We stood together, the map of our friendship spread out on the ground. Our entire story existed within the outlines of that sheet.
Our toes were set on the edge, our heels just on the outside. I pointed to our memories, the places where we stopped being strangers, where we became allies. ‘Remember that?’ I asked, pointing to the stoop where we sat, eating bagels and talking about music. ‘And there,’ your apartment, where we pulled your sheets over our heads and slept into the afternoon. I drew a line across the middle with my finger. That’s the subway we took to brunches and bars and friends.
‘Up there, to the left.’ It was where our friendship began, under the cover of darkness, in the depths of the city, at forty miles per hour, surrounded by strangers, on the hottest night in June.
‘Here,’ I said, touching an empty space on the map where we’d stretched our limbs on a blanket and stared up through the shade of a willow tree on a Sunday in July.
I pointed to the corner where we stood when we were home but not ready to part; the corner where we planned our days and our nights; the corner where you yelled at me to go away; the corner where you asked me to stay; the corner on which we were standing when I first realized things were falling apart. So many things happening on so many corners.
I traced the paths of the streets that led us home and the starting points of those paths, the places we shared drinks and words and stood together and things were easy. ‘Remember that bar,’ I said, my question sounding more like a statement than an inquiry. I pointed to a space equidistant from my apartment and yours. It was a space where we dripped in sweat in the early morning hours of a hot July Saturday, where your friends sat close and whispered in my ear that I should hold onto you, that I should keep you nearby as long as I was able.
I stretched my left hand widely and set it against the map. I held my right hand steadily at my side, the electricity of my fingertips meeting the electricity of yours. ‘My dear friend, this was where we started; it is the place where everything we know about each other exists.’
I’m not sure which happened first, but one, then the other, of us turned to walk away, removing our toes from the edge of the map. Free from the weight of our bodies, our memories, our experiences, the map of our friendship began to shift in the wind. I reached out to catch it, but the wind pulled it just out of my grasp. I turned and called out to you, but you were out of view. I turned back to save the map, but it was gone too.
My dear friend, this was where we started; it is the place where everything we know about each other exists; it is the place where we will end.
Seasons and seasons and seasons passed. Some days I’d look out my window and catch a glimpse of that map, crumpled and drifting in the wind. Once I thought I saw it floating on top of the ocean as I dug my feet into the cool sand along the shore. In each of those moments, my heart would pound and my ears would ring with hope that the map would blow close enough, that I would catch it and bring it back to you, that we would stand upon it once again. It never did and I never did and we never did.
One night in December, I passed your street and wondered which of us was the first to lift our toes, the first to turn away. I wondered if you’d seen the map, if you’d have felt as I had, if you’d have caught it if the wind blew it past your door.