“I heard about your friend dying. I’m sorry.”
My dear friend Maryam gave me a consoling glance as she sipped her coffee. I ate a piece of candied bacon and sighed, breathing through my nostrils. We stayed silent like that for a moment.
“It’s been a couple of months now. That was a tremendous blow. It’s kind of like he was my entire support system and he was just gone.”
“I know exactly how that is.”
Friends were off talking in corners of the patio, sitting in chairs and laughing while sipping on coffee and munching on French toast and mixing mimosas. I looked up where the tall sides of each building met the glorious Seattle sky above. It was a perfect temperature outside. Seattle felt like home.
I looked over at Maryam, a little embarrassed, then bit my lip. “Can I tell you something that might sound a little crazy?”
She gave me a look that said ‘of course, don’t be silly’ without speaking a word, and I laughed.
“So… he’s kind of become the voice of my conscience. It’s kind of like he’s haunting me a bit, but in a really nice way. Kurt had this ability of seeing all of me, one hundred per cent. He knew every part of my life. So if I had doubts about something, he had this way of looking me right in the eye, cutting through all of the nonsense, and just telling me like it was. Like if I was wondering if I was capable of something, he would assure me I was; if I was dating some guy I had doubts about, he’d just cut through it and help me see it clearly. He was amazing at it. So now, my conscience, my inner monologue, takes on the sound of his voice whenever I need that clarity. It’s more than his voice though, it feels like him.” I looked up finally. “Does that sound crazy?”
Maryam had a sadness about her for just a second, and I realized she maybe had someone haunting her as well. She and I were unlikely friends. When I first moved to Seattle a few years ago, I had attended a house party with a few acquaintances, and met dozens of new people. Maryam was tiny, short and petite, with gorgeous olive skin and an incredible smile. We had hit it off quickly, discovering we were in the same field, and we talked all about Seattle, and Mormons, and being gay, and my children, and her family, and social justice, and every other topic that came up. We went out for coffee and out dancing and to productions after that, and she became one of my most trusted friends.
Maryam had grown up in Tehran, Iran, and as a young adult met an American pastry chef, a Seattle-based Mormon man named Aaron. The two had fallen in love and married, and now had formed a life together in Seattle, where Aaron had worked as a chef while Maryam was in school. Since my move back to Utah, their lives had turned again, with Maryam now working as a social worker and Aaron back in school. Seeing them both this morning had been wonderful, with powerful hugs exchanged.
Maryam gave me a sad smile. “It doesn’t sound crazy at all.” Then she told me about her friend Sheila, who she had met in Tehran. They had been very close friends, bonded on a level like Kurt and I had been. She told me about Sheila’s move to the United States and how she had conquered one kind of cancer only to succumb to another kind.
“I can still hear her in my head, too. I talk to her sometimes, and she answers, especially when I need her most. I completely understand what you mean.”
A full minute of silence passed as we sat and sipped coffee and just absorbed being there. And then we talked about life changes, how we were growing older and changing with the world. Maryam told me about she and Aaron going to the Transgender Pride event the day before, in the rain, because even though she and her husband are straight, they love LGBT people and support them on every level because that is the kind of people they are. We talked about her work and clients, and about what she wants to do in her fiend. I talked about my writing projects and my children growing up.
And when it was time to go, I gave my friend Maryam one more enormous hug and told her she was one of my very favorite people. And I said goodbye to my friends there, and walked down the streets of Seattle, my heart and spirit full, and I heard Kurt’s voice in my head.
“This feeling you have right now, listen to it, and carry it with you.”
And I whispered back to him. “I will, my brother. I will.”