Ap-pre-ci-ate

Nathaniel felt like a failure. Everything in his life had fallen apart since he flunked out of college. The stress was too much to handle. The end of his relationship with his girlfriend, spiraling grades and students loans stacking as high as the bank building downtown.

It started one morning when he woke up alone in the two bedroom apartment he shared with her. He stood up and ran around the apartment searching for her. Instead all he found was remnants of her belongings tossed around like she left to catch a plane. He was astonished that she was gone, no signs, no arguments, no post-it-note, letter, email or even a text. She simply was gone.

What just happened, he thought as he ran his fingers through his long dark hair. First the notice of termination from the university, next the student loans notes went defunct and now she leaves with no explanation,  no fight.   Sullen, beaten down and hopeless, days turned to nights, which turned to weeks and then months. Nathaniel never felt so destroyed.

Life had become impossible for Nathaniel. Somedays he never ate, got dressed or even left his bed. This cycle was reminiscent of many other times in Nathaniel’s life. He had found himself in this endless journey of hopelessness with no escape hatch, no map and what felt like no way out. Nathaniel blindly stared at the TV on the chest at the end of his bed. Micky Mouse, Snoopy, Santa, his Reindeer and Garfield floated by in the Macy’s parade. The trees were barren and flakes of snow filled the double hung windows in his 14 floor apartment overlooking the city. The air smelled like November as it drafted through the old windows.

Suddenly there was a knock on the door that awaken Nathaniel from his fog. Who could it be he thought? Probably his landlord because he was now 4 months behind on his rent. As Nathaniel stood up he felt light-headed and dizzy. Now in a vertical position, he stood there naked, thin and pale. He pushed his arms through a robe and opened the door. Bewildered, he stood frozen at the site of Aaron. Thoughts raced though Nathaniel’s brain; How did Aaron find me? Why was he here? What did he want?  I am embarrassed, I am afraid, I am weak, I am sad, I am stuck, scrambled Nathaniel’s thoughts.

Aaron was Nathaniel’s best friend in elementary, middle and high school. Aaron essenitally lived at Nathaniel’s house in its 5 bedrooms, 7 baths, tennis court and in-ground swimming pool. Their friendship slipped away when Nathaniel went to the university and Aaron stayed back to work at the auto body shop in town. Aaron was Nathaniel’s first friend, honestly his only friend.  They lived on the same block, went to the same school, played for countless hours from dusk to dawn in the neighborhood. They were inseparable. They did everything together. They played the same sports, went to the same classes, had lunch together everyday. Aaron was a great friend and cared about Nathaniel like he was his own bother. Nathaniel was an only child, and Aaron lived alone with his mother since his father left and his sister died. Aaron was a funny outgoing kid always trying to make people around him laugh. He and his Mom never had much, but just enough to get by in their two-bedroom apartment. He had a strong character, a big heart and loved Nathaniel.

Aaron, Why are you here? Nathaniel said, I am not in a good place, this is a really bad time for me.   Aaron smiled pushed into Nathaniel bumping him backwards through the apartment door, stepped in and closed and locked the apartment door behind him.

Aaron said, “Clara was at the body shop the other day and she still keeps in contact with your mother. Clara told me that your mother was worried that you not working, not in school and alone in this insensitive city.”

“So here I am,” Aaron said. Nathaniel asked, Why do you have a suitcase, are you going somewhere? Aaron said, “No Nathaniel, I am here to be with you.” Aaron reached forward and embraced Nathaniel.  As Aaron arms wrapped around Nathaniel, he sobbed and the weight of his slight body crumbled in his grasp.

appreciateAaron said in a soft voice, “Nathaniel, I told you man, I would always be here for you, we have lived like brothers.” “I know you moved away to the city for college but that does not change our friendship.” Nathaniel whispered back, “I love you Aaron with all my heart. Nathaniel thought to himself, Aaron is here on Thanksgiving, the day I am in my darkest moment” Nathaniel said, “I appreciate you Aaron, more than you will ever know.”

The young men sat down on the couch and when Nathaniel stopped sobbing, he started talking, talking and talking. The noise from street faded, the sun disappeared as night filled the window and they sat entangled in the story of Nathaniel’s journey.

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