My roommate and I, sometimes of a night, pull out our ukuleles and sing, "The best things in life are free." We smile at each other.
But I don't think I've ever believed it. Not really.
Last night, restless but determined to do something, I coaxed my roommate to take some dirt we had made to a friend. So, off we went, in the crisp fall air to our friend's house, where we found her sheepishly finishing up a painting. (She insisted she wasn't an artist - we weren't convinced)
Then, began a delightful catch-up session with one of my dear kindred spirit friends. She told us stories about her most recent play, about her experiences working at historic Williamsburg and her annual autumn trips up to Boston, MA. My roommate and I hung on to her every word, building our own castles in the sky. Boston, you see, is a bit of a Mecca for the romantics that we are. (And the much hoped-for destination of my roommate come graduation)
Our dear friend thrilled us with stories about her trip to a Green Gables-esque bed and breakfast, about her pilgrimages to all the great Transcendentalist writers, as well as her love affair with apples. We have to go! My roommate and I cried out. Even while I listened, though, I thought: One day.
One day - this has become a mantra for my life in the past few years. Those things require time and money - two luxuries that I simply don't have. Instead, I content myself with the castles in the sky and feeding off the crumbs of others' adventures. All the great experiences though, with this mantra, feel far away. And in my time-poor and money-poor state, they feel like the experiences that I will never get.
My friend found out we enjoyed listening to her obsession over apples and pulled out a few heirloom gems for us to try. We tasted the Hidden Rose apple which reveals a beautiful pink interior flesh and supposedly tastes like raspberry lemonade. (Try as I might, I could only taste, "apple") We expertly nibbled on the Lady Apple, which is the oldest cultivated apple in existence. And we gloated over the Starlight Pippins ("stolen apples") from some famous person's overgrown garden whose name I can't remember, which had a satisfying sort of tingle when you bit into it. Our very own heirloom apple testing!
We shared stories and laughed until our sides hurt and promised ourselves we needed to do this again, very soon. The hours had passed like mere minutes.
As my roommate and I walked back home, my whole life felt brighter. My roommate soaked in the autumn smell and dreamed of Boston. I stuck my hands in my coat and realized that this sort of memory was something that had cost very little in time and money but would encourage me and buoy me up for a long time after. I almost wanted to remain in that moment forever and then laughed at myself for the absurdity in wishing I would be stuck in ABD, stressed and frenzied dissertation writing mode forever.
Turns out you can enjoy some of the best things - friendship, laughter - for free. Now.