pat facebook

May 3, 1987

God, our faces look young.
Mark, your goof-smile, teeth overlapping your bottom lip,
belying how incredibly smart you were—how tinged with genius,
and yet unhinged.

Your eyes,
not looking into the camera,
but down and to the left. Watching the floor.
Were you planning your untimely exit, even then?

Your arm is around Christine. Ah, Chris.
You’re staring right at the camera
and there’s no fixing your red-eyes. You’re looking at
the guy taking the picture, my then-boyfriend.

Patrick. Your now-husband. Looking at my easy grin,
looking forward to the after-grad party at Jim’s house,
not realizing Pat had already fallen,
and you had fallen back, with him. My eyes can’t see the

energy between you. How could they? How could any
of us see what would happen next? Chris, your arm around me,
my pink graduation dress, gladiator sandals, my eyes
a happy mixture of box-wine in a flask and the promise

of a back-seat dry-hump with Pat later
in the evening. My eyes and smile time-stamped at
6:43 p.m., May 3rd, 1987—our moment,
thinking back at the confusion in my eyes Mark must have seen,
the tremble in my lips at the party

when Mark told me, goof, gone from his smile, that
you and Pat had left the party together. No good-bye.
Then me, fucked up on pot and shots,
fucking Matt Wells in the back of his karmann ghia,

and what a fucking trick that is,
if you know anything about those cars,
to feel better. To not think of Pat’s promises to you, instead of
me. You wrote in my yearbook,

I don’t ever want to hurt you.
I read that, and thought it a testament to our
friendship. How could I know it was a
preemptive mea culpa, a “sorry, not sorry,”

even back then. Pat didn’t write in it. Was that a show of dignity, or
cowardice? I smile into the camera, but my eyes are
green, not red. It’s funny, Chris, the import I placed for
so long, on your red-eyed image, after graduation night.

As if the camera pronounced you “demoness”
for me, while my tear-stained cheeks stared at
our group for weeks after, smiling, hats still on, tassels on the
right side of adulthood at last. And then you, Ted.

Teddy. Your arm around me.
Your eyes didn’t have green or red.
Brown eyes, soulful, your smile subdued. Yours didn’t look left and
down like Mark’s did. But both of you were gone by 1990.

Both of you had forgotten our promise
to stay friends forever. Forever friends, a promise as sacred
as I do, but only as hallowed as the hearts that vow.
Mouths lie, hearts don’t, and they don’t always know
what the other has planned, do they?

We can’t be friends forever when you’re dead, Ted. Mark.
You broke your word. Fuck you both, for leaving me to
watch the cans tied to Pat and Chris’s getaway car as they
started their new lives, law school, together, Oregon.

Fuck you both for leaving me alone, and Teddy, fuck you
for not telling me you loved me when you had the
chance. Fuck you,
Chris, for telling me you did at all.

But that was ages ago, wasn’t it? Pat is my Facebook friend,
now, how many years later? Too lazy to do the fucking math.
Thirty years, Yeah. Something. Chris, you aren’t. And that actually feels
pretty honest.

I have that photo in with a bunch of other promises,
sacred vows, in our senior yearbook with the “keep in touches”
and “have a great summers.” And the message from you,
Teddy, telling me to “stay cool and cute.”

I didn’t do either, Ted. I became jaded and sucked at
promises, too. Three marriages later. Maybe I’ll get this one
right. And I sucked at finding my way in the world
I wondered, still wonder,

time and again, the way you and Mark chose,
and why. Well, I guess you
found something you didn’t like, maybe,
and that’s why you just stopped looking.

I guess we never promised to call when we wanted to
blow our brains out, huh, Ted?
Never promised to “keep in touch”
with a fatal necktie around our necks, did we, Mark?

God I loved you both.
I fucking miss you.
And fuck you.
And fuck me, too.

I close the yearbook, and indulge. I look Pat up on
Facebook. I look at pictures of Chris and wish she’d gotten fat.
(She didn’t. She hasn’t. She isn’t.)
Then I remember how I told my kids that high school

is no big deal. Trust me, I’d said, it’s a tiny blip on
the screen of Life. And it won’t matter one day,
all the high school shit. Not even
friends who you thought were “forever.”

I told them that,
and I tell myself that, too.
I tell myself that,
and so many

other lies.

© j.a. carter-winward

There’s a woman in my mom’s group who writes back-patting Facebook posts - they’re always about how her kid loves smoked oysters or how she spent the afternoon cooking a duck from scratch (of course she has a full-time nanny!). Two other moms and I have taken to emailing the posts to each other behind her back, but we smile to her face and she thinks we’re her friends.