Boxes & Rain Drops

I am moving in a month, and the unwieldy mountain of stress is identical to the literal mass of things I own.

In an attempt to get a head start on the increasing agenda of tasks I have to do, I’ve begun to sort through miscellany. Boxes I had in storage, my medicine cabinet, old make-up… I reached into my walk-in closet last night and found a small shoebox of letters I have kept for years. Since 2006, to be precise.

It took me a few hours to sift through them all—opening each envelope, inspecting the contents, skimming the hand-crafted words that took commitment and dedication.

These letters all came from a friend who was incarcerated. He and I had dated, and right after we broke up, he did a bad thing and went to jail.

We wrote each other for the entire 6 years he was locked up.

Emotions pelted me throughout the reading like a gentle rainstorm that occasionally picked up or slowed. I was caught off guard by a sentence of deep regret, or my skin blushed by a few compliments of my beauty and effervescence about which he would sometimes reminisce.

I’ve read all of these before. Some of the sentences were so familiar even after all of these years, because, for a time, I had relied so much on the comfort and happiness those paper confessions provided me.

Yet, so many little things I had forgotten. He had written, telling me that I reminded him of a girl in the 2008 Ford Edge commercial, who was lost in thought looking up at the stars with her big, brown eyes.

Or the hand-made stamps his father would carve every year for Christmas cards, and how I had succeeded in putting every other person alive to shame (except his father) with my creative cards I sent him every year for his birthday and Christmas.

Or how he remembered that I used to eat soy bologna sandwiches and never smiled with my teeth in photographs.

It was such a strange and unusual bond we created during his time away, because we both avowed to continue the practice of hand-written letters.

We’d talk about our rituals of writing, where we sat, and what our surroundings looked like as we penned long notes to each other. He’d start letters off with a gregarious greeting, punctuated with far too much excitement for his caged-in existence, musing with eloquent language about my current antics. He shared an intimate look at the inside of a penitentary, while I wrote on and on about outings, my cats, my relationship woes, and, apparently, how great my ass was looking (that came up a few times—I know, because he made sure to comment in his letters sent back).

I held a six-year time capsule that was one-sided. I only had his letters, so I had to fill in the gaps of what was going on in my own world, while he talked about his. I could infer from his commentary easily, and it was like a nicely boxed-up version of my life from the moment he went to jail until the day Rocky and I first broke up. That was the last letter from him before he was released—commenting on how sorry he was to hear about my breakup. That was in 2013.

The letters began with talk of him missing his Myspace page and texting on his phone, and galloped forward into Facebook, various tv shows that had their popularity over that time period, and onward still to mention my employment at the company for which I still work.

I remember when he was released to a half-way house and I was finally able to talk to him on the phone. He had a crappy flip phone, and we talked for over two hours that first night. I chain-smoked cloves, and we delved into everything we didn’t say in our letters.

I went to visit him at his job in West Hartford. We talked a few more times.

That was a few years ago.

He’s free and we don’t talk. Convenience and real life has stripped us of our intimate bond.

But we are Facebook friends…

He often wrote to me, expressing his gratitude for my continued devotedness to writing him, but in the last letter, he stated that I had swayed his mind on womanhood, which went beyond his expectations and even broke down the rusted barrier of his misguided trust.

And now we don’t talk.

The gentle rain of emotions pelted me a little harder right then.

I always re-read everything personal before purging it. I set aside an entire evening to remember. It was only four years later that I decided to take the shoebox down from the shelf, because I need to simplify my personal belongings before moving.

The stress and commitment of moving has caused me to remember what a great friend I have had all these years. How I was once capable of staying true to a friendship with a steadfastness that is only now seen in the few hours left I have to vacate this apartment and start fresh.

Hand-written letters may never be in our future again, but I hope he knows when he reads this that, even in silence, the bonds of friendship still lie.

Shakedown Isaactown

I can’t believe it’s been a year since the last time we came together to do this.

Some people just leave a lasting imprint on the physical world behind them when they leave.

Isaac is one of those people.

It is unusually steamy. The air outside feels like Connecticut’s geographical location has moved to Florida.

I plant myself on the couch and eat a disgusting version of some nutritious experiment with my Nutribullet that turned out much like bland baby food. I don a romper and think about grilling a hamburger patty to eat instead of this pea-green mush.

I lean my head back and my cat, Aum, is lying behind me. I can hear her quiet breathing as she begins to purr. I think about how I love her more than almost anything. How leaning back to rest my head against her ultra soft fur is so reassuring and wonderful. How I won’t always be able to do that, so every time I do, I cherish her fully.

Around 7pm, my best friend, Rachel, and I get our beer and head over to Rose’s house for what we assume to be an epic party, as usual.

There’s a stage set up for musicians to play; food is being grilled. There’s a banner that says “Shakedown Isaactown” and a giant pickle with a hole cut out so you can take your picture. As nighttime falls and more people arrive, the path from the shed house to the fire is lit with glow sticks to look like a magical fairy lane.

Every time I attend an event in honor of Isaac or hosted by Rose, I see familiar faces but I also meet new ones. This is my favorite part. It’s truly a community and family, even if we’ve just met, bound by the common thread of a shared adoration for this man who only stayed on earth for a mere thirty-odd years.

In the shed house stands the keg we all wrote on for Isaac last year at his birthday party. I participate in several games of beer pong. I dominate the table for a while, garnering cheers and gasps with my somehow amazing bounces and throws. I guess all those years at Uconn finally paid off. In between drunken high fives and complaining about my sweat-soaked romper and the hole I tore in the crotch from bending down to pick up a ball, I look at the walls of the shed and think about Isaac. How many times he stood in the exact place I am standing. How it’s so painful that he’s not here to share in this experience with us.

My beautiful friend Jo made a four-hour drive from Vermont to come to the party. She plays guitar and we sing “Blue Jeans” by Lana Del Rey, the song she was playing at Isaac’s celebration at Old Well when I went up and introduced myself to her, because I had learned that song on guitar, too.

Shortly after, it begins to storm pretty heavily. It had rained a little on and off over the evening, with bursts of thunder, but not even enough to put out the fire. This time it is torrential. We all run and huddle under the tents together and listen to the booms as they echo across the sky.

Is this Isaac’s birthday gift to us, perhaps? A group of people forced into even closer quarters with nowhere to escape or find distraction. We have to be there in the moment and wait out the rain. Albeit most are inebriated, we are all there together with nowhere to go. Maybe he just wants us all in the same place for a little while.

Once the rain calms down, Rachel and I Irish-goodbye and make our way home on the windy back roads of Canton and West Simsbury. In my room, I sloppily tear off my romper and plop onto my bed.

The thing is, I know I will see this group again. They are my friends. Some I know better than others, but I cherish knowing them, because the way I was brought to them, although heart-breaking, is so beautiful.

To be someone who makes an impact every day is important. Yet, if your impression on others continues to ripple out and echo across time like a loud crash of thunder, then your breaths on earth were not wasted.

Promises to Myself

I found this loose note tucked into one of my college journals last night. The note is dated January 5, 2002.

It is a bit cheesy, as I was lofty in my writing style at the time, but it’s amazing how every single item in the note still rings true to me today. I can proudly say I’ve adhered to every single one without even remembering I had written this. 

Promises to Myself:

  • Don’t give up on love or life
  • Remember after a storm, there’s always a rainbow
  • Be a good friend always, even when the other friend isn’t being very good to me
  • Never underestimate my emotions and feelings because of something someone else may say; they are what make me a beautiful human being
  • Know that a greater love shall arise; I will not be alone in life
  • Forgive others; we are not infallible
  • Know that it will all come in good time; patience has gotten me this far
  • Remember all is not lost; if a friend really loves you, they might not be able to show it, but it’s in his heart and will someday be known
  • Pick myself up after being kicked down
  • Be a friend to someone who they will never forget