late October, 2011

There was something so poignant about it. So final. I cried when I walked away, down a hotel hallway that twisted and turned for miles. I cried at the space in between it all. The stuff that grows like a scarf you never stop knitting. Pooling at the floor near your feet, growing longer and more unmanageable every day.

 

Work and life and careers and goals get in the way. It’s no longer magical when you’re not just two kids with no scarves yet. You weave in their own thread; it becomes a part of you. But you lose the stitch, and it’s too late; you can’t stop and pick it up. All that living robs the magic. Makes you calmer maybe, and just more sad. Frustrating because this is the sort of living that makes you forget the magic. Ouroboros. What was once standing on the corner, eyes locked, everything unsaid, nothing unfelt, becomes knowing when to leave. Knowing it gets duller. This person doesn’t exist, it’s just a slightly changed, aging version of that person with a list of stuff of their own. Lives aren’t rife with possibility. You’ve flown the coop, you’ve got to keep flying. 

 

He had some of his familiar compendium of ticks, but his eyes seemed different and body slower. His smell was the same, oh god, exactly the same. His lips, too. His teeth shifted slightly, but he moved the same. But this time it wasn’t exactly the same, it was just softened. A pair of old jeans you are just slightly too big for now. But you’re always dreaming of how good you felt in them. If I could just squeeze into them…Can I? I want to.

 

His touch wasn’t as narcotic. Was it? Yes. Maybe. I think so, but he didn’t care anymore. His kisses were sweet and good, but his distance was apparent and my craving for connection wasn’t there. I could have done better, I’m sure, but I knew how it would end. Those sparks just can’t last. He didn’t want that. I liked it like I liked an old movie that was once a favorite.

 

A dream, all a dream. It crushes me that we’ve all been flung out from the roundabout on the playground in our own separate trajectories, and we’re not coming back. We’ll never fight and we’ll never date and we will never dance and never vacation and he’ll never show up in LA for me again. He’ll never come visit and I’ll never sleep in my car with him. I want to feel that again, so badly, but I won’t. 

 

I’ll never end up in Brooklyn, so mad I can’t breathe. Won’t show up the next year, so intoxicated by being together that we can’t breathe. We won’t meet at a bar for a drink, expecting nothing and end up kissing and staring and craving and feeling and evaporating into some electric nightmare. It’s not about the untouched, raw people in us now. It’s our jobs and how we pay our bills and choose our lives. We’re no longer kids defined free of care, through testing dreams and desires and all the little things. We are defined now by the path we take in all the big things. 

 

And I cried and left and walked away because for a moment there it was just us, just two scarfless kids wanting one another and feeling one another. Needing one another. A snowy hug, an appreciation for a touch on the thigh. Just who we were once, the secrets we had and the big, wide future ahead of us like an empty plain. Now we’ve built our cities, and paved our streets and I erected my shrine somewhere in there for him. And I’m not sure how his city is; he might not even be building one. He doesn’t open all the way. At least to me. He shut down somewhere along the way. Chose this path. Pretends he likes it. Like we all do. We all pretend.

 

A few minutes there we lived without that; still a game, still a chase. Still a distance we long so much to bridge. Laughter: we laughed together. More than I remember. Kids. Snow. Braving it because there is something there and always was. Will always be. Whispers in private, spoken with two different languages. Gone when the game is won, a short round of tag. 

 

Unsolved, floating out there somewhere in the stuff between. 

Jamie.

I always wondered what Jamie saw in those bad girls. Those girls who laughed loud and didn’t care about curfews.

I mean, it’d been awhile since I knew any of his girls, but I always went back to high school. Those days were lodged in my mind like touchstones. Those high school girls, so reckless with their undone hair and chipped nails. Jamie always had one around.

I looked at my own manicure. Gel. Pink. Flawless. I tried chipping a bit off now, as I stared at my thumbs. Nothing budged. I hadn’t been able to look up yet. Couldn’t imagine under the enamel and wood that Jamie’s soft face was there resting as if sleeping in the coffin in front of me. I’d spoken, our family friends had, a handful of people from his boys’ school shifted listlessly though the funeral home.

What a time to die, I thought. Between high school and college. Not enough real, close friends. Kids you were stuck with in younger years filtering in and out, most opting to post on a soulless Facebook wall. “RIP JAMIE”

At ten years younger than me, Jamie was still a baby. Had been. Had been still a baby. His wide, pale face and long dark lashes framing his large, dark eyes. Warm and always almost devilish. His big mouth, soft and almost bloated. A mop of dark hair. Dead hair.

Or was it? Had’t I read somewhere that hair kept growing a bit after you were dead? I tapped the screen of my phone to look it up. Then I stopped.

My fingers looked thin and fake. They seemed dry and nervous. I glanced up at the white casket. It was closed. A car accident wasn’t the way Jamie was supposed to go. And not the way to go for an open casket.

I almost choked on a cough and stood.

Where was I going? An embarrassed hesitation, and I walked outside.

Outside the day was beautiful. It was one of those New England fall days where the sky is so unreachably high and the blue is so crisp, it’s almost fake. The leaves are loud and only seem to rustle when it’s an important pause in conversation or when you notice them, shifting as softly as dying things can in an unshakable, frigid wind.

The marble steps were wide and I sat myself down, looking at the three best friends Jamie had in the last few months. They drank something from a paper bag and nodded at me. I managed a smile but secretly I hated them.

I hated them for killing Jamie. Hadn’t they? Hadn’t they led to his downfall, his partying, his fast days and sleepless nights? I choked myself inside for not being more present. More sisterly. Wasn’t that an older sibling’s job? Take care of yours. And look what you’d done. Nothing. Jamie was dead. Little Jamie in his baggy baby pants and then his blazer for middle school and asking for homework help and looking at you with those pleading eyes and how could you have let him down?

How? Those times he wanted help with the fridge and that time he had pissed in your bed when you were ten and the babysitter laughed. How could you have followed suit? Those times you could have been better. Those times he looked up to you and you were gone. At summer camp. At debate camp. At model U.N. Then gone. College. Boyfriends. Gone.

My idiot brother. Troublemaker. Class clown. Late night drunk dialer, annoyance, so sorry, my brother. Gone.

I rested my forehead on my thin fingers and wept. I kept seeing those faces, those pretty faces of his bad girls who filtered in and out. That one with the black hair and the dark skin who paused before tip-toeing down the back stairs that long-ago night and gave me a look like, “I’m sorry. Not like this, I’m sorry.” She was beautiful. What had they seen in him? What had he seen in them?

My chest hurt and I tried to calm myself. I could feel a few nervous glances but I didn’t care. I let my back shake and my tears hit the edge of my dress. When I opened my eyes, I saw the dark spots on the hem of my slip and breathed in deep. Mascara dotted and speckled its silk. I felt ruined.

And I wanted to see him, Jamie. I wanted to see Jamie like an almost man. Not a little boy. I wanted to see him like those girls who crept in like smoke. Those girls I was so jealous of, those girls who could be themselves. For better or worse. I looked up and the three friends were still there. They were looking away. All were but then, not one. He looked at me, that tall blonde kid with the lanky frame. He didn’t look away. He just turned, and his hand was at once level to mine, closing in a few strides away.

Then it was upon mine. His hand held out a cigarette.

I finally looked up at him. A curtain of fringe fell in front of his grey eyes and blended with my tears and I snatched it. I took that cigarette and I shook.

I wanted to see what they all saw. I wanted to be like Jamie. I held it like I’d seen in the movies. My lips were dry and parted themselves and my hair caught in that fucking cold autumn breeze.

“Do you have a light?”