During the start of summer, I found myself in the dank basement of my house opening up a vintage attache case where I keep a pile of love letters and mementos from former lovers. As I immersed myself in the letters, recalling moment and shared affection, it was Galen’s letter that caught me off guard and hit me the hardest.
I had forgotten how much I had cared for him. I was so moved by his tenderness and humor that I even went as far as dialing a phone number he had included in one of his letters back in 2000. I already knew the phone had been disconnected long ago, and although hope seemed moot, I tried calling anyway. When the automated female voice came on declaring that the phone number was no longer in service, I began crying. And what started out as crying for Galen turned into crying for all the pent-up emotions that I had been hauling around inside like cinder blocks for months.
I cried most of that afternoon away. It was one of several afternoons this summer where I would find myself emotionally distraught–reliving moments that felt like stab wounds, crying, regretting, missing, and longing. On that day, as I cried for Galen (and other people, places and things), I realized that his friendship was lost to me forever. I never even knew his last name, or if I had known it once, I had since forgotten it.
Galen and I met in China through a study abroad program at Syracuse University. We were inseparable from the moment we met. He was adventurous, easy-going, curious and artistically inclined.
During one of our nightly outings in Beijing, we decided it was time to eat insects at the night market. Another classmate also wanted in on the fun and tagged along. To get us in the mood, we gulped down a bottle of beer apiece and then, as a crowd of about 50+ Chinese citizens gathered around to watch three Americans eat the impossible (Yes, an actual crowd gathered around us. Some even took pictures), Galen, Jason and I carefully split and consumed a grasshopper and scorpion. Both insects were about 2.5 inches in length. They were crispy and heavily spiced on the outside and tofu-textured on the inside. I took the prize and ate the scorpion’s crispy stinger.
There are too many moments to recall. But another moment that I enjoyed was when Galen and I went to Tiananmen Square to see Mao, or what was left of him. It turned out that we couldn’t see Mao that day, but we ended up hanging around the square for a couple of hours anyway, goofing off inappropriately with the statues and making a spectacle of ourselves. We had been well-behaved Americans up to that point, but something about that sweltering July day made us feel boisterous and playful.
Although Galen and I were never lovers, I include one of his two letters because on a very intuitive level, he and I loved each other–and I’m certain, that if the timing had been right, we would have become intimately involved.
So wherever you are tonight, Galen, please know that I love you and miss you. You made my time in China blindingly brighter and more colorful than Manic Panic hair dye.