prompt: tell about a time you became aware of differenceand my challenge will be taken up at transplanted thoughts.
i packed up the car and hit the southbound road, ready for what promised to be a lengthy drive. i knew i'd be fighting beach weekender traffic, plus the standard workday rush hour, and to top it all off a flash flooding storm was rolling through town. as my coupe and i swam through puddles that rivaled small ponds, i thought about the omen the storm and my rapidly increasing headache could possibly be, as i always do. ignoring the small threats i plowed through, literally, gripping my steering wheel with white knuckles in one hand and sipping coffee from the cup in the other, my too-little-too-late attempt at keeping the headache at bay. the drive took hours, more than it should have. you know how sometimes a drive can feel longer than it really is if you've never been to the place before? the unfamiliarity of the twists and turns in the road lengthen the trip somehow; that was the case here. i'd never been where i was going, but i didn't care because i knew who was waiting at the end.
my long-overdue trip to the far south of the state was finally underway, i was excited. it had only been a few weeks since i last saw them, but compared to how often we used to spend time together, back when we first met, when we were freshmen, a few months is forever. and they always made the pilgrimage up here, i had yet to see their neck of the woods - partially because of my own affinity for what we northerners had at our fingertips, and my "fear" of what they lacked down south. this was always a debate we found ourselves in, my part of the state versus theirs, my city versus theirs, my sports teams versus theirs, and that night we added to the list my bagels versus theirs. (the fact that they proclaimed that there was no possible way to fuck up a bagel clinched the debate for me - if you have no idea how one is properly made, which you don't if you're from their part of the state, obviously you wouldn't be able to spot a good one when it's right in front of your face... or mouth.)
i stepped out of the car and embraced my old friend, and was rushed with the memories his smell always conjures in me. over coffee we reminisced and discussed the night's itinerary, how they would show me their city and i'd see a part of their lives that had never involved me before. it had to be done eventually, and i pointed out the obvious - have we really known each other four years already? that's not so strange on its own, but when i think about what that means, it sort of gives me a headache. it was my first week of college when we met, and here we are, graduates now. four years ago, we were completely different people. i was going to be a teacher. they were going to be the next matt and ben. he hadn't enlisted yet. i had only two tattoos. i was freshly single and trying to figure out the next step. now one of them is in that boat. we had no idea what college would be like, we were just starting out and trying our damnedest to enjoy the ride.
with a screeching halt that makes me want to cover my ears and squeeze my eyes shut tight, the ride is over now. as i tried to prove to myself a few weeks back, i'm a different person than i was then. as for them? i'm not sure. in some ways, of course they are. but in some ways, they're still the same two idiots i met outside our building with nothing but a pack of cigarettes and a few promises which we'd eventually turn into a lasting friendship. they're like abbot & costello, those two, and they always have been. but it took me until that trip to be able to label them like that. they have their routine, their schtick, their movie scenes and decades of history.
for a while my paltry few years of friendship with them seemed like enough. that night, at that unfamiliar bar in those uncomfortable shoes having that familiar debate, i realized it wasn't. we're more different than i ever thought. maybe when they came as aliens to a place that was home to me it mattered less. maybe it was because we were in college, where real things always matter less than the trivial. but it mattered that night like i never thought it would. i never even saw it coming, and i didn't know what to do with it now. days later, i still don't. the ties that used to bind us don't exist anymore, and while there are hundreds of memories between us now, they are memories made by those ties. the hardest thing to figure out is where those memories lie on those strands. those binding ropes are severed, and if the memories are settled beneath the site of the cut, they fall too.
i didn't stay the night like i'd planned. i drove halfway home in those hazy hours between night and morning, for the solitary silence. where my trip south had been full of excitement and anticipation, my partial trip north was full of reflection and thought and nostalgia.