I take a long drag of the cigarette, letting silence linger between us as we admire the vast darkness above our heads.
The sun has retired for the day, in its place, were a million balls of gas that light up the empty parking lot we are in.
The moon made an occasional appearance whenever the clouds moved out of its way. The midnight air was chilly, but not chilly enough to push us back indoors. We wouldn't have budged anyways.
"I'm just saying, three shooting stars in one night? That's gotta mean something! Maybe I'm going to have some good luck? The universe is telling me something man, I feel it in my gut."
The excitement in my eyes are met by the skepticism in his. His eyes, bluer than the brightest skies, never linger with mine. He always looks away when these kind of topics are brought up.
But I continue the conversation anyways.
"I'm telling you James, the universe has a place for all of us.
Now, don't dismiss my hippie ideologies, because come on now, we have a purpose in life and a place in the universe, I can feel it!"
"Are you sure there isn't any weed in your cigarette Nat?!"And just like that, he dismisses the topic.
James and I met under a year ago. It was New Years Eve and my friend invited me to a small party at his house.
Despite having multiple friends in common, James and I had never met until that night.
I remember walking through the door and being greeted by a tall, longhaired, young man who looked like he belonged in Portland or where ever hipsters go to escape mainstream society.
He extended his hand out and said, "I'm James, want a beer?"
I spent the next few hours party hopping, eventually making my way back to his house after having one too many beers.
Embarrassed and drunk, I stumbled my way into his bathroom and released the liquid poison.
My memory of that night is foggy due to the excess alcohol intake, but I do remember, despite having met me a few hours earlier,
James spent the night taking care of me and making sure I was sober enough to go home.
I dedicated the next day apologizing for my drunken fiasco and for apparently stuffing bread crust in between the couch cushions because I was a picky eater.
He accepted my apology and soon after I began seeing him around more.
I quickly found out he was an exact reflection of who I was, and although at the moment it seemed to be amazing to have met someone so similar to myself, soon after I would learn the bleak truth.
I break the silence once again and say, "You know I'm right James, admit it."
He took a drag from the cigarette in his fingers and exhaled his annoyance and calmly said, "I don't know Nat, you know how I am about these things."
He was right, I did know what he thought, but I pushed him to talk about it anyways. James and I had a lot in common. We loved the same indie rock and were both musicians.
We both loved the same food and even stopped eating meat together. We both had our hippie ways, meaning to say we were pacifists who believed peace and love were the answer.
But we shared more than just food and musical interests, we both were being haunted by the same inner demon.
He called is self-loathing and nonexistent self-esteem; my prescription bottle called it clinical depression and anxiety.
This mental illness didn't care what kind of lives we were leading or if we were good or bad people, it enslaved us within our own heads.
I come from a family who suffered physical hardships such as abuse, extreme poverty, and abandonment. Their problems and hardships were all physically "real".
When I stopped laughing and smiling at the world and turned into a reclusive young teenager, they ignored my diagnosis because, to them,
I was an American born into opportunities that immigrants like my mother and sisters spent their entire lives trying to provide for the future generations of the family.
Because my problems were not physical, they were not "real".
Coming from a poverty-stricken household deprived me from education about mental health, I did not understand why my mind worked the way it did.
I would seclude myself in my bed without eating or speaking, just staring at the radioactive neon green paint that covered my bedroom walls.
I felt isolated in my own mind without anyone there to understand my need to feel anything but the emptiness deep in my chest. But James knew.
He, on the other hand, understood everything going on in my head.
It didn't matter that he was raised by two loving parents or was part of a educationally successful family, he was going through what I was going through.
He knew how I felt the times I thought death would release me from it all. He knew how I felt when I shut myself away and became immune to any and all other emotions but insignificance.
He knew how I felt as an emotional zombie, because he was one too. He understood things that until I met him, I thought was only occurring in my head.
I didn't know this at the beginning of our friendship of course. He came off as a calm soul who knew what he wanted in life and how to get it. I admired him.
He was culturally aware, always educated on the state of the world.
When he spoke about politics, his voice would trickle with passion and it was clear he didn't speak his opinion without being able to back it up with facts or evidence.
He one day said, "I'm not going to eat meat," and he didn't. I wanted to be like him. I wanted to be whole.
As time went on we grew closer I saw bits of myself in him, but not the parts I would want to see in even my worst enemies.
I saw the same sadness in his watery, blue eyes that were in my deep, brown eyes. I saw hopelessness whenever we talked about our futures of love and success.
I felt his torture when everyone around us would talk about how happy they were to be where they were. He would avoid eye contact too when ever those comments were made.
I saw someone who was lost. I saw the mental illness that kept me at the brink of self-destruction. But just like me, he kept the world shut out.
James would never reveal much to me, but my strong intuition put all the pieces of the puzzle together.
Every time I romanticized about being a parent, for I had been raised by a single mother, he would say things like, "I think I'll make a great dad.
I know for sure I won't make my kid have to see a divorce like I did.
" Or whenever I would talk about how my boyfriend wasn't texting me as much as I wish he would, he would say: "At least you have someone that loves you. That's more than I can say.
" He would leave these statements lingering in the air without elaborating his experiences or dwelling on his emotions.
He too programmed himself to brush away these conversations with witty remarks and dark humor.
Unlike me, James didn't try to tell himself that there was hope. I searched for a deeper meaning in everything in my life, in hopes to find some purpose for living.
James came to terms with his mental state and succumbed to the idea that life was grim and all he could do was try to keep afloat. I searched for an open door, he locked himself in.
As he stood next to me in that empty parking lot, on this chilly but not so chilly night, I admired who he was. He was intelligent, handsome, hilarious, and sometimes even hopeful.
But although the development of our mental states differed, I knew what he felt when he looked in the mirror. He saw only what the poisonous state of mind allowed us to see, the ugly.
I knew what vast void filled his heart because I was lost in my own too. He saw in himself what I saw in myself: worthlessness. We were bland creatures wasting away space on Earth.
That night as I pushed him to talk about his beliefs, hoping that he wasn't as lost as I was, I felt closer to him than ever.
Like me, he wanted, no, needed to know that there was a purpose for life and that all this mental torture wasn't for nothing.
But the longer the silence between us lingered, the more I knew he didn't feel hope, and I didn't know what was scarier: seeing him lose hope, or seeing myself lose hope.
I take one last drag of my cigarette, my bladder was urging me to go back inside. I see James looking up at the stars, as if all our answers were hidden somewhere between them.
"James, do you ever think the universe has something special planned for us?"
"I hope so."