Two people sit at a table in the upstairs of the local grocery store. They both have close-cropped silver hair, though one’s is slightly longer – an inch or two, only vaguely noticeable. This is because it naturally grows that much quicker than the other’s. Both wear black plastic rimmed square-shaped glasses. Both are dressed to the hilt here, full suit attire, no corners cut. One suit is charcoal black; the other slate grey. Both compliment the wearer’s hair in style and monochromaticity.
One person wears a silver broach on the coat pocket; the other a colorful glass bracelet. The one small open testament of difference between them. A difference of personality both can celebrate.
They are drinking tea from a shared pot. Orange blossom ceylon – one of their favorites. Back when they were working, this would have been their lunch break. Ten minutes to get there, fifty minutes to chat and sip or eat a small bite, ten minutes to get back. Today, they have just come from a mid-Friday service.
Here over tea, they discuss life, family, summer vacations in vibrant, less than obnoxious tones. One leans an arm over the railing, comfortable in this space. The other holds a tea cup close to the chest, warming their hands against the not-quite-Spring outside.
This meeting is nothing out of the norm for them. Jana and Maer have been friends since middle school. At this late stage in life, it’s no surprise they have become somewhat alike. Most people who have met them think they must be siblings. They are, but of a different sort. A sort that was, perhaps, not common to other members of their cultural experience.
They are spirit-siblings. Bound together by a singular guide through life. A grey seagull winging over the northern coast of Oregon ties them together more than blood ever could. This is how it happened:
Maer had just turned twelve years old. The new school year was about to start off. The days were getting ever-so slightly shorter. There was two and a half weeks before the school bell would ring all the children back into desks, homework, and packed lunches. So soon now, it’d be time to start picking out that first-day outfit.
But first – Maer was twelve now. Momma & Poppi had promised a camping trip to celebrate the newly acquired age. Of course Jana was invited, no questions asked. The two kids sat together on Maer’s shaggy orange carpet, imagining it was sand through their fingers, as they talked in hushed tones about all the magical things that would happen on the edge of the world where the sea was.
Jana was a fantastic dreamer and spent hours talking all about pixies and wizards, about how they’d meet some magical elf who would lead them to some secret lair where a sea dragon lay sleeping. The elf would, of course, cast a spell on the dragon to make sure it remained nice. When it woke, it’d ask Maer to make a birthday wish and anything could happen then.
Eventually, it was Momma who came in and told both of them it was time to lay down. They all had to get up early in the morning to make the drive. From the neighborhood, it was two hours to the coast. Poppi wanted to try and make the sunrise so Maer would watch the new day begin. They had to leave in the dark, but don’t worry – no goblins could come along because Jana had charmed their sleeping bags with fairy-wing dust. It always protects you.
Neither Jana nor Maer remember being stirred and ushered into the mini van. Neither recall the drive through dark twisting roads. Neither recall the roadside stop-off for bagels and hot chocolates (coffee for the adults, of course). Neither knew how the tent got set up.
But both recall vividly the seagull, grey and striated with flashes of white and brown. It winged across the burning orange ball of the sun as it tipped the edge of the ocean. The edge of the world to two twelve-year-olds. It looked directly at them; both would be certain. It’s voice hummed, calling out over the glistening water in perfectly understood English:
“Now, you watch over each other. You hear?”
A subtle nod shook both little brown-haired heads. Neither one dared move. A wave crashed and foam tickled both sets of exposed toes. It was brisk and both kids giggled at the sensation. Then, a look chanced between them.
“Did you-” Maer began, and Jana was already talking.
“Yes,” and took Maer’s hand firmly, lacing their fingers together. “We’ll stick together forever.”
Poppi came by with a plate of freshly fried eggs and grilled toast. That meal was eaten like it was the agreement itself: in silent reverie as this moment sank in, never to be abandoned.
Years later, both Jana and Maer would both grow to accept the fantastic nature of this childhood perception. And yet, something had drawn them, pressed them together, and glued them there. If it was as simple as a winging seagull, so be it. If not, that one bird was still the symbol – would always remain the symbol – of an intention to honor a commitment between two friends.