My friend back east

One night, about two months ago, I was scrolling through my contacts and noticed the name “Brooklyn Sam.” I have so many contacts in my phone that are vague products of drunken encounters, such as “Aahahahaha,” “Florida Kiiiid,” “Tim????,” or just “(((.” But somehow, Brooklyn Sam particularly enticed me. I stared at the number, with a 201 area code, wondering who the hell this person was and where he came from.

It wasn’t until a Real Estate song played on my iPod that it clicked. I realized I met him two years ago at a music festival in line for the bathroom. Call it boredom or whatever, but something inside of me decided to text him: “Hey, this is random, but we met two years ago at a festival, what’s up?”

He responded soon after the track “Suburban Dogs” finished. I would later find out that he directed that music video. Our relationship continues to be composed of coincidences.

The first email he sent me was a link to a video he made on the festival. My friends were in it, but not me. Then he sent me a photo of him and his niece, calling her his “boss” because she’s a sassy 3-year-old who drinks coffee — a spoonful of coffee with milk — and orders her family around. “My sister is scared of her teenage years,” he said. In those early emails, he discussed the documentary he was working on and his upcoming trip to Portland. I told him about my recent trip to New York this past January and the photos I took of Brooklyn. Every day, he sent me a photo of a dog, sometimes his crazy-eyed dog, Hersh, and every day, I sent him one of my favorite songs, until finally he questioned, “Maybe it would be easier to talk on the phone?”

That made me nervous. I only ever talk to my mom and dad on the phone, and that’s mostly because I can’t understand their texts half the time. But my initial conversation with Sam was effortless. We talked for hours. He told me a story about the music festival we briefly met at: He ended up at a random apartment listening to records while tripping on mushrooms. I mentioned an article I was struggling to write on relationships. We bonded over Real Estate, our love for California and our superstitious parents, which we decided was a product of our Latin American upbringings.

A few weeks ago, Sam dropped his phone in the toilet. While at work, he sent me an email — “This might be the end of my flip-phone lifestyle” — to which I quickly responded, “Please don’t get a smartphone. I don’t know if the world is ready for that.” And it’s true. I honestly don’t think we would have gotten to know each other as well if he had a smartphone or if he had social media. Good thing the rice trick worked; his phone survived.

In fact, he is the only person I know who doesn’t have a smartphone. He’s not against technology, per se. I mean, he’s a filmmaker and works as an video editor in Manhattan. He’s just stubborn and doesn’t wish to succumb to a smartphone lifestyle with all of its repercussions. “I’m a cranky old man that way,” he says.

Our relationship requires a certain amount of effort and articulation. Without social media, I have a version of Sam only comprised of what he chooses to share with me. Because of that, I somehow feel closer to him. It’s as if the Sam I know has been created just for me; it’s my Sam.

Last night, I received a package from Raleigh, North Dakota. Thinking it was something I recently ordered on Etsy, I mindlessly ripped the package open to find that it wasn’t my new jeans, but a gummy pizza, hot dog and burger. I immediately knew this was Sam’s doing and marveled at his creativity. Next week, he’ll receive a package from me full of Philip Roth books and Les Blank documentaries.

This summer, I’m planning on spending some time in New York City. I’m anxious at the thought of meeting him — or remeeting him, I should say. Honestly, I’m afraid that it’ll be awkward and that we’ll run out of things to say face to face. Maybe distance is our only connection. Maybe we won’t get along the same way. Yet maybe there’s something else there, like the kind of connection you can only gain through body movement, hand gestures and eye contact. Either way, I’m willing to find out.

Alejandra Vasquez is a staff writer for The Weekender. Contact her at [email protected]

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