Through Fire & Friendship

 

Through Fire and Friendship

By the time the phone was ringing on the other end of the line I questioned whether or not he ever wanted to hear from me again. It had been two years to the day since we last spoke and that conversation had not ended well. “Come back,” he had said to me. “Move to New York and…” for him the answers seemed so easy. To me they sounded trite. I screamed, he pushed back, and then nothing. That conversation was over and we went our separate ways.

The sound of an American telephone ringing its single long ring sounded foreign to me now. I had dialed the long-remembered number with a shaky hand after reading the news. His entire house had burned to the ground seven days before from being struck by lightening. And while no one was home on that fateful night, including his two dogs, nothing could be saved from the rubble. I called him out of gut reaction, thinking of his home and the beautiful things in it. In my younger days he had always seemed to me to be The Great Gatsby himself, with the exact home and life I had wanted. Yet, when he had invited me to do just that two years ago I had rejected him furiously, in a justified rage which burned out of control and smoldered for far too long. And now I hadn’t wanted his life for quite some time. I had my own. I am happy now, in London. Each day I find that my roots get deeper here, making me more and more stable in a town I am certain, for now at least, is my home. I had burned bridges with him to stay here. Now I wondered if he would let me swim back to meet him at the very least.

I wasn’t expecting him to pick up. He’s the type of man you always have to try a hundred and sixty seven times to get ahold of until it happens. I gasped his name and he shouted mine. And then the line went dead. Did he really hate me that much or had Skype failed me yet again? A screen popped up on my computer asking me a simple question: “Please tell us how you would rate your call?”

AWFUL. MISERABLE. I want to hunt down the moron who invented Skype this very moment and rip out his toenails after chucking my iMac into the River Thames. Somehow this wasn’t an option. I clicked cancel and redialed.

He picked up and said my  name first this time.

“Tell me what I can do to help you.”

“Nothing. Wait. No. Call me at this exact same time tomorrow.”

“Okay,” I said reaching for my phone and wondering what meeting I had to cancel to make this call.

“Oh and, I’m sorry I have been such a crummy friend lately.”

“Me too.” We hung up. I couldn’t remember who forgave who.

“We are rebuilding,” he told me confidently. “It’ll take years to get it back to where it was, but we want to do it. I feel obligated in a way. It was such a lovely house and just added so much to the town.” I knew he was right. The home had most likely been featured in a plethora of home and garden magazines in the past two years. He had always loved opening his home up to people. I could tell this is what he was missing the most. “And when its all done we’ll have the biggest party you can imagine.” I already knew I wanted to be there.

He and I spoke for over an hour, which, for a man fielding calls from insurance people while trying to rebuild his life, is a very long time. I told him of my own fires over the past years, more metaphorical than his, perhaps, but every bit as searing. Two years ago he caught me at the front end of it. These fires were far from being put out but at least, for now they seemed to be under control.

“It sounds to me as if there is more than one way to burn a house,” his voice had changed dramatically. He was right. My own fires had forced me to stay here. Even when he could not comprehend it, I had to stay in London. I could not go ‘home.’ There was no home to go back to anymore. It is true, once you leave home, you can’t go back again.

There was the ash and rubble of the past several years. There were times of playing the fiddle while the flames raged on because there was nothing left to do. From all of this I had stumbled out, changed and transformed into a woman rather than the teenage girl he met thirteen years before. A few short years ago I thought fires shouldn’t happen. Now I’m a bit better at calmly walking through them without getting as burned. My friend had missed a good many of these fires over the past two years, even though they had been burning long before that. Maybe if he had been around the flames wouldn’t have gotten so high and enveloped me as much. But then again, without it all burning down, I wouldn’t have to get up out of the ashes and rebuild either. Without that, I wouldn’t be able to off my strength as a grown woman. Now that we had reconnected after two years I was his equal. And when everything goes up in smoke around you, sometimes what you need most is a friend who has also gone through the rubble and made it out the other side.

“It sounds as if you are exactly where you belong.” The silence was deafening on my end as I let these words sink it. This was what I longed to hear him say these past two years. It was all over. This fire had been smothered, the rubble cleared, and out of the ashes and destruction from two years ago came a new and stronger friendship, made purer by the flames.

“Let me know know if I can do anything for you.” Things were winding down and I just wanted to reach out and hold him in whatever way I could.

“I think you just did,” was all he said.

I hung up telling Skype that my call was ‘excellent with no problems.’ Walking into my room, I opened my window and looked over at Canary Wharf on a clear summer’s afternoon. I could feel my dress flapping at my ankles in the breeze. I think for my friend purified things were already appearing in the rubble after the fire. Our phone call was one of them and a redeemed friendship was another. They are small in the face of catastrophe, but they are glints and gleams of treasures  to come. What mattered was, after the fires, we both knew that there were some things worth the effort of digging out.

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