In the warm November evening of Friday, my friend T and I walked Market Street in search of cocktails. We found them (at Bong Su) but first in the darkness of the socially dimming sidewalk, a face emerged tethering me to my past. I pointed my index finger and bellowed, you!
A man wearing a beanie, goatee still brushing chin and lip, black eyes of clever come backs peered out at me not seeing, until spark of recognition and an Ohmigod escaped. I hadn’t seen this face for 3 years and frankly wasn’t convinced I would ever see him again.
J. and I had become friends at a coffeehouse for streetkids I volunteered at for 4 years. He usually kept to himself downing repeated cups of coffee, watching the room. Our M.O. found us at the table, playing chess on a regular basis. He let me castle and use a French open but never let me win.
In this way, our friendship emerged as chess teacher and pupil. We would chat about politics, about philosophy, about God. He lived under the Bay Bridge and could defend himself well. J. was the one who chided me for running after a homeless man who had stolen my wallet at a soup kitchen dinner. I wondered last night what he would say about my assault on the 38 line.
He looked back at me last night, smile as wide as his cheeks would go and we commenced rapid fire question style of catching up. He had just played chess at the tables set up in Union Square where he had lost one and won one. When he moved to his brother’s a few years back, I was happy for his life change and sad to see him go.
I walked away last night full. Full of how much I am not the same 20-something bleeding heart and aware of how relationships are like mines tunneled into mountains. Sometimes we find the end and sometimes the tunnel keeps extending deeper.