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“I’m so happy to be home,” she says.

“It’s so different. It’s just like it was when I left. It’s so different from where I was. I just can’t explain it. And no one is asking me to.”

“It’s like PTSD,” she says.

“Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Or maybe it’s the opposite of that. But it’s sorta the same. Like I just experienced something terrible. And I come home, back here, and this place is not terrible at all. It’s so normal. It’s identical to life before I left, like nothing here has changed. Because it hasn’t.”

“And anyway, I felt it right away, when I got here. This anti-PTSD thing.”

“Oh, and I’m allowed to talk about PTSD, because I met soldiers over there when I was gone. I learned some stuff about their lives. Anyway so it’s not like I have no idea what I’m talking about.”

“So, I stepped out of the airport, after 24 hours of traveling, and, bam, here I was. And maybe that doesn’t sound very impressive. And people don’t seem very impressed. And that’s the thing.”

“I can’t explain what I’ve been through or much of the things I’ve seen. It’s a different world. You have to experience it yourself before you can understand me. So, PTSD, right? You’re living in this world, like me, but at the same time, I’ve lived in another one, and that world’s not completely gone from me. It’s like jet-lag, but culture-lag; experience-lag. It wasn’t really wonderful or beautiful. And you’re not asking, either. And to talk about it just feels like complaining. I can’t describe it right. And you’re not listening to what I’m not saying.”

“This world doesn’t seem real,” she says.

“I can understand what those soldiers must go through. This is a dream land. It’s like nothing happened, like those terrible things never happened. But they did. And it’s so confusing. And you can’t talk about it. See? I’m talking in circles. But I have to say something.”

There is a man. He is walking toward me on a long dark path. He could be young or old. It might be a woman. We will pass each other and we will not speak. And the path will still be long and dark.

Let’s go to the rose garden and not take a single picture. We’ll weave past the smart-phone-slingers and we’ll run, colors blurring until there are no colors; until there is every color. The roses — don’t touch them, just smell them, and try to remember the exact shade of pink that no camera could capture anyway.

Death might surely be coming for us soon. And we’ll lie in our beds surrounded by all of the plastic containers we’ve emptied in our lifetimes. Our vision will blur at the edges like it did we when were running past the roses in the garden; we’ll see every color — we’ve seen every color, while we’ve been running — and then we will see nothing.

On the long walk home from the garden, we’ll walk into the city center, and through. The lights will glare down on us, from every angle and corner, every color that neon comes in. The lights they flicker, and drop, and loop, and blink. The signs they politely and shyly and cunningly ask you for every penny you have — every 99 cents. And we will give them most of everything we have, we will leave it all here: some of it drops from us as we run, some we left quietly with that man we never spoke to on the dark park path, some leaves from our eyes as we smile at little dogs and little children and at strangers’ backs as they hold hands with other strangers that they love.

In August, one sign reads, the roses will droop and their petals will fall to the ground. The pinks and reds and purples and yellows will all fade to brown, the same color, the same shade. They will be swept up — this is a tidy city, after all — and dumped into a clear plastic garbage bag and left at the same street corner as the convenience store you bought a candy bar from two weeks ago. Brown and brown and brown, buried unnaturally in the earth. Us, too.

Two dogs are sniffing at each other on the walking path. One is white, a tiny fluffy creature, the other black, with short hair, also small. Their owners smile politely at each other, earbuds in, tugging on their leashes. They do not want to say hello, unlike their dogs, even though they are the ones that are able, and they would very much appreciate if their furry companions would ignore every other living creature around them, as they do. And eventually, I’m sure, the two small dogs were pulled away, but I did not stay to watch it, and you do not, either. We walk away. We do not smile when they can see us. We do not speak.

It is hot, tonight. It will be hot all week. The sun will shine down on us and on the pink roses in the rose garden in the park. The bright light will burn the corners of the flower petals; bleach them, turn them a shade lighter than before. No one will take pictures of the roses by the end of July; they will no longer be beautiful enough for Instagram; no amount of photo editing could bring back that shade of pink; there will be no more selfies.

When we reach our home, we will jog up the flights of stairs to our apartments. We will close the door behind us and enter a dark space. Lying on our beds in silence, we will close our eyes, think of the pink we’ve seen, of all the pink we’ve seen, of all the colors. We will think of the old man on the walking path, the one who we never really saw. We will think of the tiny dogs that wanted to be friends. We will think of all the people who do not see the roses, only take pictures of them. We will try to picture the exact shade of pink on those pink roses in the rose garden in the park. We won’t be able to, and the color won’t be the same tomorrow, when we go back. The sun will have been shining down, the color lost, the day over, gone, wasted.  What a waste of a rose garden, you are. We are, us happy snap-backed photo snappers. We tiny dog owners. We tiny home owners. Tiny life livers.

Tomorrow night we will all go back to the park. We will walk quietly along the cement paths. We will weave around those who walk slower than us; let faster walkers pass. We will march in a small, green and flowery parade, fancy tennis shoes squeaking under bright lights. The roses in the rose garden in the park will be there, too. And the small dogs. And the strangers who will stay strangers. And we will march and then march home. And we will close our eyes and everything will go dark.

bagel lady: “good morning.”

me: …

bagel lady: “good morning.”

me: “good morning…”

bagel lady: “are you ready?”

me: “umm….”

bagel lady: …

bagel lady: …

bagel lady: …

me: “could i have a sesame bagel?”

bagel lady: “do you want that toasted? do you want anything on it?”

me: “yes. do you have cream cheese?”

bagel lady: “… yes, we have cream cheese.”

me: “what kinds?”

bagel lady: “it’s on the sign. …we have eight kinds of cream cheese.”

me: “oh… chive. thank you…”

THE END

Not bragging or anything, but I have a handful of really close really great friends. I’m not sure how it happened, really. Some stuck around from high school, dwindling down from the large crowd of kids  that packed the hallway by the band room every weekday morning before the bell rang for class. Some I met in college — yes, I guess I actually did meet people in college — and somehow I became friends with them during the long semesters and years full of Shakespeare and Psychology and Procrastination with a capital p. Some I met after school, somehow or another, fellow roamers around town, or they were involved in the crazy post-graduation stuff I found myself doing.

And I guess it’s really just amazing. Because I’ve met a lot of people — hundreds and thousands of people — and this little bundle of people I keep close to me, well, how did that happen?

I think about friendship a lot. I think about relationships a lot, and the different kinds there are or can be, and the kinds that exist but shouldn’t.

I think friendship is underrated: the fact that one human, with all of their crankiness, and weird or offensive jokes, and psychological problems, or their introverted or extroverted personality, or their awkwardness, or their favorite music — all of that and more combined — can meet another human, with all of their stuff, and be friends. Like each other. Really, truly, like each other. Like the differences and sameness. Get along. Laugh. Cry. Talk about life or other stuff or bad television shows or cool shoes or good peanut butter froyo or what it feels like to be lonely.

Friendship is one big beautiful example that the world is bigger than you are. That you aren’t really alone up there stuck in your own head because there are other actual people out there in their heads, and you can talk to them and be people together. It’s really weird. Very strange. Very great.

It’s always the same thoughts in different situations:

 
“He’s so close, yet so far away.”

“It’s going to happen.”

“It’s never going to happen.”

I hate feeling this way, this deep-down bubbly terrified feeling that seems to be a product of either evolution or of thinking too much. Maybe both.

I wish it were easy. I wish you could know me, without the awkward pauses or silliness, without the socially-agreed-upon acquaintance behavior.

I wish words worked better for me, wish I could tell you about how a few nights ago I sat in the dark grinning to myself, thinking about how wonderful and horrible it all is. I wish that would flow out smoothly from my mouth, make you understand that I’m a creature just like you, with dreams and plans and more than just an empty swivel chair figure taking up too much elbow space.

“It’s going to happen.”

“It’s never going to happen.”

But it’s always the same: always too much bravery or not enough at all the wrong times. Always too much contact or not enough; You’re either always there or never there and it doesn’t matter which because nothing ever happens anyway.

“It’s never going to happen.”

Always the same: a lot of laughing and smiling and refusing to cry over something so silly, over something so nothing.

“It’s never going to happen.”

And it ends the same, too: me, alone, grinning in the dark at how horrible and wonderful it all is.

Three years ago, back in the autumn of 2010, I had an English class at my University, where all we did was read poetry and examine poetry and talk about poetry, etc. It was sort of an introductory English class, with simple goals for its students: learn how English works; learn all the little rules of grammar; learn how to read and think about writing – stuff like that. I’d had a few English classes before it, and I’ve had many since, so not much that I learned in that class has stuck with me – I made a few friends, have a few good memories, and, I’m sure, was sent away with a greater appreciation for poetry. One thing, though, from that class, has always stuck with me. Or, rather, has refused to stick with me. A poem.

I remember this poem vaguely. I remember that it was about a woman driving her car along an expressway during a traffic jam; that she noticed a flock of birds flying through the sky – I remember it was simple and beautiful and that even as a newly enrolled English Major, way back when in 2010, it spoke to me.

I’ve been searching for and wondering about this poem for a long time. Over time, I forgot who wrote it. I forgot the title. The only things I could remember were the birds and the traffic jam and that I loved it.

Now, fast-forward to 2013. I’m about to graduate college – I’m finishing up one last semester – and that poem still finds its way into my mind from time to time. Today, going through some of my files on a computer at school, I came across an old paper I typed up three years ago in that English class where we talked about poetry.

The file was called “Poetry Journal”, and I opened it only with mild curiosity, not yet realizing what I might find within it. Inside, a list of titles to several poems, with my thoughts of them underneath. I scrolled down the page, skimming with uninterested eyes. Then, I found it. My poem. The title, anyway. And the author. With a quick, excited trip to Google, I quickly found the words I had been searching for. I read it again, and I still loved it. My eyes followed along with the lines of the poem as if I had never lost it – perhaps I have dreamt about this poem many times.

It seems funny to me that the file containing the title to this poem has been around all this time, and I’ve just now found it. Maybe because I’m feeling nostalgic – I’m wondering about the person I was three years ago, when I still had so many moments to experience, so many new things to learn, so many more people to meet. Three years from now, I’ll be long gone from the University I’ve called home for so long now – and maybe I’ll find this poem again and think back to this moment.

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