fireflies

by Aqeela Naqvi

i first met one of my closest childhood friends when we were twelve years old.

i can distinctly remember the day we were introduced – two fresh-faced middle schoolers sitting a few seats away from each other in the warmth of a school library: exchanging small talk – hesitant at first, then with more excitement; initial shy smiles over shared interests, soon stomach-aching laughter over inside jokes and shared experiences.

middle school turned into high school, high school into college, and college into the real wide world.

when we were lucky enough to be in school together, we used a “friendship binder” to keep in touch – a modern day letter system which we exchanged in passing in the hallways, each of us writing a week or so’s worth of life events/thoughts/quotations/drawings before handing it off to the other person to read and respond.

when we graduated high school and moved our separate ways, we still tried to write to each other, but the bulk of our friendship was found the in-betweens of homecomings and vacations, when we would find a way to meet two to three (if we were lucky) times a year, talking for hours, catching each other up on months of happenings, watching as gentle twilights would descend over the ebb and flow of our conversations.

closing the chapter of college found us traveling different paths, until, nearly fourteen years from day we first met, they wound their way from the same small hometown to the same big city. different reasons for being here but caught in the same hustle-bustle, we found ourselves reunited – no longer in well-known streets of our childhood, but in the coffee-shop glows of a yawning and strange city.

once again were we allowed the inexplicable grace of, for a few hours, putting aside the to-do of everyday life, and just being.

being, with a friend who has known your young twelve and your complex fourteen; the melancholy of your sixteen and boldness of eighteen; the learning of your twenty-one; the still learning of your twenty-five. the sorrows of your yesterdays, the joys of your tomorrows. your mistakes and your lessons; your falls and your rises; the person you were and now are; the person you wish to be.

with the friend who has walked with you along the paths of your soul, no talk of the humdrum, the mundane, the rituals that are too-often-performed-by-limbs-caught-in-a-wheel-of-never-ending-motion-with-far-too-little-intention.

no words, over things that mean nothing, over events that have no purpose, over lives like candles that crackle and hiss before turning to ash in the wind.

no talk of small things.

with such friends, only talk of fire. of flame. of passion. of glory. of heroes. of great thoughts and even greater deeds. no breath spoken but filled with the wonder of heights. of transformation. of freedom. of flight. the caterpillar to the butterfly. from crawling, to wings.

such friends, whose first question is: what is the state of your soul?

who demand of you: who is your life begging you to become?

who ask you: what can i do to help you get there?

by the grace of God, the friends who have touched my heart most are those who, like this friend of my childhood, i am not able to see more than once or twice – a year, or every few years, or even every decade – but who are constantly flitting in and out of the story of my life like fireflies lighting the way on the path to our common destination. friends who check in in chunks of time like markers on the timeline of life: reminding, guiding, questioning, pushing, bettering – the mind, and the soul.

i pray that we may all be granted (as well as be to others) such friends: truly nothing but blessings granted to us by the Infinite.

for by their touch, we are nudged towards greatness.

for with the spark of their company, the night skies of our lives are set aflame.

for, in truth, these friends of who we’ve been and who we are are naught but reflections of blazing starlight – the brilliance of the Friend of who we are meant to be.

“Every time I sit with my friends, it is as if the entire world lights up in my view.
Truly I take pleasure [from their company].”
-Allamah Tabataba’i-