It had been 5 years since two of my friends from high school had seen each other. I saw both of them multiple times over the years separately but always felt like something was missing when I’d see one of them without the other. They were a duo in high school and seeing them apart for so long made my heart ache. It felt like two family members who were refusing to talk to one another – I just wanted us all to be a family once more.
Over the last year, I’ve openly plotted a reunion half-jokingly playing both sides. I’d corner each of them at random and float the idea. When I saw them separately in person, I’d ask when one of them had reached out to the other last. I started a group text chat. I’d suggest three way calls and quickly dial before much else could be said. Finally, a date was set and a location was picked – Chicago.
As luck would have it, Chicago was dumped with an immense amount of snow. Because I was already woefully unprepared for a real winter, this just made me laugh and embrace the cold all the more. Did I mention yet that we all grew up in Florida? Did I mention I don’t own any snow shoes, gloves, beanies, etc? I packed a small bag prepared to wear the same thing all weekend and left just enough room to shove in my new camera. I knew I wanted to capture the weekend.
The time in Chicago was a blur. The earliest we went to bed was 4:30AM and the latest 7AM. I know you can never truly make up for lost time but this was a valiant and impressive effort to do just that. I think we each felt this collective loss which caused us to manically push ourselves to the limits of our emotions and our bodies. I remember the night we stayed up until 7AM hearing my two friends exclaim gleefully, “I could just stay up and keep talking”. I smirked as we all settled into eventual sleep – I could have stayed up too.
We didn’t talk about easy things – this was not a purely happy trip. This was an intense and raw weekend in both the highs and lows. We confronted each other with honesty and such a depth of care that it’s hard to put into words. This was not a weekend for the faint of heart. Being able to run, jump, and dive into the deep end of forbidden conversation topics is one of the things I love about spending time with those who know the layers of your being so well. “I’ve never told anyone this” was muttered numerous times.
The first night we went out for drinks (or was it the second?) we hung out for hours at this hipster bar. I purposefully placed myself so my friends would have to sit next to each other on the couch we chose as ours for the evening. The drinks flowed and the conversation followed. I found myself repeatedly catching myself smiling as I watched my two friends – my two dear separated friends – reunited. I had to cover my smile each time I marveled at a sight I didn’t think I would be able to see again. At one point during the weekend, this fact was brought up – we all might have never gotten together again like this.
Ultimately, this weekend reminded me how valuable it is to relearn people. Even though I have known both of them for years, it doesn’t mean I truly know who they are today. I caught myself so many times stunned at how much I was learning sometimes pausing to declare it. The entire time felt so precious and rare. In a strange way, being so sleep deprived helped me stave off feeling the intensity of emotions I know were lurking below. It reminded me of how my mom waited 40 years or something absurd since she last saw her college roommates in San Francisco this past year.
I’m planning another trip to Chicago this summer. I reject a reality where I don’t get to relearn such wonderful souls again.