I miss how it used to be
I miss how it used to be.
Me and you, smoking cigarettes, playing dress-up and rocking out.
Bowie. Conor Oberst. Neon Indian. The Cabaret soundtrack. Through you I found a couple of things to like about Paul Simon.
So why aren’t we talking anymore?
Smoking on your balconnet, which was really just the roof of the porch. Rubberized and grippy, hot to the touch sometimes, but gently tugging to save your drunk ass. The drunk asses of practically every “it” hipster of our time.
We are impossibly cool and poor.
We’re the kind of Michigan students who got here on determination, mental illness and scholarships. We both got accepted to much more expensive out-of-state schools that our families couldn’t fathom paying for and we have the sense not to go into debt for. Well, Michigan was my number one choice anyway.
But you always had that bitter star in your eye.
Oh, I bet you would have done so good at Oberlin. I wish we could be anything we wanted just ’cause we want it. I wish I could blast all your demons away in a stream of borscht and laughter.
I wish I could get back all that stolen art for you. Wish I could find you the love that would do you right, starting with your own for you.
Wish I could have found a more graceful way out of your life than telling you I didn’t like you enough to help you anymore.
I miss how it used to be. Everyone putting on gobs of black eyeliner. Lady Gaga is on our stereos for the very first time. We paint each other in an assembly line, and it all takes place in your room.
Oh, tapestries and a frameless bed. Anonymous chipped wooden furniture and a sturdy vintage record player. Those little bits of childhood ephemera that become décor in young adulthood. A cigar box filled with this. A pillbox lacquered in that.
A thousand times I loved you. A thousand ways. Your ideas were always satin, and you laughed like the best was yet to come. You hung your earrings on a window screen, which was just the living end.
Do you remember…ok, do you remember the night we pooled our money and you all sent me to the liquor store to get as much whiskey as I could? I just got this wild body rock from remembering. You all sent me to the liquor store to get whiskey because there was a chill in the air and we were going to make hot toddies.
And this most wild confession – I had never had whiskey before! That was the first night I drank whiskey! And then I never drank anything else ever again, amen.
I didn’t know anything about whiskey, but I did understand $/oz. “A fifth of [thrrrrp], please.” And then your mom had been in one of their ads back in the 80s. Golly, I wish we coulda found those photographs.
Now I feel all weird writing that. Who in line of importance is your daughter’s ex-best-friend? Can I have tender memories about things like that now?
I’ve known more than one of your sister’s boyfriends. I’ve slept on your couch for too many nights, and my ex once bought you a train ticket. We weren’t a little bit friends, or old roommates; we were boon companions, each holding one of the keys to the asylum.
You planted it in my head one day that you were a figment of my imagination. And then you said it over and over again, and then you yelled at me for bringing it up. For the record, I never thought you were a figment of our imagination. Because it’s too gray and closed in there for my mind to come up with you.
I could never have come up with the way you looked in that navy blue jersey dress, bangs past your eyebrows, cigarette out to the side, smiling, really smiling at the camera. If our friendship had a memorial service, that’d be first picture in the slideshow. The big poster would be you in your giant chemistry google glasses, giggling, my thick beard framing the C of your face as I kiss your temple from the side. Proof. Proof that you loved me.
I miss the way it was. When you were happy to see me. When you’d tell me things, when we would talk. When we could make government mashed potatoes – not even our government mashed potatoes, potatoes gifted to us by the recipient because she felt sorry for us – when we could sit in the kitchen making government mashed potatoes with stolen (purloined?) or dumpstered butter, listening to dad rock or crackly student radio (or both), laughing about boys and classes and —
Our first fight happened because you didn’t think that straight boy, that prolific hatted hipster, really meant it when he said he loved me at the bar. Wow. I thought I was really standing up for myself, then. I guess I’m saying this because I know I’m a real piece of work, too.
God, how many straight boys fell for me that year? A tweek of the nipple, a bite of the ear, a thousand silver-hot sweet nothings, a full-on committed girlfriend or literally fleeing the country within 24 hours.
I know I’m not great. You made great efforts to let me know. There was just a fucking real grim resignation about being your friend there toward the end. A sort of looking around at people asking with their eyes is that really how she treats people, and me just nodding back, yes, this is how she treats people.
It ain’t nobody’s fault they’re crazy, and I love you, but there is no call to treat people the way you do. Other people are people. Fuck, I’m upset I never confronted you about this in real life. You are senselessly mean. Like, sorry we’re not Oberlin class of ’09, but buck up.
I wonder if you moved. I heard you were moving. I made you a whole fucking Tumblr of shit to keep you occupied on the trip when you said you were moving to [unnamed European country]. I didn’t say it, but I think on my end it was heavily implied this was a going-away present for our friendship.
Because it was senselessly nice of me to do. I knew you weren’t moving to [unnamed European country]! But to make you feel like I believed in you I went along with it. I made you a Tumblr of shit to keep you occupied on the trip. I didn’t even once imply you had a reason to stay.
I am aware that I had to be replaced. I’m not mad about that part. I’ll never be mad about that part. I moved. That’s on me. It would have been nuts of you not to move on.
I liked them, your new best friends. Anyone who’s good to you is good in my book. We are a sort of wayward sorority, your best friends. We speak things in eyebrows and smoke rings.
But then everybody was your best friend. Every upper-middle-class hipster you had ever envied was your soul sister forever that no one else could understand. Anyone you had ever passed in the dorm was now the key other personage in your life’s throughline.
I am sure you would object to this story primarily on artistic grounds.
I miss how it used to be. Watching TV in the master bedroom between the prissy girl from Cali and the junky from Downriver. Teaching you how to make salmon using only verbal instructions because I was a vegan.
Always being the most interesting people at the party. Looking really good together in photographs. Smoking?
I mean, why are people ever friends? It felt like you hurt where I hurt, and you put art on it where I put art on it. We were the same kind of wounded Michigan post-adolescent looking for meaning and ass.
And you made me smile. You made me laugh. You were really good at identifying plants, and you knew about different kinds of classic French music than I knew about.
We were each other’s implicit plus ones. We could count on each other in awkward social situations. We had our own code word for split up and regroup at a previously agreed-upon location to smoke away from these terrible people. I remember actively thinking you would always be a part of my life.
I miss how it used to be. I miss the feeling of having a best friend. I feel bad about the sentences that really tell it like it is because I wish we could go back to the way things were. The way they never were, when we were friends, best friends, best friends ‘til the end.
When I was a boy and you were a girl, and we’d always have each other.