“I think I might be coming through Salt Lake City.”
“What?” I squeak too loud on the phone. “You’re coming here?”
He laughed. “Yes. Maybe next week. I’m not positive. I’m 80% sure right now.”
“Wow. Well, great! You can stay with me, I—.” I realized I was I inviting a guest over when I had nothing to give. My mind flashed to my empty apartment filled with nothing but a few boxes filled with traces of my life. The kitchen cupboard was home to two mason jars that I used as storage containers for food or glass cups if I needed a drink. The living room was bare but for a towel that I stretched and did yoga on after runs, and my room had only a two inch mat with some borrowed sheets. Where would I even put him? Would I make him sleep on the floor? Could I even ask him to bring a pillow and blanket if he wanted to sleep at my place? “I don’t have much, but my door’s always open.”
Now, flash back a few years ago with me. I think I had just turned seventeen. I traveled to Mexico alone. I played a tennis match there and lost a close three setter. One boy had cheered for me. I remember him watching my match. I had been so confused about his cheering. I had come to the country alone and had no friends or anyone that I knew. Who was this boy? After I lost the match, he had managed to shuffle forward and tell me it was a nice match despite my defeat. I was torn up about losing on the first day of the tournament (You lose and you’re out. There are no second chances.) At least he understood that much since he was a tennis player too.
Little did I know that that tournament would fill my life with someone amazing, someone that wouldn’t fade, someone that would continue to be an important person in my life. In fact, without tennis, we might have never met.
The night after the match, I was about to dine alone. The server at the restaurant inside the hotel poured me a glass of water when this stranger of a boy approached me again. He asked me to leave my water there and go get tacos with him somewhere out on the streets of Mexico. And I did.
We didn’t have much time together then. In fact, we had that meal, a walk through the city, and a night in a hotel lobby. When we ate together, the time ran away from us. We had talked about music and life outside of tennis and one hour became three. When we walked through the city, he asked me to sing for him. No one had ever asked me before. I was afraid, standing in the park in the night amongst many foreign strangers. I saw his eyes, and whatever his eyes made me feel, I sang those feelings. That was the first time I had ever stood up and sung for someone. And when I hugged him at four in the morning under the covered taxi station at the hotel after a night of talking about dreams, when I watched him get into that cab, I knew that I probably would never see him again. And as I watched him drive away, I learned that sometimes the most important people we will ever meet will sometimes take up the smallest sliver of our lives—that sometimes those that touch us the most are the ones who only reached out and shared a connection with us for the smallest patch of time in our waking days.
We both went to college on different sides of the country. We Skyped. Sometimes we talked for hours. He went through a tough break up. I was coping with my parents’ divorce. Sometimes we hardly talked at all, and all I would get after two months was a text: “Jade. Listen to this. I heard it, and I know you’ll like it.” And I always did.
I had thought I would never see him again.
And it wasn’t the first time I had been wrong.
My older sisters received a spontaneous offer to play a show in New York for the US Open. They kindly flew me in to be a part of the fun and see New York for the first time. I was nearly nineteen, and my distant friend was going to school near where I would be staying. We both were playing tennis and going to school full-time. The chances of being able to see him were slim with classes, mandatory practices, and weekend tournaments. And I still don’t know exactly how he did make the time to spend time with me in New York then, but I'm quite sure he knew he was in trouble with school and tennis by the end of our weekend.
We were awkward individuals who never found each other awkward. We played music together with Meg’s guitar she had let us borrow. Again, we found ourselves in a hotel together, just how we had met. I was a wide-eyed nineteen year old in the same way that I am now an awkward twenty-two year old. Back then, I had thick messy bangs and a set of thick braces on my teeth. I had none of the confidence or cunning a girl with the size of my breasts should have had. He was slim and still growing into his body, but too young to understand he wasn’t supposed to yet be a man.
But when we were together, we some how filled up each other’s spaces where we lacked. I think some human beings naturally can understand what other certain human beings need without really trying. I think we are each other’s human beings in that way. I never felt that singing in front of him was something he’d grow tired of, and so I sang more around him than when I was with most anyone. And I think when we were in New York, he needed to hear a voice. And I think I needed to know that college was just a cough in an entire life time, that there were things I would do, people I would meet, and places I would see after that would be nothing less of magical. And he showed me that by taking my hand and standing next to me on my first subway ride in New York City and taking me to Union Square where he would show little miss Utah that there were cities that were brighter in the night than some cities in broad daylight.
He left me with a bracelet plus one for all five of my sisters. And then I flew away from New York. He would find a wonderful lady only a few weeks later, and not too long after, I would meet the man I would move in with. A lot of things would happen then. I would lose my virginity. He would fall in love and out again. My father would get remarried. He would transfer schools and move south. Throughout most of that time, we did not talk much. I still got a song sent to me here and there. I’d send him a funny video, and then he’d remind me when it was Earth Day. I would let him know how much I was craving a frozen hot chocolate from Serendipity. He would have really long hair and blonde hair and short hair...And so would I, with the exception of the blonde hair.
When Jordan broke up with me, I called him. And he was there for me on the line. I just remember standing out on the street with the phone up to my ear and both of us just saying slowly aloud, “How could this happen?” I think he had always thought I would marry Jordan—as I had thought so as well. So, before even sharing the sadness of the break up, he shared the shock with me. After he found out about “The other woman,” I was surprised by his anger—I’m quite sure he was more angry than even I was. And when the storm rolled over, he reminded me that the deal was back on the table: If we were still single by whatever age, we were gonna get married. He made me laugh. And then once I got back on my feet, we went back to our old habits of sending songs and little jokes.
And that was that.
But actually it wasn’t.
At two in the morning my phone rang.
“I think—I’m not sure—but I think I’m here.”
I hung up, flipped on my lights, ran down stairs, and opened the green door. I stood there barefoot, loose green shirt, and blue violet-patterned pajama shorts and...
There he was.
The same eyes that told me he wanted to hear me sing. The same smile that made me believe he could show me places where magic still existed, that whatever I was going through now was just a point in time that would pass after a good night's sleep. And yet he was so different. He had rough stubble that grew on his face, and when he wrapped his arms around me and picked me up, I could hardly breathe. He had grown the muscles of a man that the body of his youth in New York had been wanting of. I couldn’t understand all of the changes I could see, but I followed him out to the car where his friend was parked. A strong Slovakian man got out of the car, and as if knowing Guille had been enough of a preface for us, we gave each other a hug as strangers—him in his 36-hour-driving zombie movements and me with my groggy 2 a.m. pace.
An old friend, and a new one.
Not having furniture or extra needed blankets or food or a couch to sit on or a coffee table to set drinks on had never bothered me until they had arrived. I was a poor host. And despite my apologies, they assured me that as long as they could take a break from driving and had a roof over their heads (“and that you’re here,” Guille smiled), they were more than happy.
I had expected Guille's friend to be nice. I hadn't expected him to be as amazing and awesome as he was. He was honest and witty and funny. From the second we had greeted each other with a hug, I had felt like we had been friends for years. I was more than comfortable with him, and I secretly wished they would both stay for just a few more nights than they had planned. I quickly became fond of the company of both of them.
A lot of things happened in only a few short hours. I showed them Salt Lake City to the best of my ability (as I’m still new to the area as well), and luckily these two young men were the kind who could get lost on the 4th story of our local library with a book on Star Wars. They could look through a glass window at the city and start talking about the permanence of a tattoo only to walk away from the window talking about the permanence of the many decisions we make in life. They could walk miles and look at a temple with respect for it’s beauty and then jokingly strategize a way to see the inside of the temple—an interior forbidden to us coffee drinking sinners. And after driving for 36 hours straight, these guys were sinning pretty epically as far as the coffee goes. Talk about wired.
One of the things I loved the most was when in mid-walk or mid-drive they would say, “Hold on! Stop!” And they would take a picture of the mountains. I had not been in Salt Lake City a month yet, and yet I was already taking being able to see the mountains on my walk to the grocery store for granted. Guille and I both had mountains where we were from. Mountains meant safety, mountains meant familiarity, mountains meant home.
After boardgames and laughter, after Guille carrying his road trip buddy around on his shoulders in circles around my tiny empty apartment, after watching a comedy that had us laughing so hard we usually missed the second and third joke of a scene just because we couldn't hear it, we chugged some water and called it a night.
With chilling temperatures and lack of more blankets, we all laid down together on the ground with the few small blankets spread out across the three of us.
It was then that I realized this was always the worst part for me the last few weeks. I was new to Salt Lake City, but I got along well with people at work. I was already making friends. Meg and Nick were always inviting me to events, homemade chili, board game night, and delicious coffee samples. I worked double shifts, ran up canyons, walked to parks, wrote at coffee shops… My days were full.
But my nights… The last three weeks they had been spent with me wrapped up in two blankets on the ground, cold and, worse yet, alone with the dark. I never realized how much I dreaded the nights until I was laying down with my friends, old and new. I started to shake from the cold, yes, I get cold that easy and with the blankets spread out over us rather than just layered on top of me, I was freezing. Before I knew it, these two young lads each grabbed a hand and started to warm my fingers. We talked about days past and days to come. The chill started to disappear with all of my fears. It’s strange, but a body’s actions: a touch, a squeeze, a hug, just the act of warming my fingers between their hands… Well, I had forgotten how powerfully my soul was warmed by a gentle touch. My new friend fell asleep, but Guille was still awake. I knew because he squeezed my fingers with his warm hand every now and then.
In New York, I was more naive than I am now, and I had needed someone to take me to see the bright lights, the big city, the future… Guille had been that person. I don’t think he even knew that he had given me what I needed at that time in my life. And I don’t think he knew how much I had needed a simple walk through New York City. Like I said before, we weren’t trying to give each other what we needed…We just happened to naturally do that for each other in the short windows of time that we were given with each other. I hoped I had given him what he needed in New York too.
Then I listened to him breath next to me. I had known him for six years, and I had hardly had six days with him, someone who was so special to me. I felt his chest rise and fall beside me. And sometimes when the darkness turned a bolder shade black and my fears and holes in my being grew larger in size, I pressed myself into him to make sure hew as still there—to make sure I wasn’t alone. Once, I must have woken him when I felt the oncoming terror of the night chill, because he lifted his head and looked into my eyes. Then he squeezed me assuringly again and kissed me on my head.
There’s no way I can explain why I believe with all the certainty that makes me a living breathing human being, that that kiss will get me through the next year, come what may. I think I just needed to know someone cared, that someone believed I was important, that I was worth keeping warm. I needed to know that someone was listening to me...even when I wasn't speaking or writing or singing.
And the next morning, I watched them drive off towards the pacific. I shook my head smiling. He had called me at two in the morning, we had spent the day, he had given me what I needed, the assurance, the comfort, the love and care all in a kiss to my head—he had fought off loneliness like the knight that he was—and now that he had done his wonderful deed as my friend…He was off again.
I guess sometimes you might not get what you want, but if you try sometimes—or have a friend who has miraculous timing and spider senses to help him be aware of when you need to feel important and loved—you just might find you get what you need.