Loudness is communication. Communication allows for understanding and change. What bothers me about MH, and now HJ is that they are quiet. They do not yell, or protest, or retaliate; they recoil. But this is far, far worse: in their quietness, they are resolute. Their judgements are set, their conclusions wrapped about you and your flaws. I would much rather they criticize openly.
It’s the end of a semester and I’m sitting on a thirteen hour flight listening to nostalgia-inducing but not necessarily inherent nostalgic music; rather, it’s music that I listened to while high just about a year ago from now — the end of freshman year, last year — and listening to it now makes me think of all the very many things that are different in my life. it’s quite appalling to think about: how very many things change over a year and how although I now know that, did know that a year ago, how I can still think through my year and how I got to the state of being in which I am right now and still somehow be appalled at everything that has changed in all the ways I could never have predicted: people in my life that I had never even imagined I would even meet, people who were so very different in a good way that they had effects on me that I could not have predicted, such that I am now not only a person that I did not think I would be a year ago, but I am also a person that I did not even fathom could exist a year ago, let alone in myself, with life philosophies and paths and hopes and dreams and pride and humility and interests and sadnesses and reasons to live that I wouldn’t have even started to understand a year ago.
I guess I should get used to this, but of course, I am sure, I will again be appalled come this time next year.
You’re ending with a shot of your friends outside at twelve-thirty in the morning outside on the quiet green. You were lying down, and they are all laughing so very genuinely that you feel a rush of affection just looking at it, and it is slightly blurred and lopsided so perhaps you were very genuinely laughing also. The flash bounces a sheen off of their skin: a highlight on the round chipmunk smile of AC’s cheek, on the underside of the tip of YM’s nose. You remember feeling comfortable. You remember feeling at home. You remember feeling open. You remember laughing on your back with your legs kicking the air in glee. You remember doing the same with HJ after watching a food video that carved vaginas into Thanksgiving foods. You remember reading an article about true friendships and the selectivity of that term and you remember thinking about YM. You are still looking at the photo. No one looks good, but It’s Such A Good Photo, you think. You’ll Treasure This Photo Forever, you think.
You think about the goodbyes.
You woke up with HJ and checked the time and hollered that He Was Late and chuckled afterward at the memory of him shooting out of bed instantly, pure panic on his radiating face in his bright green shirt. You scrambled to help stuff the sleeping bag, throw out the trash. You trailed behind him as he ran to the Uber. You stopped at the edge of the street so that he could turn and kiss you. You stood in a dazed mess as he dropped his bags to wrap you in a hug because he knows you like hugs. You watch him load the car and you check your texts accidentally too long and when you look up the car is already driving away. You send a text with all five colors of heart emojis, thinking that you’ll work your way up to sending just one red one.
YM came to the building you were grading essays and you couldn’t help it so you both slumped down in ridiculous position on couches and talked until we hit the time limit, and then YM pushed back her departure time and you talked for more. You planned your TV watching schedule so that you could discuss their sociopolitical implications with YM and affirmed her sweatpants in the ninety-degree weather and made her promise to get a Snapstreak going for you. You explained to her what a Snapstreak was as she stood in the middle section between the inner and outer glass doors of the building.
You ran across campus to say goodbye to GR. You were running to the eatery she said she was at when she yelled your name from the spot she was sitting at in the grass. You hugged each other and walk opposite way, but she calls your name when you’re somewhat twenty feet away from each other. What? you say. It Was Nice Knowing You this Semester, she says in her slightly off English. You Say That Like We Won’t Know Each Other Next Semester, I say, laughing, and she smiles and we turn and continue walking.
You ran across campus again with your luggage that AM was storing for you for two weeks and hugged his mom before him. You helped him saran wrap his carpet and he listened to you complain about your allergies. You gave them a quick wave. You’ll see them in two weeks.
You were waiting for the librarian to find a specific book that you really wanted to read and it took so long that BI and AC just decided to come to you. They walked in the door and you shot the crap for a few minutes and complimented his bag and you all promised to get together a visit and promised It Will Be Amazing. BI said Love You and you said Love You Too Broskito.
AC and MC said goodbye to you. You ran outside with your suitcases when they yelled and you stopped to give them a hug and MC said your name and raised her eyebrows and smiled in that way that she does and you hugged and turned and walked away.
You’ll be friends with ES for a long time, you think as her mom drives you to the airport. You hug her in her camouflage print sweatpants and poofy hair and you know. You are not sad.
You love and hate the goodbyes. You add goodbyes to the list of Things To Live For. You don’t have goodbyes for people that don’t matter.
“when I came to college, all I found was more workhorses who are doing what their parents want.”
this is a sentiment widely shared by AM and his friends, and I have such a problem with it. is this not a satirically privileged statement to make? first: how can anyone make that judgement on another individual? second: how can anyone criticize another for it being true? we come from different backgrounds, different family dynamics, and just because your privileged white self came from an intellectual environment with secure parents does not mean others did. in effect, what JC is asking for is a collection of all the richest, most privileged children of world intellectuals. and thank god —- is not that.
Last night, we held hands, we laughed, we kissed, we looked at each other, and I said:
You’re a really good person, you know that?
And it was far more vulnerable than if I had said something so over the top that it couldn’t possibly have weight. I love you. I love you only holds weight when it might be true — I love you to an acquaintance is a dime a dozen: a comment on a profile picture, a squeal at a party of half-familiar faces.
This was vulnerable because I felt it to be so completely true. And his reaction: stumbling, fumbling, throwing a half compliment back and yet not a full one, was disappointing. Awkward returned compliments only happen in the face of perceived unequal power dynamics. He felt I needed affirmation of reciprocation. Fine. But he also knew he couldn’t give it fully. And while I didn’t need that half-assed reciprocation, I think I like him enough that I’m ok with it.
That’s not true. I don’t know where I was going with this.
HJ and I were sitting on the floor of his dorm the other night, talking pointlessly to fill the two hours we had, when the topic of dating came up. He’d realized, he told me, that a lot of his dating had been interview-like for far too long, and after he’d noticed that, they’d always broken it off.
“What do you mean by interview-like?” I asked.
He didn’t know, he said. More like all the dates were just getting food of some sort and talking the entire time about their, he didn’t know, family background and whatnot, and it just always felt so formal. And it never moved on to the next step.
“But what’s the next step?”
Doing things together, he said. Going to events and experiencing things together, instead of experiencing things separately and then talking about it in conversation.
I sat there for a bit, thinking. I’d always placed conversation — conversation in a vacuum: can you talk with this person if you had nothing but the person itself? — as the highest measure of compatibility. I judged my fit of friendships by how well this flowed. And yet: I could see how he was right. Friendships could be built off of doing things together. It rang similar to something WB had said a long time ago, how he valued time in which he did things with friends in silence, in parallel, though perhaps even separately. I didn’t understand at the time. But I do now.
On Friday night, HJ and I, stranded, decided to play pool. Our conversation was nil, but banter was high. I enjoyed myself. I let myself enjoy this conversation that met none of my intellectual standards, that was composed of nothings and dumb jokes and that made laugh nevertheless. I’m learning, I think.