Anticipation of distance also makes the heart grow fonder. There is nothing like knowing an end is near to rile up a dusty heart that has been quietly abiding for too long. Suddenly those memories that had found a place to rest are found and taken out one by one, carefully looked over and felt. And the present, too, already feels like a memory, longed for as if it’s already past. Suddenly you wish you had that feeling of longing all the time, so that now, at yet another end of something, you at least knew your heart had never been quiet, but always stirred.
I spent a weekend in Grand Rapids with two of my closest friends. Drew is married now, and I walk into his apartment that’s clean and full of knick-knacks on the shelves. The kitchen smells warm and fresh with baking. Nothing like our dorm room, where his openly-displayed closet seemed to be in a constant state of vomiting out clothes, with the shades constantly drawn so that no glare touched his computer screen. Walking into the dorm room I’d usually find him at his desk, face glowing while playing a video game, a partially finished Mountain Dew next to his keyboard, and some chicken strips from Johnny’s that he picked over. Such was life then, and now I have a strange affection for it as I glance around the carefully maintained apartment with a welcome mat, potpourri, and a glass bowl of M&Ms on the coffee table.
Will comes in through Drew’s apartment door, fifteen pounds heavier with muscle. He’s got a small, tightly packed bag with all of his clothes. He used to be right across the hall from us, and now he has to drive in from Canada, which used to just be a flag on his wall. I’m not going to be sitting on his couch, staring up at that flag and talking with him about girls, God, and everything else anymore. But I can’t walk into his room on a whim anymore, and I realize that as he stands in the doorway.
We all hug, and settle into the weekend. We marvel that Drew’s got a baby on the way, we have conversations far too explicit and inappropriate for restaurant conversation, we laugh until we cry, we stay up late into the night, unable to sleep as the conversation grows deeper. And I realized as I was with them that I longed to be with them. There they were in front of me, and I was distant, already missing them.
That weekend, the ends of things were presently on our minds: the end of college, the end of being near each other, the end of that life where our friendships grew, and the coming end to the weekend, when we would separate once more. And then the weekend did end, and we hugged again, and we said “I love you.” I cried on the way home, because I longed for when they were my home. I had the same sensation you get reading the last line of a book and closing its covers, as you say goodbye to the characters and imagine their unknown futures, and feeling that pang in your heart of not being with them for it all (I am, of course, saying this with Harry on my mind).
Things are always ending and beginning, simultaneously and separately. It’s not that an end leads to a beginning—an end is a beginning. They are the same. And there is never a moment that they aren’t happening, but, as can be said for many things, and it’s true: we rarely notice. Though my friendship with Drew and Will is wreathed in endings, beginnings have always been there. Bittersweet as things may seem now, when phone calls and video chats have taken the place of living together, we are all still close friends. I love them now more than I did in college, as only time, and endings beginning, and beginnings ending, can do.
Obviously this is how things must be. Days come to an end, and another day takes its place. Children leave and parents grow old and children become parents. To find things we love, other things have to end—even if what ends was the absence of that love. So it goes. And still, endings haunt the heart. And with the beginning of things, those endings will always be there in memory, bittersweet, painful, aching. You cherish them like a finished book, like a lost lover, and you let the next beginnings come, and the next endings follow.
And now, another ending. Another beginning. I’m moving to Seattle, farther from friends and family then I’ve ever been before. Days filled with the smiles of my baby nephew, Fox, and the yips of our new puppy, and the gathering of three generations at one dinner table—parents, children, grandchildren—are ending. As my final week with them approaches, at least I know my heart is stirred. And still, the years will bring more to stir my heart.
Will Montei is currently in pursuit of a Masters in Teaching at Seattle Pacific University. He has been writing for the post calvin since it began in 2013.