The first time, oblivious to the world.

Dabbling in academics, developing social prowess -

we were freshmen in high school.

The next time, entering the world.

Completed mandated coursework, matured considerably -

we were graduating.

Our paths never crossed.

Two years later,

and here we are.


The sun peeks into the window, revealing the carnage of the night before. A mutual friend's party. We sit on the couch, still inebriated, exchanging hellos. You tell me superficial details about your summer, about the time spent working in Chicago. I recount my days spent in Nashville, sharing meaningless stories.

The next thing either of us know, it's two hours later. And you've told me about your family, your school, so far away, and, well, your imminent death. You have cystic fibrosis. You aren't supposed to live past thirty-five.

We're twenty.

You didn't want to tell me, the whiskey thought otherwise. You almost died in high school. Twice. You notice the tears welling in my eyes, I'm an open book, you tell me not to worry. You didn't die, you run cross country at your university. Your lungs are fully functioning despite all of the odds and historical data and doctors' predictions. You're happy, you're unafraid. Is your death inevitable? Whose isn't? You're ready to go to sleep. My school mailing address is entered into your phone.

You're gone when I wake up.


The daylight faded to black hours ago and I'm swept away in a friend's car to a wedding reception.  We know nobody. We dance beneath paper globes and Christmas lights, taking advantage of the waning crowd and the open bar.

It's two in the morning and I'm driving your car as you play DJ, we're on an adventure, you are the navigator. Through winding roads and open fields we reach our destination; I've never been here. The banks of the Missouri River, the route to the island is flooded, raging, dangerous. Toes in the water, lit by a full moon, you apologize for the other night. You insist it was selfish and weird, too open, too personal. You suggest we'll make it even if I spill my life story.

I talk and you listen. Attentively. I trivialize my fears, downplay my ambitions. It's quiet for few minutes, the water's uneven rushing is enough.

This isn't fair. You told me everything, I have nothing to tell, my accomplishments are minimal.

Then I talk, say things I have never even verbalized to myself. I admit my true goals in life, my true feelings toward the mundane, linear path that seems to have been set for me. I let slip secrets, feelings of inadequacy. I feel light.

I taper off and you digest for a minute, shades of embarrassment color my face. But then you tell me with such conviction that I have potential and owe it to myself to go for whatever it is that I want to do, and that I think too much, and that I deserve better than what I have. I'm floating.

Then you say let's go for a drive, there's a meteor shower tonight.

At four in the morning, we're trespassing on an old farm through lightless, expansive fields. The night sky is our own. We laugh, we sing, we count stars and wince at unidentifiable noises in the distance. Police? Coyotes?

It doesn't matter, it couldn't matter.

I think of living with a set date of death, I think of disregarding the words of doctors, parents, government and all other authority. You're entirely free, untethered. Deliberately living and only taking interest in what you can directly control.

As your car flies from my driveway I envision you as a mystical bird flying into the early morning.

I am, and have always been, terrified of birds.


The fragrant smoke flows out of the hookah in a dingy basement as you bound down the stairs.

It's been forever since we've seen a clock, but it must be three in the morning. You're leaving for school in two and a half hours, for school and then Europe - you're leaving home for at least a year. You felt compelled to come over.

The group awkwardly reminisces of high school days, the only shared memories and common ground we have anymore. You're oddly quiet. The time comes for me to leave and you realize you're due at the airport in thirty minutes.

Car-side, you give me a mix CD and a firm hug, a promise of a letter to my college box soon. You don't have a set address yet, your phone doesn't work at school, you've evacuated the trappings of social media. You take off, we turn in the opposite direction at the main road.

The four lines of my address in your phone is all that connects us.

That, and a cardinal landed on the table next to me -

usually I'd move, but I just watched.