Tuesday, August 23, 2005

A Voice Of Love ...

Adam and I were friends.

He lived down the hall from me in the dorms at UIC. He shared a triple with Brian and John. It was the biggest room, as far as we knew, in all the dorms. The first-floor rooms had very high ceilings, and their room, being a triple, had more than the average share of space.

Adam and I would see each other in the hallway, but neither of us spoke to each other for the longest time. One day, we did. Maybe it was outside the laundry room. The conversation was not remarkable.

Adam, however, was. His laugh could be heard through closed doors and down hallways.

Adam came to my mother's 50th birthday party. I would visit his parents' house and sit at the kitchen table and kibbitz with his mom.

We stayed in touch for a while after graduation, but our lives drifted apart. Phone calls became sporadic. Years went by.

In October 2001, I did the Avon Breast Cancer walk in Atlanta. I knew Adam was working for the event organizer. I hoped to see him at Day 0, to run into him as I completed my registration. Yeah, right. There were thousands of people. But I had a feeling, as I walked up a particular road, that I would see him. Later that day, walking down the road to the shuttles, I had the same feeling. I looked over to the right. Adam was there.

We screamed and jumped up and down, hugging each other. One of my walker pals took our picture. (Though I never did get it from her.) I introduced him around. We hugged some more. We were both crying.

On the second night of the event, Adam found my tent. It was cold that night. Too cold for an early October evening in Atlanta. He came into our cramped quarters (8x8 feet, for two people and their gear) and handed me a red plastic bag. Inside, he included a T-shirt (I wear it now to train for this walk), a waist pack, a page-a-day inspirational calendar, and a button displaying a big number "2."

In Pallotta Teamworks' world (back when there was a Pallotta Teamworks), walkers wore buttons to denote how many events they'd participated in, both as a badge of honor and to let others know that they'd been through events, in case the first-timers needed help or advice.

On the back of a Pallotta flyer (the closest thing he could find to paper), he wrote to me (among other things), "The most important item included is the #2 event button. I can't imagine a 3-Day next year without you."

I didn't do the walk the following year. And Adam stopped working for Pallotta Teamworks. And we lost touch again.

Last year, transferring numbers from my old cell phone to my new, I ran across a number for Adam. No way, I thought. No way it's still active. I put it in my new phone anyway.

For the past two nights, I've dreamt of Adam. No real reason why. I haven't been talking to other college pals, or thinking about the Atlanta event. He's just been on my mind.

Today, I called up Adam's number on my phone and hit "Send." His voicemail answered.

I left a message.

Walking up Michigan Avenue this afternoon, the phone rang. Adam.

I made my way to the Water Tower park and sat and talked to him, catching up on the past four years. He was on his way to work at Clark and Diversey. We decided to talk next week and make a plan to get together.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am quite possibly the world's least-patient person. I walked over to the CTA Red line stop at State and Chicago and headed north.

When he saw me, he laughed. "You came!" he said, and hugged me tight and held on. It had been four years. Far too long.

"Do you realize we could have graduated from college again since we've last seen each other?" I asked.

And then I had to go. I literally saw him for less than a minute, but after our conversation, I didn't want to wait a moment longer. And we'll see each other again.

It's taken four years for me to sign up for another breast cancer walk, but as I write this, I'm looking at my "2" button and will carry it with me to, as Adam wrote in his note to me in Atlanta, " ... remember this event and remember how much I love you."

Call someone you love.

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