It’s 7:11 am and my text reads, “You doing okay? I had a dream.”
It could have been one of multitudes we’ve sent back and forth in the past couple years which simply ask the question, “you yet holdin’ on?”
Yarby’s reply was immediate and assured me he was doing well. “Was it the one where I was the thirty-six year old frat boy? Or wait, the one where I’m in the frog suit and insist everyone calls me Clarence?” It was neither. I tell him it is best if the unreality remains where it chose to exist, a desultory item sauntering about in my unconscious wreaking havoc on my sleeping pattern.
As to the thirty-six year old frat boy dream, I reminded him that this was an actual phase, not a dream, which we both had watched unfold in his life. “I was thirty-five at the time. Completely acceptable,” he proclaims. Pointing my eyes towards Charlotte’s warmer climate and ridiculous statements, I roll them. Hard. And send a photo from almost a year ago.
His hair is pulled atop his head in a man bun.
If that isn’t a cry for help, I’m not sure what is. His mouth is open and head is thrown back, as one hand is raised above it while the other one holds on for dear life. To a mechanical bull. Because he was thirty-five. And it made sense. The conversation from that evening comes back to me. We were both still so broken from our divorces and poor choices and life. We were both still so broken from choosing to cover up all that brokenness by hiding away from it.
He was out drinking PBR at some sketch bar where all the women believed him to be Jared Leto and I was home early after meeting up with a friend for a couple shots of bourbon. Our wounds were visible. He sent me his mechanical bull riding pic and I sent him a snarly face selfie and an admonition, “There is wayyyyyyyyyyyy better for you than Jared Leto janky bar sex.” Yes, I still say janky because in my mind words from 1997 are still hip. I also tell him this because I believe it and even though I know he’s not actually having Jared Leto janky bar sex, I want to remind him of his worth and value.
There were other days. The one where I told him it was time to find new words to define ourselves because the old ones were ugly and thrust upon us by people who hadn’t loved us well. The one where he used an image to tell me it was okay to have a messy heart and messy hair and I didn’t have to be perfect to be loved. The day his divorce papers were final and he had to go perform a wedding ceremony. Immediately afterwards. And that night — the one after months of me thinking I had found love again — when he held my hand from hours away and told me I had to cry and it was probably a good idea to eat an entire sleeve of Oreos and that I was strong. And worthy of a great love that would be so deep and wild. That it would come for me one day.
The two of us have owned enough pain to wrap around the Earth a few times and still have enough leftover to make it to the moon.
Even so, even in those moments, one of us would see a way out. At least for the other one, if not for ourselves. One of my other friends, Micah, talks about people coming into your life for specific seasons. He told me recently, “Maybe the universe says, ‘hey, you want to learn about love? You guys are going to be hiking buddies for the next stretch of the path.”
I send Yarby that picture this morning and then I send him my reading from Rilke. “November 2, What I Want,” it says in big bold letters at the top.
You see I want a lot,
Maybe I want it all:
The darkness of each endless fall,
the shimmering light of each ascent.
The Book of Hours I, 14
We are hard fought battles. Falling and ascending. Darkness and light. PBR and bourbon. The temptation of immediate gratification with janky bar sex and or the slow build of a meaningful relationship. None of us are every only one thing. We have had our darkness and now we are finding our light. The conversations which once burst with fear and running away and have-we-reached-the-bottom-yet — are now full of hope and running towards and finding our way home. Today is November 2nd. Today I give thanks for this — we are not who we were. We are not who we will be. We are. We have learned to love our beautiful, beautiful lives. We are living them well. That is enough.
Thanks for being my hiking buddy, Jason. We’ve come a long way and still have a fair bit left to go. I’m so proud of the man you have and are becoming. Keep loving so hard it’s messy.