Kissing a fellow janitor in the middle of a trash can

I said “impossible”. “He is my friend.”

“exactly.” She stood up, sculpted her snow pants, and wandered off to explore.

Kevin came over and we sat silently, watching the penguins offer pebbles to each other in hopes of winning over a mate. A few minutes later, he pulled two donuts wrapped in plastic from his breast pocket and handed me my favorite peanut butter.

Something ragged, feathery, in the ribcage — affection, yes, but fear, too.

Nikki’s words stuck in my mind. Kevin’s generosity, enthusiasm, and determination became impossible to ignore, and I began charting my own personal transformation as well. I laughed so hard, often graciously shared other people’s problems, and was always the last to leave the dance floor. After months of working out and laughing with friends, I’m starting to love myself again.

By Christmas, the sun stayed out all day, hovering over us. The Carpenters hosted the McMurdo Alternative Art Gallery in their shop, a celebration of art made from trash and salvaged objects. Kevin invited me to go with him, and I was nervous while finishing work. While cleaning the toilets, I checked my fear. I was afraid that opening my heart would lead to more pain and rejection.

After dinner, Kevin and I took a walk up the hill, bumping our shoulders as we rolled over icy volcanic rock. In the carpenter’s shop yard, people were stepping on oversized playground equipment built from scrap lumber. Inside were textile landscapes made from discarded clothing, a corded telephone programmed to make music with beeps on the buttons and a tapestry made of black VHS tape.

In every revived artifact, I saw my beautiful, imperfect life and knew I deserved the same loving resurrection.