I am writing this on my iPhone 4S because we live in the future now. Although further futures exist in which I will write to you on an iPhone 5, right now they are monetarily delayed. There is no foreseeable time, however, when I will pass you a folded note in Chemistry.
We never really did that anyway. We never exchanged anything more than glances then, because we weren’t really friends yet. We were friend-adjacent, which is nice, but also harbors a certain tension. Standard teenage insecurity forgets that the link to this otherwise stranger is purely situational. I started wondering “well, why aren’t we friends?” I tried to figure it out; I looked for subtle clues, for any message from you. There really weren’t any, we were just friends of friends—so close yet so far.
I think I decided there was a possibility that we could become friends at a party where we both felt mildly uncomfortable. I can’t really pinpoint when it actually happened though, that’s just a memory I have from a short conversation, but not a small one. It was the beginning of the exchange of words. The exact time our friendship formed is blurred, like a semi-conscious recollection of waking up in the middle of the night. I remember before and after much more clearly—as if they’re days on either side of that hazy half-sleep. Maybe you remember better though? You usually remember everything better, even me.
We were just about solidified as friends when the circumstances of the next logical steps toward adulthood separated us—so close yet so far. But over the distance from New York to Boston, our words sustained us. There were waves of sentences rolling in and out like the tide under a constant moon of understanding. I don’t remember the first email, or the second IM, or how it evolved into a near-daily multilayered correspondence.
What I do remember is that falling into friendship with you was better than falling in love. And I would know because I was also falling in love at the time. Generally, there are great rewards to both love and friendship. They don’t naturally compare, but in these two specific parallel instances—that made me feel completely vulnerable, while this made me feel completely safe.
Maybe I felt too safe. Now, when I think about things I wrote to you then, I feel a white-hot poker of embarrassment. I get a strong impulse to cover my eyes, shielding them from the blocks of text in my memory, heavy with florid prose and crumbling under the weight of metaphor. Paragraphs of age nineteen, but you kept writing back, and you were nineteen too.
Sometimes the breadth of what you know is daunting; few other people have the collected knowledge of me that you do. Especially considering that after a while—without anyone to blame—the words were different. Suddenly, you were in Spain writing in a journal, I remained in New York typing and considering rivers, while my heart was in California twisted among the wreckage of an old sedan and a tractor-trailer.
I didn’t show up when I said I would too many times. Our words were different because we were different. You came back and gave me the journal. I looked for your messages in the text. They were there, even though I hadn’t been.
And the years and the words kept coming and going, like you. They came and went to France, Toronto, Senegal, Maine, Ireland, Cambodia, Seattle, India, New York and Boston, forever New York and Boston, and, of course, Brooklyn. The words came on postcards, on loose leaf, on the Internet, and, on good days, straight from our mouths. These days in the future, they have been coming in an increasing number of text messages to and from Bangkok. It’s a sign of the times, text messages. It’s a sign of the times, Bangkok.
That’s the funny thing with texting. It’s weird for words to so quickly cross that much distance: from my hand to your hand across the Pacific—so close yet so far. Sometimes text messages can be totally flippant or very meaningful, and everything in between. Sometimes you can miss them and not even get them until later.
I just wanted to take a minute—which if you can believe it is the same amount of time here in the future as it was in the past—and write a few words. Here’s your folded note from Chemistry that I never gave you and isn’t folded. Here’s another text message just to let you know that—no matter the form—I will always keep sending you texts. And I’ll always keep looking for your messages.