I pulled up to find you standing there wearing the biggest sunglasses. You’d asked me to meet you at Planned Parenthood. Your hair kicked up a little in the morning wind, probably as summer as it was going to get in that temperate North of blackberry bushes, humus, and ferns; mold on the walls, rusted out Volkswagens, redwood trees tall as skyscrapers. You were the most responsible irresponsible person I knew.
I was straight edge and hard-lined but you understood syntax and how to live in the subjunctive. You had dyed red hair and kept frog totems—earrings, brocades, rain boots; your feet were the size of an average 12-year-old girl’s. You were naughty—you stayed out all night, you missed class, you were late. Yet always the pace was breakneck, and in it you collected gems along the way.
It was freshmen year. Northern California, 2004. Dough-faced, mother’s milk chins. You said I waited for you outside class. We live in the same dorm, I said. Want to be friends? You said I was a weirdo. Obviously it worked. We drove all night to visit our parents, we shared secrets flagrantly. It felt inevitable, the way we grew close. Kismet. You had a poem tattooed down your spine. On my 21st birthday I got my nose pierced same as yours.
I believed in you. We spun each other out like tops, first you spun me and then I spun you.
One day over coffee and biscuits at the Big Blue Cafe you said, Hey. You know that we could be writers?
What’s that, I asked.
You said, it’s like painting but using words, you’ll like it.
In Creative Writing 101 the mean girls said dumb shit about absolutely everything, and Joe arrived via skateboard. “Please Joe, for the love of God,” you’d say, “put the fucking comma inside the closing quotation marks.” End quote. You wrote a story about a feeling you had about a room, which was probably about your mother but we couldn’t afford therapy yet so we wouldn’t really know that for years. Writing soulmates, you called us.
Which is really all there is to say about how it ended. Didn’t even have the decency to scream at each other. Two years and new cities and lives later. It played out in a series of mimed theatrics—the books I’d borrowed mailed back in exchange for exact postage, which you mailed, down to the penny in an envelope. Not another single word for nine years. Missed you.
This feature originally appeared in the Memory issue. Find more inspiring stories from that issue here or read Confessing to Being a Bad Friend.