AJ walked in the front door of Chris' house. His car was in the driveway, and his bike was parked, so she was sure he was home, but he hadn't answered when she called. As she walked in the living room she saw his phone on the dining room table next to his laptop and a few of his notebooks. Chris seemed to have a never ending supply of little notebooks, scribbled full of random snippets. Sometimes they were full essays, other times snippets of dialog he overheard.
“Chris? Where are you?” AJ called out as she looked at one of his open books. The page said “There are times you need to get rid of your thoughts.” in Chris' terrible handwriting.
“I'm out back,” Chris replied. The sliding glass door into Chris' backyard was open a little and Chris was sitting on the ground.
Chris' backyard was technically only a small patch of lawn, but it was un-fenced and opened onto a rough and miraculously undeveloped piece of land, thick with trees and wild plants. Most of the neighbors, realizing what a treasure they had, worked to keep it free of litter and other debris that traditionally gathered in these little lost lots.
AJ went outside and stood, leaning against the house. Chris was dressed in typical Chris wear: faded t-shirt, shorts, sandals. Less typical was his posture and position. Chris, who almost never went outside, who had called the outdoors the great impetus for cities, was sitting on the dirt, cross-legged, eyes closed, hands in his lap.
“Whatcha doing?” AJ asked.
“Did you ever read that John Rember book I gave you?” Chris asked in response. It was an annoying habit of his. He rarely just answered questions.
“Doesn't ring a bell. I've still got a stack of books to get through,” AJ said. It was cold, and both of Chris' two patio chairs were still wet from the rain last night. She wanted to sit down but didn't want to get muddy. She wasn't sure why Chris was getting muddy, for that matter.
“I'm being a Zen warrior, like Coyote,” Chris said. AJ sighed.
“What's that supposed to mean?”
“I'm absorbing the essence of all nature around me, communing with the living earth and all living things. Bringing the wild world into my soul.”
“If you made brownies I want some,” AJ said. Sometimes she suspected Chris only hung around with her because she was tolerant when he started saying nonsense things like this.
Chris shook his head in irritation, and then took three very slow, deliberate breaths.
“It's not like that, AJ. I'm...focusing, trying to clean my thoughts. I'm taking into myself the best things from the forest.”
“Just...what?” AJ asked.
Chris sighed. “The trees over there. They bend, they grow, they adapt. I'm taking them into me; so I can bend and grow, so I can change when things require it. That rock. It's patient; it doesn't need to move. I can be patient, if I have that stone in me. The air is the medium that gives us all what we need, exchanging my carbon dioxide for that tree's oxygen. I can also transmit good things, be a vector for positive exchanges.”
“How long have you been working on that speech?” AJ asked, patting him on the shoulder. He smiled a little but didn't answer.
She thought it; Chris' power was that she always thought about what he said. She wished she could think that way, and she could kind of understand what he was going for. But it wouldn't work for her; she didn't need more of everything else inside her mind; she wanted to sit back on the rock, rest her head on the granite, and let all this flow out into it, out of her mind, into nature which didn't care.
But it was a tempting image.
“Do you actually believe in any of that?” She asked him, quietly. She knew Chris was as agnostic as they came, he could never stick to one set of truths for long.
“I dunno. Maybe? Maybe it's just good meditation, even if there is no stone essence.”
He sighed again, raggedly.
“What are you meditating away?”
Chris didn't answer for a long moment.
“Cara and I had...a talk.”
“Oh, Chris. So...she's...it's...”
AJ sat down next to her best, her oldest friend. She leaned on his arm. “Here, absorb my essence. It likes you.”” Her head rested on his shoulder, she could feel his heartbeat, feel his measured breaths, and feel when they broke. They sat like that, bottoms getting wet from sitting on the damp earth, for a very long time.
Finally Chris leaned over to rest his head on top of hers for a moment. “Right now, I think I want to go absorb the essence of a pizza.”
AJ smiled, stood up, helped Chris up. “Can we also absorb an episode of MST3K?”
“Okay, but only like, seasons 6 through 10.”
“You're such a 'Mike' snob!” AJ said, and closed the sliding glass door behind them both. In her mind she left her own recent breakup out on the boulder, imagined it melting in the light rain, streaming down the cracks in the granite.