You, me, and the sea

But time makes you bolder, even children get older. And I’m getting older, too.

Landslide, Fleetwood Mac

“I’m happy we’re doing this,” you said. “We haven’t really talked like this in a while, and I’ve been wanting to speak with you.”
I perked up a little, trying to blink the drowsiness from my heavy eyes. I wanted to listen, to truly hear what you had to say. Then again, you never did have much trouble catching my attention.

Photo by Juskteez Vu on Unsplash

You were sitting cross-legged by the entrance of the tent that we set up on the beach. I, on the other hand, was lying down inside the tent, but with my head peeking out to gaze at the night sky. Really, it was only you who set up the tent – all I did was shine a flashlight so you could see what you were doing.
Here, far from the city, we could see the sky so clearly: inky black, dotted with stars so bright and big, I felt I could catch them with an outstretched hand. I’ve never seen a shooting star before.

We settled down with cigarettes and beer cans, staples of our most meaningful conversations. Landslide by Fleetwood Mac was playing on my phone, the music occasionally drowned out by the sound of crashing waves. But your voice rose above it all: not wavering, but with a depth of careful, controlled emotion that I have come to know and love so well.
I listened to you tell me about your fears, your disappointments in life. All the while, my mind was racing: when was the last time we opened each other up to ourselves this fully? To me, sharing my inner weaknesses was the pinnacle of intimacy. Despite all my whining about how I wish I were emotionless instead, I truly missed this vulnerability between us.

Soon enough, it was my turn. To let my facade of strength fade, for even a few hours.
We’ve been best friends for nearly a decade, and I’ve shared so much of myself with you. There were a lot of nights that I’ve talked your ear off, becoming increasingly chatty with every bottle of beer. This night, though, it was difficult for me to put even a couple of sentences together. It seemed futile to describe the enormity of my misery, so my pauses were longer, sentences briefer, until eventually we settled into silence.

“It’s weird, though,” you finally said. “You send me messages that you’re sad, that you’re having a rough time… But every time we see each other, you seem totally okay.”

It’s true. How many nights have I spent, crying as quietly as I can, texting you about how I’m so tired of it all? How many messages have I sent you about how I’m dying of loneliness? Messages telling you about the voice in my head that drowns everything else out: the voice that yells, “I’m worthless, I’m stupid, I’m a mistake”?

The sand underneath my back was packed hard. Slowly, I sat up, readjusting my glasses. Crawling out of the tent, I sat down beside you, trying to find the right words.

My voice was hesitant. Shaky. I settled for the simplest truth I could share, one I knew for sure was true.
“You give me perspective.”
My darkest fears aren’t as scary when you’re with me. All my insecurities, anxiety, and anger fade, far away to a place where they couldn’t haunt me. For the meantime, at least, I am safe.
After a beat, I find the strength to keep speaking. “I see myself through your eyes, and realize that I’m not such a bad person after all. And it makes me think that maybe… I’m strong enough to keep trying to live.”

I didn’t say much more after that. We’ve been friends long enough for you to know the weight of what I just said. As someone who has tried to give up on life, it hasn’t always been easy for me to find a reason to carry on, but when I was weak, I found strength in you.

That night, I lost count of all the shooting stars I saw.

Author’s note: I’ve spent so many hours agonizing over this piece of writing. I felt that my words would cheapen one of the most magical moments I’ve ever had. But I know that if I didn’t put this memory into words, I’d regret it forever.

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