Note: This one got away from me. It’s long and overwritten and slightly old now. But I’m tired of editing it. So I suppose it’s time to post it.
Part I. Cold Water
I am jumping into the cold water. My head submerges. And I forget the world for a while. My friends are there, but not there. Stripping down. Taking pictures. Waiting. And the waterfall in the distance gets closer.
When I come up for air, I can hear these familiar words going through my head. Familiar voices. Familiar laughter.
“Only going to be here once” they say. But it is not precisely true.
And so I silently argue, “We’re planning to come back here.” But they don’t answer. And they never do. Because they are not really there.
And I think for the most part, it’s a losing battle anyways. Because we are already in the water.
Part II. Comforting
“I never had to be so optimistic,” she says to me.
And I struggle for a response.
My mind is all over the place. Wondering why she is calling me instead of my sisters. Because I have never been good at comforting. Remembering how I had told her when her mother had died. And how growing up, I always had this sense that I would be the one to tell her. But when the time finally came, I still didn’t know what to say.
And once again, we were on the telephone. And once again, I was trying to find comforting words. But only finding silence. Wondering at the expression on her face. Wondering about the coming months. Wondering about the coming years.
And when the words finally come, it feels so inadequate.
“Just take it a day at a time,” I say.
Because I have nothing else. To try and find comfort for cancer.
Part III. Morning
And the dried red wine stains my lips. After another good night with friends.
But there is this feeling that there will be fewer nights like this one in the future. Like something in the world has changed. And it’s not this conscious thing. It will be weeks before anybody notices. It will be weeks before you really notice.
Because for you, it was Bali. And how you went there expecting a vacation spot. But instead you found something more than that. And since then, you’ve find yourself changing.
And so maybe it shouldn’t have been a surprise when your friends begin to do the same thing. But the thing is you are surprised. Because you’ve been stuck in your own little world. And somehow you’d forgotten that they have their stories too.
And so perhaps too quickly, some more instances end. And to quote a friend, “It breaks [your] fucking heart.”
Part IV. Mourning.
And I remember how my mom had told me at Christmas that it would be the last time that I saw him. And how she would ultimately be right.
But when I saw him, there was still that doubt. Because he was thinner, it was true. But in ways his cancer still seemed a lie. Because he had this strong way about him. Like maybe he would live forever.
And so perhaps I had this unreal expectation of cancer. Little tumors flying through the sky with big words floating around them. Metastasized. Chemotherapy. Radiation. Little jet fighters in these big, block, fucking letters. Some flaw of my own dreamworld. Some flaw of ignorance. Some flaw of innocence.
Because he was always fond of us. Me and my sisters. This friendship that he held with my father. That he had somehow transferred to us. It was one of those relationships that I never fully understood. The circumstances from before I was born and the years after. My parents divorce. And how it affected all these people around them. So much history.
And because history is hard to overcome, he rarely saw my father anymore. Though when they did see each other, it was watching these two good friends come together. And so there were few occasions when he didn’t say to me,”Say hello to your father.”
But now how it seems strange to me. Because I won’t hear those words again.
Part V. Optimism
The bird lands on my head. And I find myself quickly questioning where reality ends and imagination begins. Because the bird wasn’t real when I first conceived of her. Yet, this very real bird was trying to sit on top of my head. And I could feel her claws digging in. I could hear her wings fluttering above me.
“Go away bird,” I say.
Because I don’t want to see her. I don’t want her direction. I am waving my hands above my head wondering about the cars driving by. Do the people in the cars see the bird? Or do they just see a man waving his hands wildly in the air?
But the bird is not going anywhere.
“She’s having a baby,” the bird says to me.
“Who is?” I ask. Not hearing. Not understanding. Not wanting to hear or understand.
“The optimist,” she answers me. “The optimist is having a baby.”
She shakes her head as if I should have already known that it was her that we were talking about. But I am running. Trying to leave her behind. Her claws release me and she lets go of me for the moment. She has told me what she came for anyways.
Or maybe she just knows how the memories will catch hold of me. And how they will chase me for her. And so they search me out. Not letting me go. Because there are few escapes from memory. And most of those have consequences. And sometimes, they will just take you deeper. Because they hold no guarantees.
Or maybe it is more than memory. Because she is there again, but not there. The same as the voices at the waterfall. And long ago, I named her the optimist. And she has followed me ever since.
Because the truth is that she was the optimist. Different from anyone that I have ever met. Hope, love and wanderlust. Because she lived in a world of sunshine and half-filled glasses. A place that I’m not sure that I could have lived. But even still, she came to influence me in more ways than I wanted. More ways than I could have hoped for.
And so maybe briefly there is this twinge of regret. But mostly there is happiness. Because mostly, I am just grateful that I met her.
Because on the hard days, I still find myself turning to her optimism.