Four days in New York were not nearly enough. Four days in a three-room apartment with seven other souls â€“ six of us sharing a bedroom, all of us sharing the bath. At any given point, a dozen of us wandered the city, annoyed people on trains and talked of anything and everything.
“Do you know what I love most about your friends? Your Peace Corps friends?” I asked on the drive home, long after the sun had set and in the last leg or two of the journey.
“They’re all flawed.”
I caught his look out of the corner of my eye and continued.
“I mean, we’re all flawed but you all know each other so well that you know the flaws and like each other anyways. That’s pretty awesome.”
“I think that’s the glue that holds us together,” he said. “None of us had anything like that before we went and we haven’t found it since.”
I was not part of it, not the Peace Corps, but they knew me tangentially and welcomed me with open arms. Literally.
“You’ve met before, why no hug?” one girl berated her boyfriend and he leaned in for a hug, all 6 foot, 7 inches of him. I spent much of the weekend in their company. More hugs followed.
Promises would flow â€“ to meet again soon, to write, to call. Many would be broken but the intentions were true. These people knew each other, inside and out, and honestly liked each other. They would come together again and again as they had over the past couple years, their ties growing stronger with coupling and real world friendships and the formation of
their non-profit. Overlapping stories and overlapping lives.
I heard tales from their days in Guyana and their lives since. About drunkenness, defecation, and falling in love – in one couple, all three combined. I heard about falling down and rising up. I knew the characters and most of the places.
I scanned through pictures and asked for names, settings, stories, when he came back for Christmas. I visited twice. I listened. Talked. Shared.
Some of the volunteers are part of my life now, my neighbors, my friends. Others have visited and stayed with my brother. Stayed with me.
I questioned my brother on the way home about jobs and plans and stories half heard. I reviewed the faces and names in my mind.
“It’s not like it matters,” I said. “I just want to know. I like your friends.”
For four days, I wished that I had joined the Peace Corps. I knew that I still could and would create my own stories, my own group, if I did, but I wanted this one: Flawed, funny, accepting and great.
Some of the boys might move upstairs. A man from Chicago and a couple from New York plan to visit before summer’s end, and I have invited myself to Argentina. With each visit, we will move farther from Guyana. The stories will grow. They will include me. Some already do.
For four days, I stopped waiting. Waiting for my car. Waiting to find out if I’m sick. Waiting for the Metro and on the Metro. Waiting for meetings to start and meetings to end and for somebody, anybody, to get to the point. Waiting for doctors and movies and lecturers. Waiting to go home and do it all again. A life on hold.
For four days, hours on the subway melted into nothingness as we were together and the journeys eclipsed the destinations. I had nowhere to go. Nothing to do. I could wake up at noon and nobody cared. I slept better in a room with five guys than I did at home upon my return.
For four days, I simply existed. I was me: flawed, human, accepted and loved. That is just the way they are.