Danielle Rice/Parker/O’Conner

I don’t know you, but I know you. You were the most poetic and polar anomaly I’d ever seen. I was sure I could see your eyes sparkle when you looked around as you stepped onto the bus, amazed as if you were a newborn beholding the world for the first time. You were beautiful, especially in the modest and pure way. You weren’t dressed provocatively and you wore almost no makeup on your kind face, but it could never be any other way. Like real art, you held beauty and meaning. You were delicately bold.

The bus rumbled along the highway. I looked over, and you were writing as fast as your pen could move in a cheap, pocket-sized notebook— humble. Then you held your chin high with pride as you tore your eyes from the freshly paved words and eagerly whipped your head left to face me. You simply wanted me to pick your new last name from a list of imagined ones you had selected. Parker or O’Conner? I chose O’Conner, and you chose to continue our conversation. Your messy but particular ballerina bun bounced on your head as you eagerly asked more questions, some as simple as spelling. I was conflicted from that moment on. Were you wise or naive? I mean, society tells us that everything needs to fit in a box— a labeled, organized box. We shouldn’t question our last name, we shouldn’t be headed halfway across the country to New York to be a mortuary beautician, and we should always plan the next step. That didn’t stop you. Was I sensing innocence, or maturity most people don’t reach in their lifetime? Were you utterly lost in this great big world, or were you living vivaciously? During the breaks in our conversation you’d fiercely scribble in your notebook again, focused and distracted all at once. Quiet and reserved, yet curious and cordial. Never once did you annoy me, as you were brave to speak and determined to listen. All I wanted to do was figure you out. I wish I had more time, because an hour on the greyhound wasn’t enough.

In a way, I wish I could be you. You were so content with life, but also somehow yearning for more. You only had a simple flip phone to keep you connected, but that was all you needed. You were all-consumed by the unknown yet completely free to make your own destiny. I don’t remember my first impression of any of my close friends, maybe due to the length of our friendship. Regardless, you’ve had a bigger first impression on me in that short hour than anyone else has had. It’s been nearly a year, and I wish I could talk to you again to ask how you’re doing. Did you get that job in New York? Did you find that happiness you already had anyways? Is your new name as glorious sounding as you’d hoped? While you were writing, I was too; about that bus ride to the Indianapolis airport with one of the most complex individuals I’ve ever met.

Some would say I don’t know you. You’re a perfect stranger, but I know you. I know it’s lonely to be always searching and roaming. I know we all want (and arguably need) a fresh start sometimes. I know that it takes courage to loose control of your life, and dedication to keep dreaming amidst the darkness. I know that we all need hope like you. You are no one and everyone all at once, and I know that we all need to learn the balance of mastering contradictions as you have. I know that you’re doing fine, because you’re unbroken— not so much on a temporary basis, but permanently. You’ve made it this far, what can life throw at you that you haven’t overcome? I know you’re strong, so I know that you’re somewhere out there still delicately bold.

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