We have arrived
Friends in high places as kingfishers catch fire
The Horizon’s Trilogy Lightyear — A Final Chapter
A bird falls dead on the sidewalk. No one notices, no one steps it. It simply stays, waiting to be taken back to earth, to be eaten by a wild cat, to be noted by two friends that are suffering.
“I have no words man.”
Otto looked very attentively at the picture Taren just sent to him. The picture doesn’t really matter. What matters is that Otto knew they should go out on a bender and get drunk and stupid. They did it. They got drunk and they got sober and drunk and sober again. All night long they were out there, out in the streets of the city they’d chosen. Back in the day, Taren came to town for college. For a while, he had the life he envisioned all those years in the small town he grew up in. He had a place for himself, did not share, had a balcony, and lived in a pretty up-standard neighborhood. He’s a college dropout, just like Otto. Both were college dropouts until re-enrolling to it. Otto never lived out of town, but that was the first time he was living in the heart of the city. They walked a few minutes to the pizza place, and for the very first time, Otto was not the first one to arrive. Their lack of words did not last. They both had so much to say. What mattered the most out of this, they did not know. Taren was tired, he wanted to be held accountable, he wanted to let all that story behind. They spoke a lot on TV terms.
Why must they keep on repeating the same old tune?
Tuesday night they all sat down to listen to that unfathomable album. Great albums should sound weird and strange on the first listen. One thing they all knew, track 10 would keep hitting them unannounced, even if they knew it was coming. It would be unexpected, this life. On Friday night they’ve both forgotten about the movie in the theater in order to take some alone time. Taren knew she was listening and seeing everything he was doing. Otto knew that stupid little prick did not forget about him so easily, and still, knew it was a shot in the dark. Would leave him a comment on a YouTube video, the only place online he did not block him? You’ve lost everything if you’ve got nothing to lose. Is that how the saying goes? It would be lonely, this night.
But not Saturday. Live in the city, they would entrust each other even more, as they’ve never trusted anyone before. At some point in the night, Otto offered a hug. They’ve never hugged so far, and it just felt like a good moment for this. Otto hugged Taren like any straight guy would, in the side, and then made the joke about how any straight guy would hug like that. Taren laughed. Then Otto hugged him for real. The laugh became sobbing. They just stayed for a while, abiding in each other’s arms. Otto would repeat overnight that Taren was his best friend and that he cared for him and was there for him. Taren would repeat overnight that he was not going to leave him.
“I think I will remember you forever.”, Taren said at some point.
“I hope you stay close to the rest of my life.”, Otto replied. “I’ll need someone to take care of me when I discover I have cancer at 67 before I die for it at 68.”
That morbid cancer joke was a repetition. They’ve done that joke before, that day in the coffee place. Taren was doing this design side job that would take forever. He started it with her a couple of years before. It wasn’t difficult to finish because of that.
“I don’t wanna talk about her anymore, I don’t wanna go through her street when I come home, I don’t wanna care about her.”, Taren would repeat over and over again that night.
They’ve got drinks and smoke a ton of cigarettes. But it somehow felt like the story wasn’t going anywhere.
“Talking about stories”, Taren said. “It’s weird, cause I thought she wouldn’t do that anymore.”
“It is weird. I thought you wouldn’t do that anymore too.”, Otto replied.
Taren believes he is capable of loving someone romantically forever. They talked on that topic for quite the long hour. Otto had some valid arguments but love doesn’t come down to the arguments, but to the actions.
“But if you don’t believe in destiny, then why should you feel like this was meant to be?”, Otto asked at some point. Taren did not know how to respond. He was just so tired of all the pain.
They’ve walked a while making jokes about random things. They would not remember those. They talked bout their sexual preferences and experiences. “Lots of HBO material.”, Otto would remark.
“What would you say if you could not remember your name?”, Taren asked.
“Hi, I’m Brad Bird.”, Otto replied.
“I’ve always thought about a bird made out of bread.”, Taren wondered.
“French bread, I hope. American just not good.”, Otto thought out loud.
“There’s so much that I’ve done with my life since I OD’d.” Otto stopped, looking down at the dead bird on the ground. He started sobbing. Taren looked at him with some sort of care. They were in sync, all the time. Not once nor twice, Otto send Taren something Taren was about to send him on some social media, they would feel the need to talk or watch some nonrelated show on TV and have related jokes about them.
“It’s been seven years since I OD’d.”, Otto continued.
Taren would have hugged him, but he needed to speak. Otto recounted the painful night his mother found him passing out on the balcony of their rental like the one Taren had back at the beginning of all times. That night, Otto could not remember his name. His mom would be a force of nature while calling the ambulance and taking him to the hospital just in time to save him. Otto checked his heart, it was beating. Taren already noticed his friend’s tick back to reality, how he would count his fingers, mumbling the numbers, to make sure everything around was real. They were drunk but coming back already. Taren’s eyes would spark with tears, Otto seemed to be dying and coming back again.
“I always remember the date”, Otto said, eventually. Some years he doesn’t even remember it is an anniversary and then after a very strange day, something reminds him one more year has gone by and he’s still alive.
“How can someone live knowing they’ve tried to take their lives?”, Taren asked, a cold distant reminder of a TV show character and his own experience with attempting suicide. This is how he knew he would be fine this time, he was still alive, he did not try again this second time.
“You’re not alone this time.”, Otto said a few hours later, sitting on a bench in the park, early in the morning. “The only activity you can not improve with repetition is suicide.”
Time was flying all around, but that night felt like it was going forever, taking its toll and allowing them to live each minute to its fullest. It was like time stopped, a moment set apart in eternity so they could reflect on the dead bird and how their souls should effort to fly. The thing about time is that it is relative in the experience but linear in how the moments flow. You might not be able to understand a situation when you’re going through it, but looking back after the event, you can see where the light was.
“Looking back now I see where the light was.”, Otto said. The light was shining through the pain, a pain you feel when you are finally washing the wound to put on some healing balm after a few days of letting it rot. The wound is where the light shines through. A light that could bring a bird back to life.
“Help me, Clarence, I wanna live.”, Taren would later repeat, quoting the most memorable line of the old movie they went to see days after that. Someone should bring the bird back to life.
Memories can be engraved in overthinking. But would insist on forgetting take it all away? I write what they want to forget so they would remember forgetting.
“You can talk to me about him, you know that right?”, Taren said. Otto felt it deep inside, he knew he could, but he did not know how to.
“I don’t know how.”, Otto replied.
It’s late, they would not know if it was too late to call and say goodbye again. That other goodbye, either way, is just not enough. There they are, caught in the disillusion of a love long gone. And yet, there is healing when the heartache weighs a mountain in the grieving of a love lost.
For the first time, they decided to dry the well and drink the whole water until they drown. They were not leaving till sunrise.
“What is it like to have a best friend gay?”, Otto asked.
“I feel like Scott Pilgrim.”, Taren replied. They laughed.
“You are more progressive than I am. I mean, I’m gay, but my best friend is a straight cis white guy. Your best friend is a gay latino guy. Now, that’s progressive.”, Taren laughed even harder at Otto’s new motif.
“That’s Andrew Garfield in Tick Tick Boom.”, he finally said.
“Too many references to keep up.”, Otto finished.
They fell into silence. And so, they’re back here again, tiptoeing around the edge of the end, holding each other’s hearts like a sacrificial offering. Cause real love is hard love, it’s a breakneck, a train wreck, and yet, all they’ve had. If we could teach ourselves not to suffer, would life be even worth living? They were not fooling anybody but themselves, by believing or waiting or just postponing the very nature of those endings. A beautiful tangle, bruises, scars. Taren wishes he could let her know. Otto feared he would never be able to tell him. And they were tethered to whatever past haunted those same days and nights. And they were tethered to each other. And for a moment, it felt like the light would never shine again.
That’s when sunrise came to bring back hope, and the certainty of repetition and coming back to those feelings after a while. But the assurance of fellowship. Reassuring each other like friends in high places, as kingfishers catch fire and dragonflies draw flames.
Long nights like these reminded both of them of how their souls would not entertain such greatness anymore, trading the struggle to find reasons to believe and choosing to blow their own wind so their spirits would soar up, high as high-flying birds chirping and singing in the morning light, as they are going south.
“We’re almost there, mate. And yet, finally arrived.”
You saw my spirit soaring up to heaven. You blow the winds that touch my wings.