First Friends

By Neva Knott

The moving truck was loaded. We all paused and looked in. Four lives organized, boxed, and packed for the move across country. I took pictures, and then just stood there, in disbelief that this day had really come. Other friends came and went to say goodbye. The next morning, Bryan and his friend would drive off, taking the Fisher family’s possessions on the road–destination Boston. Theresa and the kids would spend the night at her brother’s and fly out the next day.

Around nine that morning, I was back over there, to spend the morning with Theresa and the kids–Aidan and Cora. We were going for donuts and a walk, and I was going to help T. clean any last nooks or crannies of the house that now stood so empty.

We all stood around, trying to drag down time. Finally, Bryan said, “Let’s go.” Aidan grabbed on and hugged his dad in that fierce way of a six-year-old, in that way that makes the world stop, in that way of never wanting to let go. I could see Bryan’s back, and Aidan’s small face nestled into his dad’s shoulder. Cora was sitting in the bean bag, playing Angry Birds on her mom’s iPad. At two, this was all too much for her, so she was controlling the small universe on the screen, flinging bird after bird into a pole. Her language came in the form of a little girl grunt of irritation. No words. She’d hugged her dad, too, and was now back at her game.

After the truck pulled away, T and I put shoes on the kids and walked up the couple of blocks to Alberta Street, one of Portland’s neighborhood hubs. That’s where the donut shop was. Cora, usually on the look-out for food, was disinterested. Aidan got his pick of the store, and came out with a bag of four donuts, and ate them all, one by one, patiently. Theresa and I sat and drank coffee and talked of nothing much at all. In my head though, the conversation was unending and loud. They’re moving, my mind yelled over and over.

The clock ticked away our last minutes together. Finally it was unavoidable–we walked back to the house, and I helped T check drawers and closets, decide what to do with the remnants of cleaning supplies. Then, there was no way left to hold on to time. I knew I had to go. I told Cora good-bye; she was back at the Birds, and just mumbled in reply. I picked up Aidan and gave him a hug, trying not to let him see that I was crying, and told him he was still my favorite little boy. He’s not much of a talker. He looked at me and smiled, gave me a fierce hug, and sat down in the porch swing. I hugged T, something she and I rarely do, and exchanged all the usual pleasantries–have a good trip, call when you get there, I can’t believe you’re really going, it will all work out, I’ll come visit.

Then, she said, “There are all kinds of things I want to tell you, but I just can’t say them.” I choked back my tears again and said, “I know.”

But what she did manage to get out was this, “You were my first friend here, you know.”

I hadn’t know, or realized. When I met Theresa she lived across the river in Vancouver, with a room-mate. We met as new teachers at a local high school. At the end of that school year, Theresa’s father helped her buy a house in Portland. She and I had been spending time together, going to street fairs and poetry readings, hiking on weekends. I began inviting her to barbeques and Sunday dinners. Eventually, she met Bryan, who lived with my boyfriend, Adam.

Bryan, Adam, and a couple other guys moved to Portland together from Indiana. Bryan and Adam had been friends since first grade. Adam’s death was such a loss for Bryan, and Theresa, too. After, we held each other together by having dinner, watching The Sopranos on Friday nights, going to breakfast on Sundays. They, too, threw handfuls of Adam’s ashes into the ocean. His accident was on a Sunday, and we’d had plans for dinner, the four of us, on Monday–they were going to tell us Theresa was pregnant.

As Jack Johnson sings, One life goes out, one comes in.

After Theresa and Bryan got married, and Aidan was on the way, they moved to the house we’d packed up and cleaned yesterday. I’d help paint the walls, shop for curtains, and had since spent countless evenings around their table for dinner. Now they were moving to Boston, to be closer to family. And soon I was moving to Olympia, to execute my mom’s estate.

I drove home, Theresa’s words loud in my mind.

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