Seven Years Is Far Too Long
Seven years is far too long not to see a good friend.
Last week I was lucky enough to drive up to Charlottesville to see my good friend A. Well, A’s more than just a good friend, he’s actually my boyfriend (first boyfriend!) from high school, and we hadn’t seen each other in seven years. Seven years. How did I get old enough to not see someone for seven years? It’s hard to grasp.
A. means the world to me–he was there for the beginning of some big ideological and ethical shifts in my life; he was someone who taught me to question the world and not blindly accept it for what I “knew” to be true. He was there when I discovered the field of ecology and, in some ways, he probably influenced me to love it even more. Bikes? I probably would have never ridden a bike if not for him. Many of the things that make me who I am today–my undying love of trying new cuisines (I rarely knew what I was eating that his mother made, but it was always delicious–there’s nothing like good South Indian cuisine, nothing), bikes, ecology, having read Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (a book that changed me to the core, taught me to meditate and open my eyes to the everyday world around me)–can be traced to the time I met him and spent being with him, both as a friend and a boyfriend. And there’s always something magical about first love–it’s something you never experience again, like how a newborn experiences the world as blocks of light and movement, not as objects or identifiable colors. You never get to see the world that way again.
But seven years is a long time.
I last saw A. when I had just turned 18 and he was at school at Berkeley. We had broken up by then, but I was out there visiting colleges, trying to make a decision about where to go, and we spent the evening together eating Tibetan food, drinking bubble tea, and hiking to the Big C in the cold rain. Since then, it’s fair to say we’ve changed a bit. He’s a photographer working for National Geographic in different roles; I’m here in Roanoke living my life and still figuring things out. As excited as I was to see him, though, there was some trepidation–what would we talk about, would it be awkward, would we have changed all that much?
There was nothing to fear.
We met up at the Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar–a tea house/hookah bar on The Mall in downtown Charlottesville. A. was in that area for Look3, a photography festival and had a few hours to spare between his workshop and the official start of festival events. After doing a little searching around, I settled on Twisted Branch as the place for us to meet because it seemed like somewhere we would have hung out together back in high school–somewhere relaxed, full of light, and with plenty of comfy areas to settle in and pass the afternoon.
I couldn’t have chosen better and, thankfully, A. hasn’t changed too much because he loved it too. After ordering our pots of tea (I think I went with Jasmine Pearls, a green tea), we scooted into an alcove raised off the ground with a low table to sit next to and plenty of pillows. From our hollow we could watch the tea house but still have plenty of privacy to talk as much as we wanted to. Other spots in the place sported couches or tables and other pairs were deep in conversation while others worked or read. It’s the kind of place I look for in every city but rarely find, somewhere with an authentic character that welcomes people in, asks them to stay.
With only a few hours to catch up, time flew by and, all too soon, A. had to go off to the festival. I passed a little more time browsing through books (and buying a few, of course) at a couple bookshops on The Mall and then found my way to Revolutionary Soup, a soup and sandwich restaurant featuring local and sustainable ingredients from producers in the area. I’d always wanted to stop in, so I was excited to give a go at some of the vegan items on the menu (there are several different choices plus plenty of vegetarian options as well).
For my soup, I went with the Spicy Sengalese Peanut Tofu Soup which consisted of a peanut soup spiced with jalapenos with chunks of Twin Oaks tofu. It’s been years since I’ve eaten a peanut soup (G’s allergy and all) so I was really excited to try Revolutionary’s–no need to worry, it’s fantastic. Creamy and smooth with a hint of heat from the jalapenos, it’s definitely not too spicy for non-pepper fans to eat. Plus the tofu is a nice addition for a little texture. Normally garnished with both chives and cilantro, I opted for just the chives and that bit of green was a nice, fresh element.
As for the sandwich, I settled on the Grilled Tofu Sandwich featuring Twin Oaks tofu with arugula, onions, tomato & fig dijon on Breadworks’ sunflower wheat bread. Nom. The tofu was seasoned nicely and there’s nothing like fresh tomatoes stacked up with arugula and red onions. And the fig dijon, while not incredibly figgy, gave a nice bite to counter the sweet tomatoes. My one complaint is that there could have been a tad more tofu–it was sliced so thin that I could barely taste it in most bites. As wonderful as the tomatoes were, I didn’t order a tomato sandwich, I ordered a tofu one, and would have liked to have seen that main ingredient played up a bit more. On the whole, though, a rocking sandwich that any omnivore would love.
Well fed and with arms full of new books to read, I headed back to my car (taking a few photos of banners on The Mall for Look3–meta, no?) and drove home to Roanoke through one of the prettiest evenings to date–can’t beat rainbows over the mountains.
I’m incredibly proud of A–his photography is stunning and he’s had the chance to travel all over working with ecologists and photographers and now he’s getting his chance to do it on his own. It was great to be able to talk about how he got there, what’s been going on, and wonderful just to see a friendly face from the past. To some, seven years was just yesterday, but to me, it feels both that way and also like forever. Hard to imagine where I’ll be or what I’ll be like in another seven years. But I know A. & I better not wait that long to see each other again–let’s meet somewhere along the journey between now and 2019, ok?
108 2nd Street SW
Charlottesville, VA 22902
(434) 296-SOUP (7687)
Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar
414 E Main St.
Charlottesville, VA 22902