“It was all terrible beautiful, wasn’t it?”
“I was being poetical.”
“It was a lot of things. All at once.”
“No matter what went down, I woke up every morning and thought, ‘This is it. I feel possibility. It’s there. In the air. Possibility.’ And sure, by lunch I was telling myself, ‘Just wait. Wait it out. A year, two. You can leave. You’ll make it all happen. But wait. Just wait. Be still, be patient.’ Nothing seemed like work, you know? It was painful. I was lost. Waking up and moving forward hurt. But to do it. To move, to learn, to try. It wasn’t work. Like an actor… ‘Remember this. Someday it will be useful.’ And it wasn’t all bad either. God did I laugh. I smirked and smiled. I made eyes at people and planets came into view. We skinny dipped, drank beer, hid in forests. Hung out at malls without a dollar to spend. Late night milkshakes. Painted nails. Hair dye. Secrets. We had secrets. If people didn’t move, we could run. The world only stood still when it was all good. We didn’t need parents. We were parents. ..”
“We barely had parents,” she reminds me, as if I needed it.
“We didn’t have much of anything. But it was enough. Everyday it felt like it was all beginning. We would shift into greatness and be better than all that came before. But we didn’t, did we?”
“Things…people…it all gets narrowed down. This or that. Directions, I mean. Things got…closer.”
“Smaller you mean,” I snapped.
“No…things we could reach. Lives we never knew we wanted. It got warmer.”
“We were colder then, weren’t we?” And I laughed. “I don’t remember summers being so unbearable then. Now I suffer through the humidity and dream about swingsets in parks after closing time. I remember when people would say, ‘I don’t know what to do with you’ and it didn’t mean something messy. Square pegs and all that.”
“But those things…”
“I remember catfights and pool parties. I remember when you could smoke a cigarette and not think about cancer. Where you didn’t it feel it wearing your body down. Nothing wore the body down. We were…pliable. We bent in the wind. Climbed trees in church yards and raided haunted houses. We explored. When was the last time you explored? Sneaking to clubs and wearing old man pants…at the same time. Hours long walks where the only thing to see were people sitting on porches. Cardigans. I remember cardigans. Mix tapes. We created things and saw them, not for what they were, but what they could be. People could say, ‘You’re so crazy’ and it wasn’t exhausting. I remember Myrtle Beach. God, do you remember Myrtle Beach?” I paused to catch my breath.
“Do you remember pills? There were lots of those. Do you remember razor blades? Brothers who hit things or brothers who went missing? I remember you coming to stay with me and me living with you. I remember you getting locked out of your mom’s car in a tornado warning and having no one to call for an extra set of keys. Screen doors slamming. Boys who wanted all of our bodies but nothing else. I remember men who knew better. Women trying their hardest and still getting evicted. Trips to emergency rooms and psych wards. Visitor and patient. Vicious whispers and outright slurs. I remember doing anything to get on someone’s radar and praying at night to fall off others. I remember the phone calls. The ones where you say, ‘Hello?’ and the pause on the other end told you everything you needed to know. I remember bombs dropping. Don’t you remember the calls?”
“So…it was all bad?” I pleaded.
“It was everything. All at once,” she echoed.
“I feel like apologizing. No…there should be an apology. I don’t know from whom. I don’t know who could say ‘I’m sorry’ and have it mean anything. I’m sorry…”
“Don’t,” she lifted a hand and extended a warning finger.
“I’m sorry my mother scared you. I’m sorry your mother didn’t get it. I’m sorry we did too much or not enough…I don’t even know which. I’m sorry things got closer. I’m sorry that we kissed and we couldn’t make it feel right. I’m sorry about the party. I’m sorry I had to leave and that you had to stay.”
“You didn’t leave the party…oh.”
“I’m sorry.” My throat shrank and my ears popped.
“Don’t be. Please…don’t be.”
“Oh fuck! My chest aches. My chest aches and I can’t get back there.”
“I don’t understand…”
“YOU CAN’T! You can’t understand because I don’t even know what I’m describing. Nostalgia, but not.”
“You don’t get to own the good stuff and sell back the bad.” Her hand on my back. I remembered when we would lay on a couch, arms wrapped around torsos. Holding on for so long we became thick and dense and heavy, impossible to move. A fortress. Impermeable.
I closed my eyes. Exhaled a breath I hadn’t realized I was holding. “I think my memory is playing tricks on me,” I choked.
“I remember learning to drive,” she said. “Long drives. I remember being stupid and loving it. I remember thinking, ‘What if we kept driving?’” She got really quiet. Bit her lip. Her head moved in backwards circles like she was trying to rewind the sentence.
“Our moms,” I started, “They…”
“No,” she cut in, “They didn’t.” She pulled out a pack of Camel Lights. Offered me one. Lit hers, drag and exhale all with her eyes closed.
“I hated your boyfriend.”
“He hated you too.”
I stood up with no intention. Just to change the moment.
“Anyway,” I yawned, lighting the Camel, “You have a baby now.”
“Think you’ll fuck it up?”
“That fucking sucks.”
And it did. It does.