likes and dislikes are arbitrary and empty and mostly meaningless, but that doesn’t make them any less your friends

two of my friends have dads with the name of gary.

one of the garys died years back.
the other gary likely killed him, as he was uncomfortable with having his child be such close friends with another child who had a father by the same name.
the still-living gary, he makes the best tortellini in the entirety of the state where he lives, so we three children have forgiven him for his murder.
we understand, and we love to eat.

my own dad died before any of the rest of my friend’s dads, which makes me the winner.
i know my friends resent me for this and i watch my back with casual, unassuming, vigilance.
i know gary to be a murderer so know well enough to pay close attention to him, his movements.
still i will never turn down a bowl of his tortellini, despite the possibility of poisoning.

i ask a different friend, unaware of the name of their father, or if their father is alive or dead or a murderer or a great cook, i ask if they want to live here in this town we both live in, and if so, why.
they respond, somewhat cryptically, with “to be continued…”, which isn’t really cryptic at all and more just a kind way to say “fuck off, i am too tired for these kinds of cloudy questions”.

i often don’t really know how to refer to people, what to call them.
i often struggle to believe that people even know who i am, not in a deep way, not like “these people don’t even know me”, but in a very plain and forthright way, like, i am stranger to these people, they don’t recognize me, don’t remember me, don’t know that we worked together or went to school together or used to spend lots of time together.

i walk around and smile and say hello, always feeling a bit like a complete stranger.
so this person is my friend, i guess.
i guess i’ll call everyone my friend.

that’s not necessarily untrue.

what is it to be a friend anyway?
we all seem to have such different definitions of the term, what it means, the expected behavior that goes with the title.
might as well open up the ranks.
might as well broaden the definition.

i don’t know why people live in this town, or rather, i don’t know why i live here, or rather, i don’t know why anyone lives anywhere.
i don’t know if anyone even recognizes anyone else.
am i stranger here?
as much here as anywhere else.

the friend i ask about living here, doesn’t seem to tolerate the dark and the clouds all that well, and it is often dark and almost always cloudy here.
i like movie theaters that show off-beat movies and food coops that have lots and lots of organic food, the type of place you have to go out of your way to even find non-organic food.
this town is dark often and almost always cloudy and does not have a food coop nor the type of theater that shows off-beat films.

most days almost all the stores are closed.
most days i only see people in diesel trucks.
most days the streets are empty save for the rain.
the stores that do open mostly sell absolute garbage to people who do not live here.
people who are strangers here.

today i walked to the store and bought a package of caramel chocolate pecan cookies and a fistful of kale.
i declined a bag and carried the kale like a bouquet in one hand, and periodically opened the plastic container of cookies, while i walked, with the other.
there are a lot of birds here.
a lot of trees.
a lot of wind.
in the long parking lot a gathering of birds — crows, a few ravens — noticed me eating cookies with one hand.
they didn’t seem to notice the bouquet of kale in the other.
they started following me as i walked.
one in particular had a small stick in its mouth, a tiny stick, and it would fly up ahead of me a few paces and then land very close to me, again and again, hoping that i would drop some of the cookie or just quit being selfish and give it some.
the walk from the store back to my home in the harbor only takes maybe five easy minutes, five relaxed minutes, and i had already eaten several cookies on the short walk, probably five.
i was already feeling a little sick and a lot ashamed from the cookies.
it would have made sense to give all the rest of those cookies to those birds.
but cookies aren’t healthy.
and the birds are my friends.

i felt further ashamed as i unzipped the plastic door that lets me into the entryway of my home, all the birds gathered on the railing of the boat behind mine, staring at me with the nothingness of hope in their black eyes.
the bird with the small stick in its beak was closest to me, and i wondered if maybe it was some kind of beak defect and not a stick at all.
i apologized to the birds for my greed, my inability to share with them.
i called them my friends and wished them well on their quest for food.
i am certain that i will be a stranger to them again by morning.
but i might be wrong.

a tiny plant is tiny and mostly out of focus, pale green against a smeared backdrop.

Published by Zak

an intertidal island in an ocean of impermanence.

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