Dear Clare,

Do you remember that coffee house out on Cleveland Heights? Birchtree, I think it was. They served the Wet Chihuahua to us every Friday night at closing. Well, it shut down a few years back. The building still stands. An art café is scheduled to move in, I think. Soon the piano and kazoos will be replaced by paints and brushes.

I ran into the owner of Birchtree a few months back. He was managing a new restaurant off Harden Blvd. He remembered you. Said he never thanked you for turning him on to that Social Distortion record. He said it ended up shaping a year of his life. I told him you were special that way.

Do you remember Hollis Gardens? The concrete barriers still stand like grenadier guards. Remember those days? Our backs wet from the condensation on the cool grass. We lay there watching the stars and listening to the trains pull through the station. I’m not sure if you feel the same, but I’m glad we misplaced so many hours in such a beautiful way.

Our shared memories stand like skyscrapers in this city. Their antennas outstretched, grasping for Orion, and Cassiopeia. Your DNA is spliced with that of our city streets and hot spots. We’re reciting poetry in Munn Park. I watched us just last week. You’re still spilling coffee on me outside of Mitchell’s, and I’m giving pocket change to those who ask kindly. Last Thursday we had dinner at Fat Jack’s and watched Legends of Rodeo play Evolution Records.

I’m working downtown now. All of our memories within walking distance of one another. Inside of a lunch hour I can visit Palace Pizza and the ghost of you and me. This city is as much a part of me now as you are. Lakeland is home.

In closing, I’m sorry for the trip down memory lane. It happens every time I visit you out on Oak Hill. I guess I am writing tonight to let you know that I have finally learned what you were trying to teach me all those years ago. I see now, how Love beckons with a holler and dismisses with a whimper. I realize it is both the parachute in a falling dream and the faulty airbag in a fatal crash. Love knows no limitations. You can never bridle, lead, or command it. All you can do is smile and let it be.

Always,
B.

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