I ran up the steep stairs, heart beating quickly, legs moving even more quickly. I reached the summit and intended to jog my exhaustion off for a moment before running back down the stairs. Instead you asked me if I knew how to remove the tobacco from a Swisher. I told you that either a tool or dexterity was required. Intrigued, I asked you what you were going to use the paper for. Your eyes lifted with the corners of your lips as we both understood what we were alluding to. You asked if I wanted to join you. Hell yes I did.
Your name was Rita. Your friend’s name was Keyon. I am unsure whether I am spelling either of your names correctly. You work at a ghetto dispensary in Los Angeles. You and your friend are in choir together. Choir had ended and now it was time to chillax. I had never met either of you before this moment. It didn’t feel that way.
We walked down the steep stairs which had brought me to you. A vacant lifeguard tower stood in the distance. I said that we should climb onto it. We did. “What if someone comes by and we get in trouble?” “There ain’t nobody watching this beach.” We spoke of our lives while sharing our substance. My face hurt from smiling so much. You said you had found a new best friend. I continued smiling and felt the same way.
“How far were you planning on running?” I wasn’t sure—I had just planned on running for as long as I felt like I needed to. “Then the universe…” was all I needed to say, for the reinvigorated smile on your face indicated that you knew what I meant.
You brought out your phone and told me to type in my name so you could send me a friend request on Facebook. I happily did so. I would invite both of you to my masquerade that was happening in a few weeks once I got back home.
It was time for me to continue on my run. We slowly climbed down the steps of the lifeguard tower. We then walked back toward the steep steps from whence we came. We reached the bike path upon which my journey was to resume. “It was really nice…” I held out my arms to hug you. “He gives hugs!” I turned away and ran. “I love him!” I ran away thinking about how lucky I was to have chosen to go up those steep stairs.
I got home a few hours later. My heart sank when I realized that I had no new Facebook friend requests. Perhaps you sent the friend request to the wrong person. Perhaps your phone wasn’t working correctly when you sent the request. I have no idea.
I’ve thought about you every day since we met. The fact that we will probably never see each other again fills me with warm sadness. I feel like the soft side of a freshly-severed piece of Velcro. We did not interact long enough for me to be able to mentally reconstruct the appearance of your faces—all I have is a vague approximation. My heart’s memory of you is nevertheless incredibly vivid. I have a feeling that it always will be.
Strangers are merely friends we haven’t met yet. I try to never forget this. Time is also irrelevant in determining the authenticity of a friendship. I also try to never forget this. I want to thank Rita and Keyon for helping me realize this. Whether we ever see each other again is irrelevant—the moment we shared will never be any less meaningful.
Steep steps are difficult to climb. Legs burning, sweat dripping, chest heaving—am I going to fall? The body is highly adaptive, though, and over time will become more accustomed to climbing the steep steps—but only if enough effort is put into the act of climbing them. The act remains difficult even if the body becomes accustomed to it, however. What changes is the realization of exactly how much good comes from climbing them.