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  • A year ago I woke up to a friend request and a message from you. It's been a long time, your message said, I hope you're well. I hadn't thought about you in a long time, but I supposed we had been friends, were still friends despite the lapse. Hard to believe. That it's been a year, I mean, not that we were friends.

    Seeing your name, your picture, sent ice through my bones. A forgotten part of me came alive like I never could have expected, not even if I had thought about you over the years. There you were, and the gravity of it flooded me.

    We exchanged notes on our last contacts; our memories were at odds. You recalled a sad end; an email I sent during an argument that contained what you took as my final words. I remembered a postcard you sent me months later (a postcard I still have, tucked away with a small packet of your letters). You were in Italy, falling in love. It was warm the day it arrived in the mail, and I stood in the sunshine of my backyard reading your words. I smiled, happy for you. We should meet again when you returned, you wrote, and exchange stories.

    Ten years passed. You'd made me a painting when we were young, and I hung it in every place I lived, except the time I had to move suddenly and it was lost for a while. It was of a Picayune Indian symbol for family. Before I found the original again, I got a long-planned tattoo, badly recreating your brushstrokes from memory on my right hip. I wanted it to represent my family, standing opposite a tattoo symbolizing my marriage. It didn't matter that it wasn't perfect. I knew what it was. I just didn't know at the time what it really meant.

    A decade later, you came back. I remembered what it felt like to be loved just because, to be loved no matter what. You were the first person who ever gave me that gift, and you came back to give it again at the moment I needed it more than ever. You always did have good timing that way. For a while it seemed we would make it last more than a few months this time. Maybe we'd grown up enough to really be friends, to exist together outside of memories and dreams and ink. But no.

    Not this time.

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