Stephen's funeral, a bewildering few days in Connecticut; I spent the whole time scraping my finger nails against my skin trying to peel off the layer of dirt that covered me. In our grief we were strangers to one another. I drove away angry and pretty certain that I would never see Matt or Tino again. And that was it for me and kayaking, for a long time, if not forever.
But two years passed, and those ragged memories faded. Now I can now think about Stephen and our days on the river without crying. I think about Matt and remember months and months on the road and our ludicrous job of keeping everything together, from South America to Canada, the siete tazas, goats drowning on the Rio Achibueno, campfires on the banks of the Ottawas, jokes we used to make about coffee which made my boyfriend at the time angry, that we'd be sharing jokes like that, although now I can't remember what they were. Or how they could illicit anger.
Matt and I have a friendship sealed by working for that school, a strange and wild place based on a river in West Virginia, by our mutual devotion for all the kids who went there, and in particular Stephen, because we'll never see him again.
Even Matt paused a few times, struck by the grandeur of the place, and he's not one for moments of sincerity. Matt is half loner cowboy and half West Virginia cynic, six feet six and darkly hilarious.
But we probably will, and it probably won't matter. Some people in your life, they're just cemented in place.