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Amy is three. Her hair is dark blond with bits of brown mixed in. The strands spiral around each other and bounce when she walks or turns her head. She is the rain band and the eye of the storm in one, capable of creating nonstop winds and rain one minute and capable of complete calm and quiet the next. She follows my brother and me around the yard and, later, dances in circles around the living room table. Amy is three, and after months of her being sick and wrongly diagnosed, the doctors have finally diagnosed her with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL), a blood cancer that begins in the bone marrow.
She flies down the hall faster than anyone else can move. The scraping of plastic against plastic and her laughter fills the hospital, room by room. Almost everyone in the building is familiar with the little girl who rides up and down the halls every day on her hot pink Big Wheel bike, a giant smile plastered on her face.
“Here comes Amy!” the nurses and doctors laugh.
I spend a lot of time in the hospital with my sister. I know she is sick because people tell me this, but I do not realize now just how sick she is. I sleepover in her hospital room sometimes, and we don’t worry about the time of day or her port that connects to the IV pole that she drags along beside her everywhere she goes or the fact that the entire room is white. We eat tons of junk food and watch The Little Mermaid over and over, and color outside the lines in our coloring books.
Amy is four. She has been in remission for nine months when a bump comes up on her head and pain shoots throughout her body. The doctors do a biopsy and tell our mother the cancer is back. They start Amy on chemotherapy treatments and radiation, but nothing is working. The doctor suggests a bone marrow transplant. Amy is four, and we move to Seattle, Washington where, after more intense chemotherapy and radiation, she will receive a bone marrow transplant. She will have a 30% chance of survival. Her hair will fall out and the bottom drawer of her dresser will become home to the tens of hats Mom will buy her to cover up her head.
A doctor knocks on the door of Amy’s hospital room. She dives under the covers. When the door opens, she is silent.
“Hello?” The doctor walks in and spies the lump under the covers. “I wonder where Miss Amy is?” he says. He is about to lift up the blue and white sheets when Amy throws them off and sits up.
“Here I am!”
She has to stay in the hospital for thirty days after the bone marrow transplant. The first one hundred days after the transplant are the riskiest. Her body might reject the transplant and fail. The doctor comes in to check on her every day, and every day she plays this same game with him. He acts like he doesn’t know that she is hiding under the covers, waiting to spring, and she never grows tired of revealing herself before she is found.
Amy is fifteen. She is nearing her eleven-year remission mark when she finds a lump on the right side of her face. Her hair is dark brown and she wears it cut short, just below her chin. She stands five feet tall, while I am 5’9” and my brother is 6’3”. Chemotherapy has stunted her growth and radiation has torn holes in her stomach. Amy is fifteen, and after a biopsy, the doctors tell her she has a cancerous tumor of the Parotid gland. They schedule the operation. Six days later Amy goes into surgery to remove the tumor beside her ear. Ten hours later, she comes out. Mom calls me from the waiting room and tells me the cancer had spread and that the doctors had to take out Amy’s facial nerve. Half of her face is paralyzed. She doesn’t know yet. When she finds out, she looks at Mom and cries. The doctors assure Amy there is a chance that some movement will come back to her face within six months.
I drive her to radiation therapy every day. She hates going—the radiation burns her face—but she never complains. I wonder what she thinks about every day, but I am too afraid to ask. She wears a mask that looks like one out of a horror film, and will keep it when she has finished her treatments. A few months later, she will use it to her advantage and scare our friends.
I read a book in the waiting room until she is done. When she walks back out, we smile at each other, but don’t say anything. She looks tired. The side of her face where they are doing the radiation treatments is bright red. It almost looks sunburnt. I drive us home and we sing along to a song on the radio. I sing a line and listen as Amy sings the same line over again, echoing me. My friends have always told me our voices sound similar, but it isn’t until now that I notice.
Amy is eighteen. She finds a bump on her scalp and is already afraid of what the doctors are going to say. She has a biopsy done and learns that it is skin cancer. Amy is eighteen and she has skin cancer. The doctors will shave a small part of her head and cut out the cancerous area and Amy will wear a bandage over it until it heals.
I sit next to her on her bed and stare at the squares of her pink quilt. She has gotten in to Johnson & Wales University-Charlotte and will major in Culinary Studies.
“Sometimes I don’t think I’m going to make it to college,” she says.
“What do you mean you won’t make it to college?” I ask.
She is quiet. I look up at her and feel something inside of me break. I know what she means. She thinks she is going to die.
I tell her not to think things like that. I tell her she is crazy. I tell her that she was put on this earth for a reason, and a damn good one too, because after having cancer three times already by the age of eighteen she’s still here. I promise myself that if the doctors have to shave off all her hair to remove the cancerous area I will shave all of mine off too.
Amy is nineteen. She has long since finished her radiation treatments from the tumor in her Parotid gland, but the area will not heal. The right side of her face and neck are infected. Her skin is rotting away. Amy is nineteen, and she has a revision mastodectomy to fix the damage done by the Parotid gland cancer and radiation treatments. Doctors take skin from her forearm and stitch it onto her face and neck.
Mom is changing the bandage on Amy’s arm when I walk into the kitchen. She unwraps the gauze slowly. Amy winces and shuts her eyes tight.
“Do you want to see it?” Mom asks.
I say yes, even though I’m sure what I’m about to see will make my stomach uneasy. She takes off the bandage and I get one glimpse of Amy’s arm before turning away. Almost all of the skin on her forearm is gone. A thin layer doctors took from someone else is stitched on, but all my eyes see is tissue and blood and it hurts. I shiver. Too soon, I think.
Amy is twenty. She already knows she will never be able to have children because she is in the beginning stages of ovarian failure. Both her heart and lungs have been weakened from chemotherapy and radiation, and movement never did come back in the right side of her face.
But she still smiles. And she laughs. And she is one of the funniest and most sarcastic people you will ever meet. And she loves. She will almost never initiate a hug, but she loves harder than most people I’ve ever met. She is the rain band of the storm, and cancer is the eye. Amy creates constant rain and wind. She never stops moving and never gives up. Cancer is calm and quiet now, silenced by the rain band and other forces surrounding it.
I am riding shotgun and Amy drives. We do this a lot: drive around when we’re bored or have too much on our minds. A song that we both love plays through the stereo. I throw my arms up in all different directions and shift in my seat. Amy glances over at me and laughs.
“What are you doing?” she asks.
We pick up dinner while we’re out and head back home. Another upbeat song plays. We scream the words and I forget about everything but this moment.
“This is so fun!” I shout over the music.
“Yeah,” she smiles. “It is.”
Amy is twenty, and she is alive.
Riverdance Is Not a Verb: an essay about Irish dance
I recently wrote this essay about Irish dance for my English class. He and I both think it’s rather good so I want to share it with all y’all.
You were honey.
The way your words clung as long as they could to your tongue,
then dripped heavily onto my skin.
Like the honey sticking to the glass,
imprisoned after harvest.
I thought of all the bees that worked tirelessly for that honey.
I knew you didn’t work, you allowed that for others.
You were all unforgiving lines. The dash of your collar bones.
The dark dusting of hair on your forearms.
You were sinfully sweet, when it suited you.
Or you held a little bite, a sting.
You were from the wildest flowers.
Your hive was feral and mean.
Never to be tamed.
Not even the honeyed stinging tones of your voice.
Winter Came Early This Year
A letter to my younger self, never mind actually, I’ve heard that the time traveling postal service sucks. A visit to my younger self, she needs it. First, let me hold you, and kiss your forehead. You need to learn that touch does not always equal pain, it’s going to take many years before you learn that, but I think out of everything I’m about to tell you this will help the most. Do you think we’re beautiful? Don’t answer that. It’s a question you’re going to spend the rest of our life up until this point trying to figure out. Please, even if you don’t always feel whole, don’t carve the word, “fat,” into your thigh on a desperate night when you’re alone in the bathtub. You will regret it.
This thought does not horrify you because at this point you’ve already bludgeoned our head with a hairbrush, tried to asphyxiate us, and pinched our own skin until we’ve been bruised. Don’t hurt us darling, there are already enough people doing that. In regards to the man who gave you a swollen cheek and shattered trust, you will become angry instead of scared one day and things will change, not necessarily for the better, but at least the physical pain will stop. I’m not going to tell you about our future love life, because you’re going to make mistakes whether I tell you or not, that’s life, but I will tell you not to focus on one boy so much. He’s still going to be one of your best friends, but he does not love you in that way, and that’s OK.
Trust me, there will be others. Do not leave the boy who gave you his jacket. You will regret that decision until this point, after this point, I am not sure. I may be from the future, but I am not from all of it. When you feel scared, touch something around you, reestablish your surroundings. This is a coping mechanism, you won’t learn about those for years to come. Stay strong, you’ll survive, trust me.
You Can't Go Home Again
When you live your entire childhood in one place, that place becomes entrenched in your memories and engrained in your perception. That place that lives in your memories is home; returning is never the same. Things were changing when you were there, perhaps, but such change was incremental and allowed you to adjust. Leave and come back several years later and you may find your “old stomping grounds” have been plowed over and a Wal-Mart built over top of them.
It was Friday evening and I checked my phone after I crossed through Smoky Mountain National Park. Eight missed calls. All from dad. I called him back.
“Where are you?”
“I just came through the mountain. You know you can’t get signal up there.”
“Well sure, but I didn’t know. Hey, just meet us at the restaurant when you get here. Are you to Hendersonville yet?”
“I don’t know. I don’t think so.”
“Well, just meet us there. If you get there before us, get a table for 5.”
Okay. Herein lies the problem: I didn’t know where this restaurant was. Dad said “below the mall.” The mall is on a hill; everything, it could be argued, is “below the mall.” But I have this nasty case of pride that starts something like “I lived in Asheville for over 20 years and if something exists there, I can find it.”
I headed down Tunnel Road and everything looked different. Maybe not everything, but when did they tear down that steak house and put up a car wash? (Dad told me later he hated that car wash for precisely that reason, despite the fact I don’t think we ate there more than twice.) Down around the mall, sat at a stoplight and cast a mournful glance towards the bookstore where I’d worked my last two years of college. Lot of memories on that patio — tables where we spent more time smoking and talking than working, some nights — long gone of course. Further down everything looked new. I started searching for anything familiar, anything I could use to anchor myself to this strange new suburban wasteland that looked like every other mid-sized town in the country. I came up short. I called mom.
“Mom? Where even is this restaurant?”
She laughed. “Well, let’s see. Do you know where the new Wal-Mart is?”
“Yes? I think? How new is new?”
“Well, do you know where Kohl’s is.”
“No. Y’all have a Kohl’s?”
“Where are you now?”
“I’m driving up through Oakley. I’m about to hit Fairview Road right in front of the school.”
“Alright, you want to turn left and then make a right between the two gas stations.”
“What two gas stations?” She handed the phone to my dad.
“Where are you?”
“Alright, you know the Oakley Food Center.”
“Yeah.” In fifth and sixth grade, a few of us would slip across the street to Oakley Food Center in the morning and get candy with our lunch money. We’d sell the candy to classmates at school for twice what we paid for it. The laws of supply and demand understood and exploited before we were even out of elementary school — oh yes, I knew the Oakley Food Center. Intimately.
“Okay, just take a left just past it, before you get to the other gas station.”
“What other gas station?”
“They put in —”
“Never mind, got it.”
“Alright. See you in a bit.”
I proceeded to drive through a place that was completely unrecognizable. Gone were the run-down trailers and shotgun shacks with multiple autos in various states of disrepair littering the yard. This was a divided road with a flower-planted median down the middle, lined with pristine sidewalks and shining complexes of condominiums and townhouses. I’m sure I’d driven down this road at least 50 times, but if you took a picture of it as it stood on Friday, I’d tell you I’d never been there before.
For me (as I realized once I’d found the place), all confusion would’ve been avoided if my mom had said “go towards that old abandoned train station where y’all used to smoke out in high school.” Of course, mom didn’t know that particular association with that area existed in my mind, and that abandoned train station’s probably been torn down in favor of another cookie-cutter shopping complex or a handful of townhouses that can be sold for $300,000 per. If I were a conspiracy theorist I would say it was all a plot hatched by mainstream media (who of course would be connected with the Illuminati in some way) to save production costs. “Here I am, standing in front of Best Buy and Dick’s Sporting Goods in [American City, American State] and [things are/are not happening].” I am not a conspiracy theorist. People just aren’t that organized.
A simple case of supply and demand at work, as I learned in fifth grade when I raided the Oakley Food Store for a few dollars worth of candy. People want to live in this beautiful place, but they want it to look like home. Their home. Not mine.
When you live in a place long enough, your sense of direction becomes driven by landmarks. There’s a particular phrase that makes complete sense to long-term locals but is laughable to anyone else. Asheville is my hometown. If I ask you how to get to a place, tell me what used to be there. I’ll know what you mean.
I know what used to be there. I used to be there too.
I love the way my body looks when I’m between lovers; in-between lovers too, but right now, I just mean when I’m alone. Generally, I see my body as hardware. Something that allows me to physically interact with the sensory pleasures of the world.
Granted, I enjoy what it allows me to do: eat, sleep, drink, fight, fuck. Generally speaking though, I don’t give it much thought. But, there are times when I’m naked, in my half-empty bed, that I take a moment to observe my own shape and form.
I move my hands along my body, like I’m discovering it for the first time. It’s not flawless. I could stand to lose a few inches here, or add a little more volume there, but every so often I do feel… beautiful. It scares me. I don’t know what to do with myself when I feel that way.
My body always seems leaner and more attractive when I’m alone. I’ve only been on my own one other time in my life, for about a month. So, this revelation is exceptionally rare. It’s amazing how much your body can change, in such a short period of time…
Then I realize, that perhaps it’s not my body that has changed so much as my attitude towards it. Maybe it’s my underlining hunger to be possessed that shifted my perception. That on some subliminal level, I’m mentally priming myself for desire. I desire myself more, so that I can attract someone who will also desire me.
The change feels so natural, like the flip of a switch. The truth is that you’ve probably never know a more wanton slut… even if sex kind of frightens me… or at least the intimacy does sometimes.
I think I’m infuriating in that sense. Yeah, it takes a certain kind of lover to reign me in. So, while I wonder… and wait. I’ll enjoy the time I have… to feel uncomfortable and satisfied with my own beauty.
I keep a little book. It is a pretty thing, it’s lines are straight and true. The clear pages smell like sweet clean goodness. I started filling it up with memories. Men, boys, ghosts of past suitors. There are many pristine pages. I have been lucky in the fact I just need a few words to sum up most. The few pages that may have their lines marred with black ink, my handwriting is straight and neat. A quick catalog of a person, his actions, and why he is gone. Other lines, the font of my writing takes on italics and bolds. Losing the clean documentation they once knew. The catalog is now a string of feelings, wrapped up with sweet memories, a rush of emotions through the arm and to the hand hastily scribbled onto once blameless pages.
Sometimes a declaration of guilt, perhaps on my part. Mostly on his. Half. Incomplete records of interactions. Truth only to me, not to him. The more interactions we had, the more words to describe it. The more feelings I felt, the more lines become blighted.
No more did they have the role of being perfectly clear, willing to take me on. Me, after I caressed their surface with careful fingertips. Now, they hold onto it all. The feelings, sentimental or not. The hearty hurt dripping from the pen tip. I have but a very very select few who have this rush, this heavy hearted hurt.
Some may ask ”Is this a journal of my encounters with love?” No, it couldn’t be. It is the record of all the times that love was missed. Be it a thick stare, eyes meeting eyes across a busy street. Or maybe phone calls shared from our comfortable beds, never to meet. Maybe it was the fledgling of time built up with trust, and affection finally taken romantic, delayed, fulfilled but only for several months. Maybe it is about the horrifying blind dates, or denials. Rejections. Embarrassing miscommunication. Quick or long. Hefty or light. It is a record. Maybe of my growth. My naivety of love’s decline. Maybe it’s just foolish. Maybe it is necessary.
All I know is I keep a little book.
-Kat Keegan August 11, 2012
Weekend Reading: How to Write Like a Mother#^@%*&
Issue #47, Winter 2013
Cheryl Strayed and Elissa Bassist on writing, success, and fame:
BASSIST: No one knows this except you and me and Rumpus senior literary editor Julie Greicius, but I originally signed my letter “Elizabeth Gilbert.” It was a joke, and you said you loved the signature for a couple of reasons:
One is, of course, she’s this incredibly successful, rich, on-the-bestseller-list-for-YEARS-NOW woman writer whom so many of us would like to loathe for all the aforementioned reasons. Two is, of course, she’s this incredibly human, real, serious, worthy-of-our-sisterhood writer who, we’d all do well to remember, worked her tail off, and just because lightning struck with her fourth book, it doesn’t mean we should loathe her. In fact, actually, she, too, has to deal with all sorts of bullshit when it comes to her work as a woman, her insight, her ‘story,’ which is read as entirely specific (which is to say ‘feminine’) rather than universal (which is to say ‘male’). But don’t get me started. Well, actually, you did get me started.
Now, you are in Elizabeth Gilbert’s position: an incredibly successful, rich, best-selling woman writer whom so many of us would like to loathe for the aforementioned reasons. And, of course, you are an incredibly human, real, serious, worthy-of-our-sisterhood writer who, we’d all do well to remember, worked her tail off. What would you say if I said I feel jealous of you?
STRAYED: I would say you shouldn’t waste your energy on jealousy. Ever, ever! But especially on people like me. I’ve been writing a lot longer than you have. When I was in my twenties, it never occurred to me to be jealous of writers who were in their forties, writers like Mary Gaitskill and Anne Lamott and Mary Karr, who are all about fifteen years older than I am—the same age difference as between us. They weren’t my competition because I wasn’t in their league. With all Sugary affection, Elissa, you haven’t yet earned the right to be jealous of me.
BASSIST: You once wrote to me, “Success is a pile of shit somebody stacked up real high. It means nothing.” Now that your relationship to “conventional success” has changed, has your view of success stayed the same?
STRAYED: My definition of success has been developed over many years full of both successes and failures. My trajectory has not been failure, failure, failure, then success. The successes have been there all along, and all along, there’s also been a steady stream of rejections and disappointments. I imagine this will always be the case. It’s the writer’s life. It’s true that Wild’s reception, in particular, has been rather breathtaking, but it hasn’t made me measure success differently. I keep faith with the work. Wild would be the book that it is regardless of how many people read it. I’m very sure about that. When I say, “Success is a pile of shit somebody stacked up real high,” I mean it’s folly to measure your success in money or fame. Success in the arts can be measured only by your ability to say yes to this question: “Did I do the work I needed to do, and did I do it like a motherfucker?”
BASSIST: When I moved to New York, I named the wireless network in my new apartment “Famous.” How fucked up is this?
STRAYED: It’s incredibly fucked up. Have you talked to your therapist about this?
BASSIST: He’s the one who recommended Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art.
STRAYED: It seems to me it would help if you refocused what it is you’re trying to be. Do you want to be famous, or do you want to be a great writer? Sometimes those two things are one and the same, but often they aren’t.
BASSIST: I christened the wireless network “Famous” before the letter was published, when I thought fame was the intersection of writing and money.
What’s miraculous to me about the process of writing to you, and having you write back, is how it’s altered my core architecture as a person. I had cared deeply about being famous, so much so that it was getting in the way of my writing, and once you called me out on it, I was able to see it was true. As Coach Taylor in Friday Night Lights said to the Dillon Panthers: “Success is a byproduct.”
If I were tech-savvy enough to change my network name, I would change it to “Humility/Surrender.”
STRAYED: I think most writers feel the same way at the beginning—that fame is the definition of success. In my early twenties, I used to go to readings by famous authors and fantasize about being that person on the stage someday. The longing for success is a healthy force when it drives you forward in the hard times, and because of that, I think it’s kind of sweet you gave your wireless network the name “Famous,” but part of maturing as a writer is understanding how to measure success. It’s not fame and money for many writers. I mean, walk around the AWP conference, and you’ll encounter hundreds of successful, accomplished writers who are not famous or rich—or, at least, not rich from their writing. The other thing I’d like to note is that we’re talking about a very particular kind of fame when we talk about famous writers. If you asked people what they think of Alice Munro, most would reply, “Alice who?”
BASSIST: To which I’d respond, “Alice Motherfucking Munro, that’s who.”
Read the whole thing.
It’s 4am, and I can’t sleep. I just keep staring at my laptop screen, like it’s some kind of magic eight ball. I don’t know what I’m doing with my life; myself. I’m just drifting, taking up space.
I’d say that I was lost, but that’s not accurate. I’m not lost. I’m right here; right now. In a different city, a different place, but always in the same head space. It’s a lot like Breakfast at Tiffany’s — without the ending. It feels like the dvd keeps skipping, and I’m watching an infinite loop, of the same scene. I can hear the soundtrack repeating in my head, just like this damn song that I’ve been listening to over and over again.
“It’s always the same, but never the same way…”
I need to get my head together. I need to live. I need to live a life that’s outside of my head.. but I just feel stuck and confused. What do I want? Where do I want to be? How do I get there?
Life was a lot easier when I was younger. Back when I thought that I would be a hacker, and spend all my nights raving. You know, way back in time… beyond the mist, over the rainbow, and on the other side of the fence. In the long ago and far away, when I thought I’d settle down with my soul mate. When settling down meant always moving forward, torching the world around us, and never looking back. Way-back-when I believed that I could have never settled for less…
I can’t sleep. I barely eat. I don’t need a fairy tale, but I could really use some clear indication of what direction I should be wandering… for some glimpse of a happy ending.
Why I'm Writing Creative Nonfiction: Delving Inside People's Heads
This year during Camp NaNoWriMo, writers of all sorts are sharing what they love to pen, and why you should join them. Today, Jeanne Veillette Bowerman, who adapted Slavery By Another Name, tells us how creative nonfiction can take you into people’s minds and hearts:
“Nonfiction” is a word that has always paralyzed me. It implies no flexibility to write outside-of-the-box. Fact is fact. How can a writer mold and shape their story when the historical elements are set in stone?
When I set out to write the narrative adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black People in America from The Civil War to World War II, I was worried regurgitating facts would suck the joy out of storytelling. My challenge was to honor the truth of history while focusing on telling an emotionally moving, dramatic story.
A Peach Without A Pit
All of the bleach and lye under the kitchen sink couldn’t wash away your stains on my body. I gave cleansing myself of you an earnest attempt, smiling at the blissfully ignorant houseguests as I dipped the ratty rag into the bucket of lukewarm water and began to scrub my skin raw—accidentally replacing the territory of a freckle or two with a raw scab.
After you left, the stains began to fade but like your faithful daughter I began to dab hydrogen peroxide on the wounds. What’s a girl supposed to do when the best preventative measure stings with such an acute immediate pain? I didn’t want to see the infection puss and ooze underneath my seventeen year old skin, so I stopped the growth of bacteria with intricate lies.
“My father died when I was a child, I don’t remember him” I would say cavalierly as I leaned back in the restaurant chair and lifted my glass for another sip of wine I’m not supposed to be served. The wine tasted bitter and each gulp made me wince. It didn’t matter—she’s older, wiser and she wants to fuck me. I want to let her, so that when I stare at this stranger’s ceiling in the damp Rochester apartment that smells like rotted wood I can be amazed at the empty plane of nothingness that I feel.
“What’s a pretty girl without daddy issues anyways?” He snarls at me two bar stools down from where I’m planted with my iPhone softly illuminating my face alongside the half-broken neon Bud-Light sign. I shrug and hold my twenty dollar bill up for the bartender to see for service.
“A pretty girl without daddy issues is like peach without a pit” he starts to drunkenly slur. I pull out my phone again and text that line to myself to remember.
A peach without a pit.
I fucked him for the simile. It was drunken sex. The kind of sex where you can’t tell if you want to suck his dick or stare at your reflection in the toilet bowl water before throwing up the two-for-five-bucks shots of whiskey. Two for five bucks? Eight shots for twenty bucks, I figured.
Hello, tumblr. :-)
My name is Bryan Lindenberger, I grew up in Erie, PA, and I currently live in Las Cruces, NM, and had 10+ years in Vegas in between.
I write short fiction. Over 300 of my feature articles and short stories have been published, and they range from science fiction and horror to religious and real estate.
My M.A. is in professional communications. I currently work two jobs at New Mexico state university. One of them is working with students with disabilities as an event and outreach coordinator, the other for the college of education as a website and content manager and researcher.
I hike, bike, grill, continue to write, and I have a great daughter.
That’s a start. :-)
I’m also here:
An open letter to C:
I don’t know if you see yourself when you’re with them. You smile so quick and easy, a bright something in your eyes that fades when you turn to me. You’re still smiling. It’s close-mouthed, now, and you’re so civil it makes me want to scream. I’m fresh out of inside jokes (you have so many, now, but I’m no longer “inside”) and anything I say feels like overcompensation. You’re convinced I don’t care. This is something I’ve always admired about you, you say, that you’ve never given a crap what anyone thinks. And maybe a year ago I would’ve found this something to be proud of, but I’m slow to read between the lines and it’s taken me years but I’m finally starting to realize that this attitude comes at the price of severed friendships. If you don’t give a crap about me, I don’t give a crap about you, that’s always been my modus operandi, and you’re right to turn it back on me. I’ve been selfish this past year, and you’ve moved on. A part of me is defensive – I haven’t had the time, between the full courseload and employment-related angst and the never feeling good enough. Another part, even stronger, prefers to indulge in self-satisfied martyrdom. An ugly voice settles in my brain and tells me gleefully, This is what happens when you’re a self-absorbed fuck for a year. People start realizing just what a lousy friend you are. Most of me knows I’m being overdramatic. You’ll be just fine without me, you tell me, and you say you’re satisfied with the way things are. People change, but we’ll always remember the good times. And perhaps that’s true, but there’s an empty spot in my heart where you used to sit that aches something fierce, and I wonder how it is that after four years of college I still haven’t learned the basic give-and-take needed to maintain something as simple as a friendship.
The truth of it is, this would’ve happened anyway, with us moving off to different states with plans to call or chat that will gradually have larger and larger expanses of time between them until they fade away altogether. This happens to everyone, and we will meet new people, and we will be happy (or satisfied, or trying) with whatever life we end up carving for ourselves. But our memories are faulty and in time all we remember of the people we knew long ago are their essences and the way they made us feel, and that small, insecure part of me believes that the epithet you will come to label me with will be “that friend that didn’t care.” And I fear that coming from you, especially, because I have always thought of you as the truest friend I have. I know I’m underestimating you. You have seen me at my best as well as my worst, and your overall verdict will always remain on the neutral-positive side of the spectrum. Still, I fear, because I am selfish and I want you to think well of me. Anyway, thank you for sticking with me these last four years. I’m very bad at showing that I care, but I’m working on it. Don’t give up on me yet.