by Daniel Boscaljon
Image by Melissa D. Johnston
“To You, my oldest friend” is the ninth letter in a series of posts called Letters to You written by Daniel Boscaljon with images by Melissa D. Johnston (from one of her ongoing projects). Letters to You began last July with “everytime i write i feel myself disintegrate.”
you call to me with a dark whisper that speaks truly to whom you see me as being, in a voice simultaneously harsh and cold and yet filled with a particular kind of honest tenderness. as always, i hear your voice only in secret, when i am alone with no distractions. fitting timing, you have. i don’t want anyone else to know about you, after all, and i suspect that you have plenty of others whom you visit when i am otherwise distracted. ours is not a relationship built on faithfulness. you do not wait for the darkness, which would reveal the moon and stars and things that i love, and you do not find me in the mornings, when the smell of brewed coffee and the morning paper gentle me into my day. instead you pounce upon me on a clear and bright afternoon, filled with people whom i do and do not know. i hear the presence of your voice when i am with others, and your persistence pays off: once i am alone, i am all yours.
you alone will tell me the truth that i crave to hear. you understand my pain, the depths of how i ache and hurt. you tell me of my pains, and allow me to listen instead of speak. i am passive before your voice. you, my oldest friend, know me so much better than anyone else: how could i look away from the wisdom that you offer to me? alone, we two huddle as one and for those moments i am content to be alone, and with you only.
i am not always faithful to you, even when we are talking. sometimes i’ll think that i remember something and will try to escape from your gaze: but you are already in all of my shadows and dark places: how could i hide from you there? and you come when it is past october and the nights grow longer and golden reds refuse their trees and have already been trodden into the black ground, the times when the nights are too cold and bitter to enjoy, when the winds whip through deserted streets without mercy–what brightness is there now to enjoy? So of course i always return back to you, my oldest friend. i take solace in your council. i yearn for your embrace. other friends grow busy, and i hate to trouble them, but i never feel as though i trouble you. you forgive me the times that i have been away from you with a laugh (chilling in how it is warm) that suggests that you knew it was a matter of time.
how could i have thought that i could ever NOT be yours? how could have thought that my separation was permanent? how easily you went away…and i had thought it a victory at the time. “look at me!” i had said. “look at my strength! i don’t need you.” and you smiled, and humbly played the victim. thank you for not taking offense, and for teaching me that i truly do belong to you. thank you for letting me learn that what i think of as my strength is truly only weakness…but on my own, instead of teaching me. even as i love you, i fear your lessons.
your voice is so seductive–it stretches to all of the barren places inside of me and reminds me that it is not fit for flowers to grow all over the earth. past memories of past joys remain there. you are the end of every hope, for all hopes end up pointing back to you after time has had its way with them. i never need be afraid for you, my oldest friend, will always be there to give me the strength to survive, if only for a little while longer.
perhaps i can eventually learn to laugh with your laughter and consistently see the world through your eyes. i have a great respect for you, as you know. ever present, simply waiting for my return, i have a confidence with you that goes past every hope. perhaps i can use your strength to overcome the world, shrugging off the temptations that the world would offer me with your strong shoulders and cold eyes. the strongest steel is the coldest steel, after all, and even warm iron can be bent with weak hands.
i hear your call and i know what you have to offer to me. please know that if i stumble while running toward you, or walk slowly, it is only because there is something within me that wants to think that the troubles between us may not yet have been reconciled. i do not fully trust you yet…but i know that your patience, like your strength, is infinite, and that you can outlast even my small attempts to rebel.
to you, my oldest friend, i will continue to return for the rest of my life. you know me as nobody else ever has, or ever will. how can i resist your love?
Daniel Boscaljon has Ph.D.s in Modern Religious Thought and 19th-century American Literature, both from the University of Iowa. His interest is in the fragility and liminality of human experiences. His first book, Vigilant Faith: Passionate Agnosticism in the Secular World was published by the University of Virginia Press this past August.