Alabama summers come swiftly, roaring past spring with little more than a cursory glance. All too soon we will lament April’s wet kiss, long for an escape from the brutal temperatures and endless days punctuated only by the obligatory 3 p.m. thunderstorm.
As I sat on my porch this afternoon, talking to Sarah, who was folded in the rocking chair across from me, I drank in the elixir of spring at its best, knowing that it cannot last. A gentle breeze brushed against my skin, blew my hair into my eyes, scattered the perfume of flowers through the air. Subconsciously, we adapted our rhythms to the pattern of our words — me swinging, her rocking — as time blew away and all that remained was that very moment.
We talked about life and happiness and careers and dreams. We laughed and sighed and laughed some more as we recalled old lovers and new ones, past regrets, present hopes, and future poems as yet unwritten.
She is seven years younger than me — a writer with a flair for the dramatic, a passionate environmentalist, a hopeless romantic, a pragmatic dreamer, a woman and a girl mingled together so closely that it is almost disconcerting to look into her eyes.
It is hard to remember the shy reporter who took my place as the top writer after I left the Gazette. I seethed with envy the first time I saw her byline, then felt guilty later when I met her in person and saw that she was just a serious, timid girl not unlike myself. I thought she had a lot of potential as a writer but I didn’t expect her to last very long in the cut-throat atmosphere she had entered. I scribbled my number on a piece of paper and mumbled something about her calling me if she ever needed help. It turns out that I needed her far more than she ever needed me.
One night during a tornado warning, she and Sparrow arrived on my front porch, wind-blown and high-strung, giddy with adrenaline and seeking shelter from the storm. I was alone and a bit frightened myself, welcoming the company more than I cared to admit.
Later, on a night when I thought life as I knew it was over and I no longer had a friend in the world, it was Sarah who arrived on my door step once again, flowers in hand, coaxing me out of my bed where I lay staring at the wall.
I have taken care of her cat when she was out of town and gotten toasted on Cosmopolitans and cheap wine on her birthday. We have carved jack o’lanterns on Halloween and spent lazy afternoons chatting about everything from writing to sex to farmhouses in the country.
She encouraged me to keep pursuing life as a freelancer, and I encouraged her to act on her desire to move to another state and pursue a writing career at a larger paper.
And today, she flew more than 600 miles just to have lunch with me at one of our favorite haunts, words tumbling out faster than we could control, eyes meeting as we shared a secret joke that needed no words at all.
Spring is fleeting and youth fades fast. It is nice to know that in a temporal world of questionable integrity, some things last forever. Thanks, Sarah. I really needed that reminder.
Music of the day: Iris by The Goo Goo Dolls (lyrics)tagged Alabama, Northport, people, portraits, writing