where have I been?

You’ve been extremely good, a little lonely, content with your friends, feeling alienated from close friends, feeling alienated from fading friends, feeling like a second-class friend, suddenly ready to cut people out, exceedingly comfortable with the people you love, willing to reach out to people you’ve looked over, unsure if this was out of desperation, motivated to reach out to people you’re intimidated by, confident in your independence, confident in your ability to walk into parties alone, confident in your ability to carry conversations and connect with people unlike you, neurotically depressed when friends prioritize others over you, endlessly needy about attention and shows of care, peaceful about activities alone.

Fast bikes to the beach in Tevas and sexless t-shirts, strolls by shirtless, tanned college students playing volleyball, and upturned sprawls on Mickey Mouse towels with Infinite Jest: unpretentious because no one cares. Chilly breeze but warm sun. Beach flies on a singular spot on the ankle; perhaps you wiped away a drop of honey there.

Leaving SS’s house with MB and N; she tells you she’s read Infinite Jest. Not unrelated, you begin to notice how self-aware, snarky, smart, self-satirizing she is. Also not unrelated, you hate that you’ve become this uncontrollably pretentious. Regardless, you want to be friends. Later, she tells you there is not enough room for you to come on the trip they are planning. The moment passes, tense, and goes.

You meet up with your group for the first time in a year. You notice, in passing conversation, that they have a group chat without you. The moment passes, sad, but only for you; its traces linger.

Long silences in a car driving to a gratifying nowhere; shotgun. Bad music and bad harmonizing; glazed eyes out to East. Bursts of laughter and camaraderie, internal smiles. You don’t need many friends. You have this one, and you know that it’s the ones like these that eclipse any quantity.

Trudging alone along a ridge, taking occasional photos of the ant-like figure that pops over peaks up ahead. Silence, silence, silence somehow more vast than the view. Ever-changing rocks: pink, brown, and that far-off blue.

The aurora of the sunset, minus the sun. Red-cheeked smiles and disheveled, damp cotton. A pebble tinkles down the ledge behind. Later, you trudge down with shitty headlamps, cold and sore. You forget to look up. You are happy.

Idiotic and yet delightful stories, even if all they do is provide and foothold for visual memories: shapes, imagined shapes: patterns and stories and people and imagined meaning: you decide: the stars must be seen everywhere.

Past midnight: all three of you are falling asleep on the carpeted floor to Black Mirror. None of you ask why the other two do not have plans for New Year’s Eve, are not partying with countless friends. It is still good. You may not have chose this, but it is good.

She is driving and you are shotgun and you are driving away from an incredible feat of modern parenting and laughing, laughing at an inside joke — when was the last time you had an inside joke? How do some create inside jokes with such ease? — it is something to latch onto, something that the trip has yielded. Your tongues sting with mango salsa and tostadas.

You toil over the dough, kneading and sweating, and timing, and pacing, and heating, and checking, and waiting, and it comes out: a miracle! a beauty! a child! and you feel it: the pleasure of doing something for you, for you.

Golden hour is thrown into relief against an already-yellowing series of perplexing metal poles. You meander there: you take a photo of you. He is smiling, really smiling, shockingly so: it is so difficult to get a capture of that smile. Later, you look at that photo over and over. You look at his open smile. You look at his crinkling eyes. It glows: gold.

You are muting his messages for the night. You do not want to see his apology for the thing he didn’t really do wrong. He cannot sleepover for this whatever reason, you know, but you also ask: why can’t you sleep over there? But you don’t actually ask. Instead, you act simply sad, but understanding, little vulnerable but in a loving way. But you are not actually vulnerable. To be fully vulnerable is to show the emotionally needy and the pathetic and the insecure, and you think maybe if you show that too much — as you worked up the courage to do last year — he might just begin to not stick around. Denial may just work yet.

You make a photo album of the trip and share it with his parents and him. On second thought, you share it with your mother. His parents respond immediately: lovely! beautiful!; your mother takes a bit. You are sad and happy that she takes a bit. You want her to have a full life, an overflowing life, with too many people to love. He does not look; does not like that you would know if he looks. You think about this: that he cares and does not want.

Tea and music in the backyard in the patch of sun just outside the shaded cover. Mellow, yellow.

A phenomenon: rain drops, at certain velocities and sizes, turn to fleeting, quivering bubbles on jacuzzi water. You think: there are few joys to eclipse dunking hair in hot water, head tipped back, face an island. You sit on the entrance steps, steaming. He kisses your feet: a prayer.

To be blatant: sex. Art, it is art, you are slow and you let out all the missing, all the thinking.

He wants Chick-a-fil-a and he knows you have moral issues with them and he spits you out, or so it feels, to the Panera. Is this ok? he asks. You are disheveled, angry, stressed, insecure. You find the heart and maturity to fill his tea and recup his tea bag. You eat your chili alone at the table nearest the window and want to punch him when he gets back and looks at you with apologetic and still impatient eyes. You don’t punch him. You hunch in and say: I’m don’t deal well with being rushed.

You cry your way through a movie that makes you remember that he will leave you, must leave you, or else you must drive him away eventually. You sit at the night spot with your friends. A vaguely recognizable girl comes to talk to your friend, does not acknowledge you, though you stare at her, willing her to turn, to nod at your presence, to validate your social capital. She does not. But at least you stared.

You go to a party of his friend’s girlfriend, alone. You are the first one there. Oh, you came! the hostess exclaims. You sit with his friend and his friend’s girlfriend, aware of the brimming awkwardness, refusing to acknowledge it. It’s surprisingly ok. You stay twice as long as you’d planned. People laugh at your jokes.

Maybe, she tells you, when you invite her to a thing, when you haven’t seen her it months. I’m telling everyone: maybe.

You pet this blind, deaf dog. It snores lightly. It bumps into a tree. Somehow, you and your friend feel these things together: love, care, the hilarity of it all, the tragicomedy of this trotting, courageous dog.

The waiter assumes you are not adventurous. Maybe you do not look adventurous. You do the jalapeño vinegar shot in one go to prove him wrong.

You message someone two things, both thoughtful, relevant, and requiring a response. You get nothing. You wonder: how many times are you supposed to try before taking a hint?

You jump: down the rabbit hole, excel sheets and wikipedia. It comes together. It’s coming together.


07/25/17, 2:48am

you have made progress! this progress is painful, but it is progress. you can not deny what you felt. you could not keep going that way. that was not an undesirable path, it was an impossible path. you could not keep going that way. you can not change what he can give. this is progress. do not go back. do not fall back to limbo.

he didn’t want your expectations.
he didn’t want your trust. he doesn’t want your trust.
that wasn’t a slip in a charged moment. he knew
what that meant. he knew what
that implied. he knew what that entailed.
you laid down all your cards, every last
one: he made the final decision. you loaded
the gun and pointed and he pulled
the trigger, that was all he did
in the end, shot the can of worms
you shared so they could finally writhe
through your hands. There’s something

freeing about being so dirty that you gladly caress
the slime: you can’t believe it; it’s as if: finally. Finally
you’ve shaved your scalp but only to reach
inside your head and pull out your innards
of the skull; you’re getting into the empty kind
of meditating and you’d heard they were obnoxiously
sentient sometimes, sometimes like
when you finally fold your clothes, you face the drywall, like when
you enter with one headphone in and leave with both
shut tight as the double doors of
your childhood, one for each ancestor: the orchid
and the bee. Sometimes it’s not okay to cry
in front of the little bird who has told you
more secrets of yourself than
you knew you had in you, though
you wonder if it knows anyway
without needing to see the sound-
less spread of a shadow on a carpet.
Is that the secret of the little bird? Sometimes you must

close the door through which you entered without knowing
where the exit is or if it was meant for a person
such as you: it’s ok to sit in the dark just as
it’s ok to install the shadow
of yourself on the floor of lobbies in
apartments and hotels and offices and point
its empty eyes at nondescript tile so confidently that night
shift security takes one look at your crumples and thinks: not this
one, not today. Why bow your head in prayer when you can look
up, up to slopes, slope the neck to
a dejected question, up so
the cheekbones become your personal twin
electrical towers; tall enough to draw the whip
of lightening depending, of course, on the height
of the sorrows around you. If you generate
enough water you might conduct energy, a new kind
of life. Electricity’s a bitch and, contrary to popular thought, often strikes
the same place over and over again just for kicks. A tip: do not

be so sure that the tallest takes the hit. Another one: don’t
swell there for too long, sweet sow, sweet
sow. Didn’t you buy the morning
glory seeds to cover the escape hatch with the wonky can opener? Didn’t
you swear to drag yourself from eternal sunsets? Even worms come up for air
only in between showers. Remember: there are other
natural disasters on your bucket list: sharks to poke, seas in which
to flirt. You are not yet done breaking.

05/21/17 9:53am, on the plane from DC to Beijing

You keep flipping through photos because What The Heck You’re Kind Of Enjoying This. Here is another photo: it is you and MH on the grass outside your dorm. You think about the half-conversation you had the other day: you asked, Did Your View Of Me Change This Year? and she said, I Suppose It Developed and you said Yeah Me Too. You think about all the late night conversations you had in the fall. You think about all the late night conversations that you didn’t have in the spring. You wonder what happened. You sort of know what happened, but you don’t really know why. You think, It’s Not Really Completely Your Fault. You think about how distant MH was, how odd you thought it was, how confused you felt. You think about how slowly, you branched out, and then stopped bothering to invite MH to things, or ask to eat together. You remember how she would do small nice things, but nothing else. You remember wondering whether she was mad at you. You remember wondering if she was going through hard things. You remember wondering why she always said things were fine when you asked How Are You Doing, Really? when you kind of knew they weren’t because you could hear her late night conversations that she now had with JV instead of you when she thought you were sleeping (which you usually were indeed doing before they would begin talking). You remember talking to her when you both talked to each other about how different your style of friendships were: how you handpicked friends and stuck to them like hell and she loosely spent time with whoever and that it was hard for her to keep friends without constant exposure. You wonder if you will be friends next year. You think it’s kind of a waste. You think, that was awful to say. You think, I’m actually going to miss her. You feel sad because you will probably not be friends next year not for lack of trying on your part but on hers, and it will break your heart.


On a oft-unmentioned note:

MS is becoming a stressful nonpart of my life.

When summer started, I was so sure that our friendship was solid. I was the last person he said goodbye to before he left; we hugged insanely tight and his dad went

Wow, I’ve never seen Max light up around someone like this

and we stayed strong through struggles like being pitted against each other for a job we thought we would do together and we were so solid.

And then summer began and I visited him and we hung out and made plans to do drugs and visit so often

And then summer wore on and he stopped responding to my messages and Snapchats so I started messaging him less and less and less

And then he very conspicuously forgot that we’d planned to hang out that involved my extensive planning

And then he kept not responding to my do-over plan suggestions

And then I started getting annoyed and passive aggressive

And that’s where we are.