The Meeting House was strewn with sleeping bags and camping gear. The dining room table was stacked with piles of double-bagged food and cooking utensils. Young men and women hung in small clusters along the edges. Having said goodbye to my aunts, I looked around, introducing myself first to the smiling woman with dusty blonde hair pulled back at the nape of her neck. Clearly she was one of the guides. Then I let myself drift into the conversations around me, wondering at these people with whom I’d be spending the next month.
When Rosemary walked in, it was friendship at first sight. She came in with her mother and sister. Rosemary was small, with long red hair and carrying a guitar. I felt a wrinkle in time and reality slipped sideways. I knew these women, though we had never met. Her mother and I greeted each other like old friends, and I sat down and started chatting with Rosemary’s younger sister.
I remember scattered things about that night, sleeping on a tarp under the stars, rolling down a hill, and watching the first natural division of people (at eighteen years old the first division that occurred was along the druggie/non druggie line). I was amused by the separation, the first split of oil and water-and where did I belong? Like always, I hung somewhere in-between. Adapting absently to my perch, I swayed between groups, eager to get to know as many people as I could. Eagerly blurring definitions before they set.
Two weeks later the paddling groups we were traveling in met up on a small lake on Ontario. Rosemary and I began to talk. Once again the edges of time disappeared, our conversation dove down to shimmering depths-no need for introductions, I already know you. Behind us Kevin giggled, delighted. Ever since the long van-ride up to Canada, he had pronounced that Rosemary and I would be friends. We smiled, slightly. After all Kevin would become, was already becoming, the steady physicality that anchored us, two spirits bursting our skins.
Autumn is intoxicating in the Midwest countryside. The color of changing leaves, the smell of impending cold, the blood coursing through hot young veins like the sap rushing through the maples. There were rainbows around the moon as we scampered across wooded pipelines-me with my whispered words and she with her crystal songs. We were both dreamers, I traced mine on my lover’s back and she poured hers out in songs.
Friendships have honeymoons too, and ours curled and dried like the fallen leaves and only the cyclical knowledge of the seasons lent us the wisdom to let go. Rosemary wandered off into the arms of my lover, and I to the beds of many others. Ultimately autumn succumbs to the cold, and groaning at the biting air, one forgets how it could ever have been beautiful.
Now I stand by the bus stop, waiting. Wondering. After so long, and what if she has changed too much-or not enough? And what if we don’t have anything to say? Our lives have spread so differently. I watch the people file off the bus. There is a young woman with smiling eyes and short red hair. I feel a wrinkle in time and memory slips sideways. I know you. It is friendship at first sight.