Typical for any January night, sleep doesn't come easy to me. Ordinarily, I'd binge YouTube videos until I fall asleep. However, nothing I watch seems to occupy my attention; my mind is adrift in a stormy sea of thoughts. After an hour of failing to watch anything to completion, I grab my jacket, pack of cheap menthol lights, and shoes so I can go out for a smoke and maybe a nightly stroll through my neighbourhood.
After lighting my penultimate cigarette, I grab a seat on the stoop and stare up at the night sky. Sunrise is almost on the horizon, but for now, the starlit sky remains as dark as ever; interrupted only by the faint glow of the full moon. That's when I get a notification on my phone. I notice that someone wants to follow me on Instagram, and she's an old friend of mine from college: Luna. I chuckle as I approved the request and followed her back in response. That's when I take another drag off my cigarette and start walking toward 7/11.
I first noticed that her old account was gone when I tried to send her a meme. I won't lie: a part of me was genuinely afraid that she blocked me. Of course, that wasn't the case at all. If I had to guess, she probably deactivated the old account and made a new one for whatever reason. Either way, I'm glad to know that my neuroses were wrong this time around. With that in mind, I do question why something as trivial as a social media account belonging to an old friend of mine would make me smile.
As I'm walking up Straight Path, I can't help but muse on Luna. I shake my head and laugh as I flick the ashes of my cigarette before taking another drag. It isn't often that I find myself thinking about anyone in particular, much less an old friend that I haven't seen in a few years. Even so, my mind keeps wandering back to her: how she's been since I last saw her, the types of music she introduced me to, how we met, how long it's been since we last saw one another in person, that kind of thing.
I met Luna at one of the countless bus stops near the college. It was a hot September afternoon, and my mind was craving stimulation since the bus wasn't due for another 10 minutes. That's when I noticed a henna pattern on her hand and struck up whatever bit of idle conversation I could muster. Funnily enough, we didn't really “click” the first time we talked. In fact, we were more like acquaintances than friends for the first few months we knew one another.
We were both in different classes, had completely different schedules, and never really saw one another on campus all that often. I won't lie; I was expecting us to never see one another again after one semester. Of course, that's not what happened in the slightest. In fact, the exact opposite happened, and I'm still awestruck that we still stayed in contact all these years later.
I ash out the last bit of my cigarette on the sole of my boot before flicking the butt into a nearby gutter. Aside from the harsh, fluorescent lighting and the sound of late-night radio playing over the intercom, 7/11 looks completely dead as the cashier is just sitting on a stool browsing through his phone. I wander over to the coffee and pour myself a small cup. I also pick up a pack of gum and make my way to the counter.
“How's it going, boss?”
“It's going alright. Can I get these, plus a pack of Newport 100s?”
“Sure thing, just give me a second.” He grabs a pack of cigarettes off the shelf behind him and scans it in, along with my coffee and gum. “That'll be $14.66. Cash, credit?”
“Debit.” After a few seconds of awkward silence, my card goes through, and I'm free to leave with my stuff.
“Get home safely.”
“Thanks, you too.”
I grab the last cigarette out of my old pack and light it before tossing the empty pack in the nearby bin. Cheap coffee and cigarettes aren't the world's healthiest combination, but it gets the job done. I wonder what Luna would think if she knew I started smoking... or if she knew that I'm a loser who stays awake through all hours of the night. I let out a deep sigh as I start the long trek back home.
The first time we hung out together happened by pure chance. I was going about my business as usual and got a message from her saying that she was distraught. I offered to hang out with her, and thus the plan was in motion. Since I finally got my driver's license, that gave us much more freedom to visit any place we wanted. We went into Queens to visit the Queens Museum of Art, we walked around Corona Park, talked about all kinds of stuff, before ending the day with a cup of coffee at some new place that opened up nearby.
Of course, there's a small catch here: that was the first, and probably the only time we ever truly “hung out” as friends. Granted, we did share a couple of classes the following semester, and I offered to give her a ride to class whenever I could. However, that's basically the extent to which we really interacted with one another. After she graduated and I dropped out, we drifted apart. I began getting wrapped up in work, and she advanced her studies.
However, there was still a light at the end of the tunnel: we still talked on Instagram now and again. Maybe she'd respond to a story I posted, or maybe I'd send her a link to this song that caught my ear that I thought she might enjoy. Little things like that often brought a smile to my face as I worked gruelling shifts at FedEx and Target. Those moments weren't often, but my mood would do a 180 whenever they'd happen, and I'd finish the rest of my shift with a happy grin on my face.
Eventually, I made my way back home and grabbed my seat on the stoop. The sky's already starting to lighten up, so I figured now is as good a time as any to watch the sun creep past the horizon. I take the last drag off my cigarette before flicking it to the curb. I let out another deep sigh as I scroll through her new Instagram account. There's only one post on it: a selfie of her sitting in a meadow while holding a white flower in her hands. Her eyes are closed, but there's a warm smile on her lips as the breeze gently lifts her hair.
“Made a new account for family and close friends only,” reads the caption.
After reading that, I immediately start breaking out into a big, goofy grin, and I start chuckling. Even after all this time, after all the distance between us, and how little we really interacted with one another, she still thinks of me as a close friend. I'm sure there's going to be yet another point where I'm worried we aren't friends. More to the point, I'm sure there will be another time where I'm overthinking every little detail in our past interactions that might lead to her not wanting anything to do with me.
Maybe it's selfish to want to be a part of someone's life. Maybe it's stupid to try and pin significance on almost every little thing. Hell, I'm sure I might come off as weird or creepy, given how much thought I'm putting into this situation right now. At the same time though, I'd like to believe that I meant enough to her that she still wanted me in her life in some capacity just like how she means so much to me despite only spending a few fleeting moments with her. As the sun rises and the twilight of the night sky slowly fades away, I take the last swig of my coffee before opening up Instagram again.
“Hey Luna, it's been a while since we last talked. How've you been?”