down the big hill, the really big one with train tracks at the bottom. It’s not close. It’s a long ride, one I’m not allowed to make alone.

And in this new city, far from the room with the blue walls and a bookshelf now empty of childhood trophies, I’m having trouble remembering where I’ve passed a single set of train tracks, where a train could be running close enough I can hear it so clearly, so distinctively, warning the road of its presence.

Maybe it calls to me from the other side of the highway, where I only wander when I’m a little sad and a little lost. Maybe it’s a few blocks out, in a part of this city that remains more foreign to me than the rest. Maybe it’s far from me, past a set of streets named after flowers, at the bottom of a very big hill, a long bike ride away, one I’m still not quite old enough to make alone.

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Random

My Friend

I bought my first pack because I was angry with her. I don’t remember why, exactly. I’m sure it was something dumb. It always was. But I was angry, and I knew my buying a pack of cigarettes would upset her.

***

“You can have this one, but just this one. And you’re only allowed to smoke with me.”
She made me promise, and I did.

A good friend cares about things like this. She cares about not passing along her bad habits, and forgives you when you succumb to your own.

If you’re lucky, you’ll find a good one, maybe just one in your entire lifetime, who manages to be the perfect combination of therapist, mother, big sister, and crack spirit guide. She knows all of your secrets because they are easy to tell her.

She means it when she tells you that your gray hair isn’t as big of a deal as you make it, that you’re being a jerk when you are, and that you actually do deserve better. And she knows it’ll be at least three years before you figure it out for yourself. And when you do, you’ll laugh, the two of you, and she’ll forgive you for not listening the first time because she cares, more than anyone else, really.

At times, your lives ere on the side of absurd, when she wipes your tears all over your face and tells you they’re a natural moisturizer, or when you eat sad-time tacos like they’re a real thing.

In many ways, you’re unstoppable. The two of you are the ultimate Catch Phrase partnership, pulling from years of inside jokes and “Remember that song from that 7th grade Birthday Party mix CD?” moments. Your conversations are impossible to track for anyone else, as they’re placed within a context that took years to construct.

But it’s not your history that keeps you together. It’s not an obligation.¬†You know a friendship like that is worth fighting for, worth preserving.

I bought my first pack of cigarettes because I knew it would upset her, and it did because she cares the most.

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