Absent but ever present

I was sitting at my desk today staring at my monitor frazzled and frustrated by a section of code I had been working on for about an hour.  Nothing was going well and I couldn’t coerce the tags to do my bidding.  It was hellish.

While looking blankly at a page filled with carrots, slashes, and unintelligible html commands, I realized I was rubbing the locket around my neck.

Sterling Silver Locket

Sterling Silver Locket

It had been a gift from a friend several months ago.

I’ve known Ashleigh for what seems like my entire life.  We bonded in high school over our love for fast music and thrift store finds.  A few months ago, she called me and said, “I’m moving to California.”  I didn’t have a response.  What could I say?  We live in Florida.  California might as well be Mars, but she was moving for love. Her boyfriend of five years was offered a job. She had to go too.

Distance never mattered before because it was always a temporary thing. When I moved away for college or she an internship, we always knew we make our way back to one another. We stayed close, visited often, and endured.

I knew this was somehow different. She was going. Not coming back. Gone. It wouldn’t change who we were to one another, or take away any of the importance she has in my life – which only made it harder. My best friend was leaving. She would be gone in two weeks, driving across the country all the way to San Diego.

I didn’t want her to go; I didn’t want her to drive across the country alone, and being 25, her parents didn’t want her to either.  I suggested I come along for the ride.

Since it would be our last adventure together for quite some time, we decided to make it a memorable one.  We would be stopping in New Orleans, San Antonio, Tombstone, and then finally reach San Diego late on the third day.  It was a lot to pack into three days, but we managed.  We had Hurricanes the first night, fought off an invading army in a doomed church the second, and found our Huckleberry the third.  It was great, and there’s no one else I could manage to stand on a drive like that but her.

Ashleigh takes in Canal StreetTombstone GraveyardThe Alamo has no basementSan Diego Beach Access

Once we arrived in San Diego, we ran around, caught up with our friend Chad (last picture on the right), chased seals, got lost, and introduced ourselves to the city.  Two days later, I was leaving.  At 4 a.m. she drove me to the airport, and while being chastised by airport security, handed over a small newspaper wrapped box.  I opened it and saw a pretty sterling silver locket and chain.

I’m not really the sentimental type, but I was not expecting this and most definitely wasn’t prepared for what she had put inside.  I opened it expecting to find a picture of us, or something silly that would make me laugh.  Instead, there was a small, rolled up slip of paper.  It was a fortune cookie reading.  The battered paper read “You heart will soon bond with another.”

The red letters and cheesy line immediately took me back seven years. I was leaving Florida to attend college in Pennsylvania and Ashleigh and I were recovering from an exhaustive, but lucrative day of thrift store shopping at a little Chinese restaurant. She got a fortune cookie, and that was her fortune. We joked that it was a sign that regardless of where we were, we’d always remain just like we were that day.

We did. We will. And I’m better for it.

Today, frustrated by the jerk who invented the html language, I realized that a good friend like Ashleigh is always there. Rubbing the locket – still cradling an aging, yellow fortune – gave me solace. Ashleigh is absent but ever present.

Our feet relaxing after a long drive on the roof of Ashleighs new apartment.

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