Cardinal Directions

Stand by for tachycardia.

I was smiling as I merged onto the interstate, on my way to the crown jewel of the road trip. I didn’t need the GPS, this route was engraved in my brain long before the age of cellphones. This time, cornfields appeared scenic rather than adding to the dullness of the drive.

Naturally, I hit construction. I drummed my fingers on the steering wheel as I crept along and ended up turning on the GPS to see where I was. The markers I once had were lost to time. I was closer than I thought.

I would see him soon.

Cue for tachycardia.

He was my companion all those years I called McLean County home – good times, bad times, he was there through it all; he was the only thing that never waivered in those years of gross uncertainty. It had been ages since we reconnected. I even got a hotel room nearby so I could spend every moment possible with him.

And then I saw the sign: Bloomington-Normal Next 3 Interchanges.

Go for tachycardia!

Just like the old days, I could feel my pulse quicken with shallowed breathing. I instinctively turned off Exit 164, heading south towards campus. I made a left on Raab Road to the free parking lot there – an oasis in a town that would tow a car stopped at a red light. I saw him standing at the far end of the lot, looking as he always did. I wanted to burst I was so happy. He looked the same but with better signage; just like me. I jumped out of the car and glided into his embrace.

His name was Constitution Trail, a nineteenth century railroad track turned running trail.

I threw my headphones in and took off at full speed, heading north. I had to see my old silos. In my day, the trail went straight, as the steam locomotives once did. Now, there was a giant curve that rerouted the trail under I-55, along Linden Street, before it swung back west to the original trail.

I, too, have had my trail rerouted under the interstate. I don’t follow the same path that I used to either. I’ve blazed my own way, too.

I had no idea how I far I had gone, as too much adrenaline was pumping for me to care. The silos at Herrick, my old endpoint, had disappeared! In its place was a cellphone tower. This was peak 2019 for me. I noticed the trail extended past its previous end and I had no choice but to follow it. Where did it lead? I figured if I hit Hudson, I went too far. Spoiler alert: the trail ended in a cornfield. I-39 loomed off to my left with a backdrop of wind turbines that never used to be there. I didn’t recognize Ziebarth Road, but I should have, as that was part of the short cut to my internship. Like Constitution, I have also been extended from where I was 20 years ago. My silos have disappeared as well.

I barnstormed back south into Uptown Normal, the biggest change I encountered yet. Normal and I both got a roundabout. Traffic flows better and the greenspace reminded me of London. I, too, no longer have a four way stop. My life is much more organic and go with the flow than when I was raising the red and white banner. I’ve grown into my own.

I walked towards my old apartment, as a lump formed in my throat. I brushed a tear away as I turned around to head back to my car, quite a distance away. I needed to check into the hotel and clean myself up for dinner. It was a long slog back to the car.


The next morning, after my standing order at The Coffeehouse (toasted plain bagel and iced mocha), Constitution and I ran the south part of the trail. The excitement had faded into utter joy. I was in my element under the canopy of trees, a perfect summer day for a run – basking in the nostalgia and the beauty of the day. I wanted to bottle up that moment to relive it later. This part of the trail hadn’t changed a bit, it was as if I was a college senior again.

There are parts of me that are the same and will never change: my crazy sense of adventure is one of them.

I always turned around at Atwood Station, but I knew this time I was going further – I eventually hit the end of the trail and then off-roaded through a neighborhood on Bunn Drive before turning around just before I hit Veteran’s Parkway. I would have taken the spur along GE Road if I had another day. My hips were at their breaking point with nearly 20 miles under my feet in under 24 hours.

I’m not 22 anymore. The scenery of campus and my weary body were stark reminders that time had moved on. There’s only one person left from this era who knows my heart in real time. A couple of them will occasionally pop up in my inbox or text, but it has been awhile. I thought about reaching out to ones lost to time, but I didn’t want to submarine anyone – appearing out of no where without context.

I was hesitant to leave. Like parting lovers, I wanted just a few more hours, days, weeks with my Constitution. I would have grabbed lunch downtown Bloomington on my way south, but I couldn’t remember where anything was and the city center seemed stoic and uninviting. Before I knew it, BloNo was in my rearview mirror.


It warmed my heart so much to be back in McLean County. I’ve decided this will be a retreat – when I need a place to write, I’m coming here. The days of the birds are gone and they’re not coming back. Perhaps I can make another footprint here with words. My entire left atrium is dedicated to this place. Despite the distance, it is never far from me.

BloNo? I say BloYeah.

11 September 2001

Tuesdays were my favorite.

As a member of the Army ROTC (Reserve Officers Training Corps) in college, Tuesdays were the only day I didn’t have to line up in formation at 0600 on the other side of campus for PT (Physical Training) – or Physical Torture, as I called it. It was basically an hour long gym class from hell.

I slept in.

I awoke around 0930, central time, in my dorm and turned the local rock station on the radio. Sometimes their morning show DJ got a little raunchy. This morning, the main guy was going off about something, I was only half listening. And then I caught, “….yeah, and then planes flying into the World Trade Center, man. I mean, wow, the devastation and <insert odd giggling here> ….this is….I’m so….people are dying, man.”

I strode across the room and turned it off. That was a new low for this radio station. Joking about planes flying into the World Trade Center in New York? Wow. That was beyond diabolical and had no business being on the air. I was disgusted. How could you even joke about something like that?

My roommate had already gone to class, as I stood there. I was in the middle of Illinois. It seemed really odd to me that they would be joking about something so specific, so far away. I wondered for a moment if there was any shred of truth to this. I turned on CNN to check.

And the breath got caught in my throat. The second tower had just fallen.

Like the rest of America, I sat glued to my television screen. That odd giggling of the DJ was not disrespect: that was the utter disbelief of what was happening in real time and the rule of no silence during a radio broadcast. My boyfriend lived down the hall (I was on a co-ed floor) and I ran to his room, trying to make sense of it. We then heard the Pentagon was hit – his mom worked near there. We tried to call her but the lines were busy all day. We were on eggshells, waiting for her to call. We learned later she was safely evacuated.

I called my dad at work. After everything I said, he answered with, “I don’t know, Simonne. I don’t know.” This was new territory for all of us.

I walked to my human biology class in a daze. The large lecture hall only had a smattering of students, all of us dazed. Our prof walked in with tear streaked mascara and shouted at us, “What are you doing here? Go back home, just go back! Class is cancelled.” She grabbed her stuff and sobbed as she walked out.

I walked like a zombie back to my dorm, not sure of what was suppose to happen next. I had never been to New York. I never knew anyone from New York. Yet in this moment, I felt like New York was home. It was a very strange juxtaposition that only made sense in the wake of the tragedy.

PT resumed the next day and I couldn’t wait to hear what my Lieutenant Colonel, the highest ranking officer on campus, had to say about all this. Right before our run, he huddled us up and spoke about the terrorist attack. “We got this, they’re not going to win, we will respond. Don’t worry. We got this.”

Hoowah! America would come out swinging and win, just as we always had.

Our college put together a rally on the Quad with a speaker from the Army. Classes were cancelled so everyone could attend on that sunny September Thursday at high noon. My boyfriend chose to stay in the dorm and play video games, but I was there. Everyone showed up, every group was represented. It was like a funeral, everyone was somber and quiet, yet it helped console the student body.

The Saturday following was our first home football game. I was part of the ROTC Colorguard during the national anthem. When we were out on the field, I can’t even begin to describe the silence. The stands were filled to the brim and yet when I closed my eyes, it felt like I was standing alone in the stadium. No movement, no sound, no babies crying, nothing. It was the strangest, most ethereal silence I have ever experienced. Nothing else has come close to it.

We had a Field Training Exercise where we were suppose to take Blackhawk helicopters to the location – needless to say, we took school busses instead. Five months later I got on a plane to fly out to Washington DC for a week. Friends freaked out, “How can you fly after what just happened? Aren’t you scared?” No. I also walked alone at night and refused to live in fear.

Today, 18 years later, this post-9/11 world is still unfolding.

So the Past Walks into a Bar…

I waited for her on the quad of our alma mater.

I arrived first, feeling nervous. It had been well over 10 years since we last spoke heart to heart. How much had changed? Would it be all surface level banter? Would I tell her of my struggles and open my heart to her, like the old days? Or would she be a stranger, far too removed to share that old bond of friendship?

My old college roommate – a long lost best friend and a woman I once considered a sister – was meeting me for dinner.

“Simonne!” Out of no where, she sprinted up to me and gave me the biggest hug, nearly knocking me over. Deborah hadn’t aged a day, in fact, she seemed locked in time at 25, despite being almost 40. Her long blonde hair and shining blue eyes looked more of a college student than a married mother of three who had a corner office and her own secretary.

10+ years might as well have been a few weeks for all the difference it made.

We chatted with animation as we made our way to a local college hangout joint for dinner. I forgot how easy it was to talk to her and how she listened so intently.

No sooner had we gotten our food and we were already diving into the nitty gritty of our lives.

“I got an IUD and its been wonderful,” said Deborah. Then she chuckled, “Look at us, we’ve hung out all of a half hour and we’re already talking about birth control.”

It was quite reminiscent of our college chats. “Well, we decided to go the infertility route, and so far, that’s worked pretty well for us,” I deadpanned.

Our eyes locked and then we both burst out laughing. It was the first time I could genuinely laugh in the face of my childlessness. Once we stopped laughing, she touched my hand with sad eyes. “I’m so sorry that’s part of your story. What happened?” The whole unedited saga came out. 

She was silent, nodding as I finished my story. “Five years ago, huh? That was right about the time my marriage impolded.” It was my turn to listen with wide eyes. “We were almost destroyed, but counseling saved us. We’ve been a great team ever since.”

I shook my head in disbelief. What upset me the most was that we were both struggling with big issues and didn’t lean on each other because we lost touch. 

We left the restaurant and wandered around campus. We both are diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and empaths: I’m an Enneagram 9, she’s a 2. I told her how much her words of encouragement had an effect on me after college, by calling me out on my friends with benefits situation.

“Wow, I sounded like such a dick, I’m so sorry,” she apologized.

“No, it came from a place of love, you called me out on my bullshit,” I said. “I needed to hear those those words.”

She signed. “It still sounded harsh. But yeah…I could use a Deborah in my life now.”

I nodded. “Everyone needs a Deborah.”

I confessed I thought I was too clingy when we were roommates, constantly chatting with her at all hours about the boys I got myself tangled up with.

“Oh Simonne,” she said, “we were kids, we were just trying to figure life out. I never saw you as clingy or a burden. I always thought I was the bad roommate because I hardly cleaned and had stuff everywhere.”

I laughed. “I have no memory of you being a bad roommate or leaving a mess.”

It was so cathartic.

We stopped in at our old bar and it was still 2003 in there. We grabbed our drinks and we talked about the old days. I told her I lost touch with the boys of college, she mentioned my ex-boyfriend’s wife looks like a carbon copy of me; I found that quite amusing. She talked about her kids (“This doesn’t bother you?” “Nope, not one bit, keep going.”) and how she ran into one of our old mutual friends from the parties we hosted, and I told her about my writing.

A couple hours later, she had to go home. I was so sad to see her go. A part of me felt like we’d walk back to our old apartment and everything would be as it was. But it wasn’t. We were older and wiser; you couldn’t hide our battle scars since our days as students or the fact we had become more of our own. She was still the same old Deborah, but now she had this quiet widsom about her that wasn’t there before. Her confidence was obvious: it wasn’t hidden away like it was in college. I wonder what she would say about me.

Deborah stated that she is terrible at keeping in touch. I’m determined not to lose contact with her, now that we are caught up on each other’s lives. She is too beautiful of a soul to be lost to time again. Like Phoebe, Ruth, Madge, and Rebeka, they are the women I want by my side as I grow older.

If you have a Deborah in your life and too many years have gotten between you, reach out. A friendship may sail back into the harbor. Or it may not, but it’s well worth finding out.

Back in the Uni-Verse

I was back in the badlands of my alma mater a few weeks ago, before this whole hurricane mess started. It brought back a lot of memories and made me sad at how campus has changed from what was seared into my memory.

I got to share this experience with Ruth, as we walked through campus multiple times that weekend, reliving our glory days and relating stories of our time there. We also explored some new additions and I am jealous they weren’t there when I was.

Maybe it was the 2 glasses of iced mocha, maybe it was because an entire chamber of my heart is dedicated to that town, or maybe it was because I hang onto the past (a syndrome of genealogical research, I suppose), but I wrote a poem about it.

I haven’t written poetry in years, since I was a twenty something trying to compartmentalize my feeling toward an ex, but I did write a lot through college. I found myself scribbling down lines as they came into my head after walking past my first apartment. Oh, if those walls could talk, I’d be in trouble.

In true Simonne style, there’s a lot of hidden meanings in this piece, but you would have to know certain things about the town for it to make sense.

While walking to the apartment, I half expected to see a 25-year-old John with a duffel bag slung over his shoulder and a big goofy smile. He would follow Ruth and I to my old apartment, as if time hadn’t moved on, I still had a key, and I was hosting breakfast. But John is in his 40’s now, probably married – maybe kids – wearing a MAGA hat, if my assumptions are correct. I don’t actually know, nor do I want to.

I wrote this with John in mind while walking through campus.

Are
You can’t stay here
The carbon, nickel, and gold are far too heavy to cast aside
I won’t meet you on the sidewalk
You can’t park there anymore
There’s an apartment building there now
I look around
I see the tower
From the other side of the tracks
To the colorful Section 8
And the windows where once upon a time
You would have been seen in the room
You fell below the division
I fell north
I close my eyes
I still see those Welch eyes
And that smile
That used to melt me
Every single time
But she isn’t here anymore
And now I fell north
As that cold prairie wind
Penetrates my bones
Still I look for traces of her
And find only fragments of memories
You are not here
No photographs exist
No special places we called our own
I don’t remember what it felt like
I don’t even remember why
And now nothing remains
As I once again fell north

Rebeka

Rebeka and I met in the 5th grade, after my best friend at the time said she was cool and should hang out with us. I was always leery about newcomers, but my friend’s assessment was spot on: Rebeka and I hit it off instantly. She was a complete geek, wicked smart, too cool to let anything get under her skin, and had a crazy sense of fashion. In a word, she was awesome.

We both had terrible hair through middle school and in high school, we came into more of our own. Our friendship bond grew the most in high school – we did practically everything together. Rebeka hosted parties that still live on in infamy in her parents’ basement. They included great music, snack food, games of pool, a plethora of inside jokes, and an entire room painted for blacklight use. I should also mention we were straight edge: these parties were filled with Mountain Dew. Alcohol wasn’t on our radar.

Our lives would diverge on different paths, yet we stayed friends. When I became a Christian junior year, Rebeka stood as a hardline agnostic. “If that’s what you feel you need to do, then you gotta do it,” she said after I told her of my conversion. She never put limits on people or gave me grief over Christ. Rebeka cared deeply for her friends (even though she acted all cool like she didn’t) and always let people be who they really were around her. I think that’s why she’s always had people gravitate towards her: Rebeka was a safe harbor.

College is when things got interesting. She visited me at my college dorm (our colleges were a state apart) and ended up dating my boyfriend’s roommate. I’ll never forget the time I was walking to my dorm bathroom and she came strolling out. “What are you doing here?” “I’m here with M. Sorry, I forgot to tell you I was coming.” Classic Rebeka. I did manage to get her to my favorite coffee shop on campus to catch up on life.

The bottom dropped out when they broke up and it was messy. M took it extremely hard. About a month later, Rebeka called me on the phone. “Um, we have to talk about somethings,” she said slowly. “There’s kinda a big reason I left M.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah. I, uh, kinda started dating my roommate. I’m gay.”

My eyebrows jumped off my forehand. Gay? Rebeka? She’s always dated guys and there was no indication of anything other than straight.

“Are we still friends?” I could hear the fear in her voice. “I’ve already told everyone else. I told you last because, well, you’re a Christian, and I thought you’d stop speaking to me.”

“Oh wow, Rebeka, no, we’re still friends and I will never stop speaking to you. This changes nothing between us.”

And so, our friendship continued on.

I gushed to her after I met my husband – she later told me she knew he was the one from my phone call. Rebeka brought her underage and possibly schizophrenic girlfriend to my wedding – her safe harbor ways often brought in the crazy ones too. Rebeka eventually settled down with a nice girl and the last time they visited me in North Carolina, I sensed their relationship was in its death keel. I was right.

And then there was Chris. “She’s really cool, you gotta keep this one,” I said to Rebeka discretely after I met her for the first time. Rebeka eventually married Chris after years of dating and I claim Chris as my sister-in-law. Rebeka often talked about moving down to my neck of the woods – she fell in love with the area like I did. After years of her saying “maybe someday,” her and Chris finally made the move a few years ago.

So, I live 1,000 miles away from home, but my best friend since 5th grade lives on the other side of town. How about that!

We always get together for Christmas morning, campfires, game nights, and true to form, she still hosts parties that live in infamy with better food (we’re talking gourmet) and we graduated from Mountain Dew to alcohol.

I haven’t heard from her in a few months. We run in different circles, yet I always try to keep up with her. Chris suffers from extreme social anxiety, so I think a lot of interaction is limited, which I totally understand.

Right now, I’m waiting to hear back from her. I’ve invited them down for some wine and cheese via voicemail. I hope she’s able to make it. Despite all the changes we’ve weathered, it’s nice to connect with someone who has known you since the beginning. We differ on many aspects of life, but the last time we hung out, we chatted for almost 3 hours straight.

Rebeka and I will be friends to the very end. No matter what.

A Tale of 2 Phone Calls

Lately, I keep getting woken up by the past.

Tale #1
Rrrrrttt. Rrrrrttt.

My phone was blowing up on vibrate.

Rrrrttt. Rrrrrttt.

It was 6am. No one ever calls with good news at 6am.

Rrrrttt. Rrrrttt.

I opened one eye, my brain still foggy from the dream of a machine at work that looked like it was destroyed by a tornado. I glanced at my phone. 2 missed calls and a few text messages from Phoebe. “I need to get away. I need to think. Alex is still with the girl. Can I come to your house today? Do you have plans?”

Whoa. This just got serious. “Give me a minute to wake up and I’ll call,” I texted back. Five minutes later, I’m pacing in the backyard, talking with Phoebe. She was surprisingly calm when I spoke with her, despite the fact she had caught her husband with another woman a few days earlier.

Phoebe flipped the script and left on the lam – Alex’s modus operandi. She disappeared without an explanation, en route to the airport for my house. I sent her a picture of my credit card so she could book her plane tickets without detection, promising to write me a check when she landed. A few hours later, I picked her up at the airport. Ironically, I had cleaned the entire house the day prior for no reason. “The Lord knew,” she said. This is also why I keep my guest room in a constant state of readiness. You never know who the Lord will send your way with a moment’s notice.

Phoebe looked the same, as if 12 years hadn’t slipped by, and we picked up right where we left off. We spent time at the beach, ate good food, sipped wine, and discussed her situation extensively. For 3 days I watched her oscillate between a confident Christian woman who was going to contact a divorce attorney to a puddle of sadness and despair, longing for her marriage to made whole again. I was glad to share my home with her, thankful that she was eating and sleeping – something she hadn’t done much of since the blow up.

An ending has yet to be written. But that dream though: all of us work in the same health care department, and I wonder if that shattered machine in the dream means what I think it does. So much prayer. So much.


Tale #2
The other morning I woke up to a group message from the old church I attended in college. They’re hosting a homecoming for the youth group – the whole lot of us were invited for a picnic. Everyone was replying – people I hadn’t thought about in years appeared on my phone – even Jacob and Hannah are attending. This ought to be interesting.

A private message from Ruth was there too – the reception is one week after we were suppose to go on one of our epic adventures – and we decided to table the adventure in favor of the meet-up. Over the years, we had mused about “getting the band back together” and what it would be like to do a reunion. And now, we have that chance. We’ve booked a hotel room and we are each other’s date for the “bring your family” event. She’s like a sister, so it works. My husband had a gig anyway.

I am ecstatic to be back in my college town, especially with Ruth, to walk down memory lane together, in addition to making new memories. My only concern is that John’s last post was in my college town and I could run into him, if he’s still there. We haven’t stayed in contact and I have no desire to change that status. Nonetheless, I am really looking forward to seeing everyone again and hopefully making some new friendship connections with the old church crew.


These sort of things usually come in 3’s, so I’m a bit pensive of the next way the past will pop into my present.

Come what may.

A fissure in time seems unlikely.

Right?

 

Ruth

I met Ruth when I accidentally showed up at the wrong college ministry freshman year (I ended up staying). We looked alike, too, which sometimes caused people to mistake us for sisters. We always found this hilarious.

In college we hung out a bit – the occasional coffee or swimming at the indoor pool in the university recreation center. We’d tread water in the deep end and chat.

Ruth was my polar opposite back then: in my days of too many boys and too much alcohol, she was on the straight and narrow. She would have been aghast that I would ever entertain the thought of getting drunk or was not a virgin – so I just left out those parts of my life.

Nonetheless, we found common ground, and the many memories of this college Bible group have Ruth in them and we stayed close. One night, she was discussing how after graduation she was going to live with her brother for several months who was living in Europe. I was jealous of her upcoming adventure, not to mention I had a slight crush on her gorgeous older brother. And that’s when she said it:

“You should come for a visit!” Oh my goodness, that was too good to pass up!

The three of us spent a week traveling around England with no particular plan, just wherever the trains happened to take us that morning. I loved it!

This trip cemented our status as lifelong friends, in what was supposed to be a friendship that faded away with college life. Ruth became one of my closest confidants in my adult life. The days of editing my life for her ears had long since passed. She knew everything. In time we had grown up: I cleaned up my act and Ruth realized the world was not as black and white as she thought it to be.

We kept each other in the loop about our various romantic escapades, struggles, and joys – as singles and as wives. We also shared the hardship of infertility. Our stories were night and day different, but both of our homes remained silent without children.

A few years ago, we decided to restart our adventures by meeting halfway between our homes, as we live quite a distance apart. Our adventures have spanned a near-death experience in West Virginian mountains and backpacking cities. We try to meet up at least once a year and do something fun: it’s usually outdoors, involves a glass of wine, a tourist stop, and deep conversations.

A friend like Ruth is one of those rare gems – I think of her more as a sister. Her intelligence, character, and love of God have not only inspired me but buoyed me through some really hard times, as well as contributed to the good times. I know I can call her at any time to tell her anything, and she will always be gentle and listen. She doesn’t judge, yet she’ll call a spade a spade when it needs to be said. I am so grateful for her honesty and her 24 karat persona.

I’m excited to see where the Lord is going to lead Ruth. She made the decision to leave her abusive marriage after many failed attempts to fix it. Now that she is free from that burden, I know she will blossom, like the tree by the water in Jeremiah 17:7-8.

….and I can’t wait for our next adventure!

 

Deborah

Deborah and I were not supposed to be friends.

She was a high school girlfriend of my then-college boyfriend and she was a nutcase. She was loud, annoying, and often came running up to my boyfriend and I in the university dining commons, greeting him with a big hug. They stayed friends, you see. I went out of my way to avoid her at all costs.

My boyfriend hosted a small gathering of friends at his house with the intent of getting drunk one night – my first foray into drinking. He and the guys left to get the goods from someone else – we were under age – and he had also invited Deborah who showed up just as they were leaving – I stayed behind.

I was stuck with her. Alone. I was livid.

I attempted guarded small talk with her only to be nice, praying the boys would be quick. As we chatted, we realized we had loads in common. When the guys came back with liquor an hour later, we were already old friends. Deborah and I were giggling and drunkenly hanging on each other as the night went on. My boyfriend just shook his head and smiled. He certainly had a taste for fun girls. I misjudged this one.

Our friendship quickly flourished into a strong bond of sisterhood as college rolled on. Our senior year we got an apartment together and painted it in the most ostentatious colors we could find, which included purple, lime green, blue, yellow, and neon pink. Her creativity and genuine personality complemented my own. Together, Deborah and I were unstoppable.

Our adventures were many: road trips that started at 11pm and ended as the sun came up, Spring Break in Florida (we ended up in St. Augustine/Disney when we realized the party in Daytona Beach was not our scene), and hosted legendary parties in our colorful apartment. 

Deborah also became my voice of reason: when the relationship with my boyfriend turned toxic, she called me out on it and assured me I would be okay when it ended. She was also a vocal opponent of my liaison with John (my friend with benefits), evident that it was not healthy long term. I leaned heavily on her in these times, perhaps more than I should have in hindsight. 

After college, she married her college sweetheart and we lived within an hour of each other. We went to concerts, saw indie films, and drank beer together. Her encouraging words urged me to re-evaluate my direction in life; she was the catalyst for refocusing myself to God and making better relationship choices. Deborah expressed dismay in my decision to leave Illinois and head into the unknown of North Carolina, but she knew I needed it. Deborah and Phoebe were the ones who locked up my apartment with me when I left for the coast.

After I moved, Deborah got pregnant and I met my husband. She morphed into a mom, while I pursued the traveling career girl route. We kept in touch sporadically, but when we met up, her conversations were limited to topics surrounding motherhood and my European adventures were all I could share, neither of us understanding the other’s experience. We had entered different worlds, and I was sad that the vibrant imaginative woman I knew was replaced with one who droned on about diaper rash.

Our communication became less and less. 

She had another baby by the time I hit my infertility phase. I never told her of my struggles. Occasionally we’ll exchange “How are you? I am great!” text messages. I haven’t seen her in years. I have no idea what she’s really like anymore, how her triumphs and failures have shaped her since our multicolored days as college students. I wish she could know me now, how I’ve changed for the better since college. Her social media feed projects a loving mother, a doting wife, and a confident executive. I know she is all of those things.

I wish I still knew the woman behind the smile.

Maybe years from now, Deborah and I will rekindle our friendship; we’ll once again reveal what’s in our hearts to each other over a drink, laughing about the good old days, caring for each other in the moment, and sharing our dreams of the future. 

I refuse to lose hope.

Writing Challenge Day 24: Something You Miss

My college roommate once said she could not fathom how anything mattered in her life until after her first child was born. Since I was only part of her pre-child life, I took offense. The part she so hastily discarded as rubbish is, and always has been, near and dear to my heart.

It was at State University that I learned how to live. On my own terms. That was a luxury I did not have in the house growing up.

And I miss that college life.

I miss the moments of self discovery, learning more about myself and how I interacted with the world.

I miss the reckless abandonment of cross country road trips, spending 2am in a diner, and sipping vodka cocktails on the apartment steps after a long week on a Friday night.

I miss the boys – friends and the ones who would wake up next to me in the morning – where are they now? What are they doing? Are they happy with where life took them? Do they think of me as I do them?

I miss the relaxed schedule of classes, without the drone of a long workday, of which pivots everything else in my life.

I miss my sanctuaries of the coffee shop, the running trail, and the 18th story lounge of my old dorm that towered over the city. All of those places shaped me as a writer and provided a sounding board.

I miss the smell of the stage where I worked for slightly more than minimum wage. I can’t recall the scent I used to revel in; I’ve been away too long.

I miss having friends readily available. Now, I have to take in account distance, jobs, husbands, children – the list goes on. Gone are the days of hanging out randomly.

While I am more comfortable in my skin now than I was back in the day, I miss the person that was me. I miss the people my friends were before jobs, family, and life events changed them. I’m much more jaded now than I was – even though I’m childless and driving the same car I had in college. Even I haven’t escaped the sands of time.

While I lost my roommate to the abyss of motherhood and career, a college friend I occasionally hung out with – we ran in different circles – is now one of my closest confidants. She’s the one I call when the pain gets too much to bear. She knows all about the storms rocking my world, and I share in hers. I miss I didn’t make the most of our time when we lived a few moments away from each other; and now a 10+ hour drive separates us.

I’m perpetually stuck between what was and what is. I miss that old life so much, but I am thankful for where I am now, healthier in all aspects of life.

I just wish I could go back and visit once in awhile.

Four Nine

The date echoed in my head. 9 April. It was like recalling a dream from months ago: I knew it had significance, but I did not know why.

And then I remembered. It was his birthday.

He was my first real boyfriend, my college sweetheart. We dated for a solid year and half before things began to warp like an old record. We started out starry-eyed and in love; he was the ying to my yang as we shared so many adventures together. After that first beautiful year and a half, we had several intermissions and reboots of our relationship, all of them foiled – mostly because there was always another girl or he was too selfish to care. The emotional abuse he inflected on me should not have been tolerated. We were not compatible, no matter how much my heart told me we were.

It’s been over a decade since we ended it all. A year after our last attempt at being a couple, we met in a dusty midwestern bar at my request – the kind only washed up locals go to – and aired all our grievances, caught up on each other’s lives, and reminisced about those good old days. Not only was it cathartic, but I also got to spend a few hours with the same guy I had fallen head over heels for so many years ago. I knew that persona was temporary, however. We ended on a good note as we hugged in the parking lot long after last call was announced. While it felt good in the moment and as now looking back, the days and weeks that followed that meeting left my scarred heart bleeding and infected. The ebb and flow of time have softened that scar. I told him never to contact me again before we parted. Here I am, nearly 15 years later and he still has kept that promise and I am grateful for that.

I found myself thinking about him randomly, on his 34th birthday. I know so little about his life now, but I choose to keep it that way. It meant taking people off of my social media feeds that were still strongly connected to him, despite the fact he lives over 1,000 miles away. This cold hearted sniveling super rat (as Holly Golightly would say) is a husband and father now. His wife is a nurse, blonde, and has one of those smiles that lights up a room. I don’t know what he does for work, but I’m going to assume it is in the same vein of his college major. Despite the healing and the time that has passed, I have no desire to reconnect with him or view his online profiles or to know details about his life.

With all these thoughts swirling in my head, I found myself praying for him. Last I knew, he was not a Christian. His priority had always been himself. Maybe it’s different now with a family; maybe it’s not. I lifted him up in prayer in honor of his birthday, that the Light of Christ may shine into his life. That he may turn to God in those moments of both triumph and disaster and for a truly spiritual Christian to reflect the love of the Father to him and his family.

Perhaps we’ll meet again in Heaven, both of us washed clean in robes of white. That would phenomenal .

So here’s to him on his birthday: may this 34th trip around the sun be beautiful and covered in the glory of the Lord.