"What can I help you with?" I asked, a bit skeptical of my own intuition.
"I was wondering if you guys are hiring?"
At first he looked too young to work there, but as it turns out he was twenty and had already been employed at a Starbucks in Tampa for about a year. He was moving to Orlando to go back to school and he wanted to transfer. I wrote down his information and wished him luck. I walked to the back room with the note in my hand. I put the piece of blue paper on my managers desk but before I walked away I read over his name one more time. Matthew Dodenhoff. I couldn't explain it, but I had a good feeling about him.
The next day my manager told me that she had hired him, two days later was our first shift working together.
We became friends immediately. As we worked that day we always found ourselves running into each other, like there was some pull for us to interact. It was an oddly reassuring feeling; one that I still try to understand.
Less than a month later he invited me to a CocoaRosie concert. I've never been one for going out downtown, but I said yes without thinking. After we got there he started to feel dizzy. We were sitting on some stairs waiting for the show to start when he leaned towards me and put his head down across my lap. I put my arm around his shoulder to comfort him and we sat there quietly for a few minutes in a crowd full of rowdy people waiting for the show to start. Normally the bar scene makes me anxious, but in that moment I felt calm. We sat there in an unspoken trust and waited for the show to start.
CocoaRosie was wonderful and they put on a very unique show. I was glad for the experience but my favorite part was seeing Matt so excited over one of his favorite bands.
I short time after that I found out that I was going to be honored at Starbucks because it was my five year anniversary with the company. I had a lot of mixed feelings about that. On one hand I was glad I had been employed for so long at the same place, but on the other hand I felt like my employment at Starbucks was not a truly accurate representation of myself as a person. It felt strange to get an award for that.
Matt was working with me that day and he could tell I was upset. I told him about how proud I was of other things going on in my life, particularly my involvement with DRIP. He listened to me talk about the shows we had done in the past and he told me that he would love to see the next one. I remember the sincerity in his voice and expression standing out more to me than the actual words he used.
The next DRIP event that was held after that was the "Rock Out with your Cocktails Out" fundraiser. Matt helped with the set up for the show as well as perform some of his original music.
I was in charge of the fundraiser and it was a huge responsibility for me. I was so focused on the show that I had forgotten to request the next day off work at Starbucks so I could rest. Unfortunately I was scheduled to work an opening shift which starts at 4:30am. I was exhausted, making drinks for an endless line, trying to remain upbeat. Matt was at the register talking orders and marking cups. It was too busy for him to talk to me, but he managed to grab an extra cup and stick it in the queue:
In my haste I grabbed the cup looking for what to ingredients to put in it when I read "You are doing a great job. I would be dead if I were you". I was like a hug I need so badly. More encouragement to keep going.
Matt loves to write notes. Most of them are just plain funny. Sometimes when I come in to open he leaves notes from the night before. They are taped to the register, the floor, inside the refrigerators, and sometimes hanging from the ceiling. None of our coworkers are spared from receiving these goofy little notes, but I think I treasure them more then anyone else. I have most of them saved in a envelope in my desk.
I remember one day we had made plans to hang out. He was going to meet me at Publix when he got off work. It ended up pouring rain and I stood outside by the door trying to spot him. I finally saw him waving from his car and I decided to run for it. As I was running he got out of his car to open his umbrella. As soon as the umbrella was open we almost collided underneath it. "Hi" we both said to each other laughing. Looking back I think this image became the perfect metaphor for our friendship. We seem to fumble around sometimes, not sure what to do with ourselves, but when we are together the worst of circumstances never feel that bad. We can laugh at anything, huddled under our umbrella.
Later that day we went to the Maitland Art Center, a little architectural gem tucked away between the train tracks and Lake Sybelia. We wandered around outside in the rain looking at all the buildings modeled after the Mayan culture. I can't think of many people who would want to be outside in the rain looking at architecture with me, but he enjoyed it, and I enjoyed having him with me.
More than anything else I think it is the simple things that he does that leave the biggest impressions on me. The silly notes, bursting into song at work, a pomegranate and a chocolate bar on a bad day. His enjoyment in playing the harp, the nicknames that he bestows upon me, and the way that he makes Taco Bell fun on a rainy day. Sitting on the grass in a park talking about everything from pet peeves to the spiritually profound. No subject is too small or too taboo to discuss. The variety and depth of conversation is simply enlivening. Sometimes it's the way we can look at each other and laugh without having to say a word. His knowing smile says so much.
Early on I was struggling to put this unique bond into words.
"How would you describe it?" I asked him one day while we were sitting at the park. He stood up and brushed his hair away from his face. He thought for a brief moment.
"It feels like home" he said. "There have only been a few people I've meet in my life that I've felt a bond with right away, and you are one of them. It feels like home. Is that weird?"
I stared at him for a moment, stunned.
"There was one word that I was thinking of; it was home".
Looking back on that first day I met him, it's amazing to see how powerfully he has impacted my life. He can bring a sense of playful inventiveness to the most ordinary of days. That spirited magic and sense of humor can still catch me by surprise, but I enjoy the journey. Being around Matt is just good for my soul.