birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

Me 'n MB

My friend MB and I have had a long, loving, and yet, confusing at times relationship. She is quick to judge me- my weight, my physical abilities, my memory, yet I know she loves me as one of her best friends.

When we first met she was just out of college and I was 25. We both taught at the Yosemite Institute and bonded quickly. She was beautiful, shy, and like a young pup, very full of energy and curiosity. MB was—and is—the best athlete I've ever known. It was immediately clear that, while I had some years on her in life, she was miles ahead of me in physical abilities.

Back in the day we took road trips all around the West together. We lived in a VW bus during these trips. We laughed, took random roads just to see where they went, went up to Canada and down through WY, MT, and CO a few times. Sometimes we'd separate, but end up back together in CA. Back then, of course, there weren't computers, cell phones, or ways of being able to locate one another. We'd scratch notes to one another or make an occasional phone call, but we also believed, with reason, in intuition and instinct. We relied on those systems the way folks rely on their phones today.

We were each other's "Best Woman" at each of our weddings. Both weddings took place in our early 30's- hers to Paul and mine to John. Later, MB talked in detail about one of her students. At this point she was teaching college students out in the wilderness. After she mentioned this woman one too many times, I interrupted her to ask her if they were "together" or something? It was MB's first affair with a woman and eventually she told Paul, but it didn't end smoothly; neither her marriage or her relationship with the young woman. But, yet, I was there to listen to most of the confusing aftermath.

Now, many years later, we've continued to have adventures together. We've done three Civil Rights trips together—me living in the South and her love of American history. Our most recent trip was to Memphis, this being the 50th anniversary of the death of MLK. She and I text or talk with one another sometimes a couple times a week, then a month or two will go by without word from one another.

Why I thought of MB when the topic was "Misunderstood" is that I've often wondered about the banter the two of us have had. Does it cover up the love that's underneath? We understand one another, but I wonder if she teases me to keep me guessing how much I mean to her and she to me? We do love one another and tell each other often. I guess I wonder if I set myself up as a target for her comments or if she feels so free with me that she will say anything that crosses her mind and she knows she'll be forgiven.

Also, I think she worries that I'm never ever going to be in as good of shape as she is physically. That fact, I can assure her, is true. I think she doesn't want to lose me to a heart attack or some other disease caused by being a little pudgy. I try to tell her that her critical comments aren't going to make me get thinner or more in shape. I think she is a little disappointed in me for letting myself go— yet, if she looks back on our lives together, I've always been the one to admire her physical abilities, not the other way around. Its just a misunderstanding.

Jim Hollis's River Rendezvous

The Party's Over