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Letter to a Friend
I looked so perfect that day. My skin was clear, my eyeliner looked the same on both eyes, and my hair was flawless. I had straightened it and put it half up in a gold clip. I was wearing this blue shirt that I remembered you used to like, with jeans that were all torn at the bottom from when I used to have to walk to the bus every morning in high school.
I mean, obviously that didn't really add much to the perfection factor; they just reminded me of you because you knew how much I hated that walk. I’m pretty sure I don’t believe that Seasonal Affective Disorder is a real thing (I mean come on…the acronym is SAD) but Dr. Breslin said it was, so at least I can say I had a reason to hate it.
My alarm went off at six in high school. My mom knew I pretty much turn it off in my sleep, so at quarter after she would come in to wake me up for real. After she left I would check my phone, because you knew I always fell asleep before you and you liked me to wake up to a message. I would read it and let the warmth from your words carry me out of bed and into the morning routine. Then I had to go outside.
For some reason I always downplay the S.A.D. like I did just now, even though I know d*mn well that I have a harder time than normal people who just don’t like getting out of a warm bed on a cold day. Like, f*** you if you think you can compare a form of depression to affection toward your bed.
The flood of autumn air gave me a chill that went down my spine and made the hairs on my arms and the back of my neck stand up. It slithered right down to my core and wrapped around my heart and lungs, constricting them until I couldn't breathe. And the smell of the air was so beautiful it made me want to cry. I don’t know why. I guess those were the kinds of questions Dr. Breslin was supposed to answer for me, but I never really spent too much time asking about things like that. I just wanted to talk about you.
The bus came at 7:03. I left the house at 6:58, which gave me five minutes for about a quarter mile stretch. I always got my anxiety breathing too; when I couldn't take a full breath. No matter how many times I survived it, I was positive I was going to asphyxiate and no one would find me until the bus came back after school. It was because sometimes I could see it coming down the street. I knew the driver would wait for me, but I didn't want everyone else to see me walk on and know that I was the one who held them up. So most days I had to run the last little bit of the walk while my anxiety breathing was going on. Then I had to hide the fact that I was winded when I got on the bus so people didn't look at me weirdly. Anyone would hate all of that.
Then I sat down in my seat next to Fran, who never talked before 10 AM and two cups of coffee. All I could do was wait for your good morning text.
“Goodmorning sweetie<3 see you in a few”
I always wanted to tell you that “good morning” is two words. If you were anyone else, the grammar Nazi in me probably wouldn't have been able to control herself. But since you’re you, I let it go. We never fought because I could never remember why I was annoyed as soon as I was in your presence. And you never let me know that you were annoyed with me because you’re just an angel.
That text always set the tone for my whole day. As soon as I got it, I could breathe again, and I spent the rest of the bus ride thinking about the sigh of relief I would feel as soon as I could melt into your arms.
But then it was all just gone. Then the seasons didn't matter. I had this gaping hole in my chest, and it caused real physical pain. I cried so hard I thought I would puke, and when I cried I always dug my nails into my skin until I bled. It was horrific. And for some reason I wanted you to see me like that so badly. I wanted you to know exactly what you did to me. Secretly, I knew I’d done it all to myself, but it was so much easier to blame you.
I did want you to see me at my worst though, but it was because believe it or not, I was always the strong one. I felt like you didn't really know me until you'd seen me at both my best and worst, but you always came first in my mind. You knew I was in pain, but I always held it together because you were in more pain. And yours didn't have a schedule; it was constant. I didn't have it as bad as you so I thought maybe I should keep it to myself. You never would've asked me to; that's just what I wanted. So I don’t know why I got so mad at you, really. It was my own fault that I didn't get to talk about my feelings. It's not fair that I exploded on you like that. You didn't deserve it, and I’ll be sorry for the rest of my life.
Obviously we saw each other after all of this, but it wasn't long before you graduated. You left me there by myself. I had been so consumed by you that I didn't have much left after you were gone.
I never even found out what you ended up doing after high school. I just pushed on. Junior year was a recovery phase, and I made it a point to make senior year fantastic.
And it was pretty fantastic. Graduation day was filled with some pretty incredible moments.
Especially the moment I saw you. That was pretty f***ing incredible alright.
After the ceremony was over, and everyone flooded to the football field to congratulate their seniors, you were the only one left sitting on the bleachers. Of course you were; you had no one to congratulate. You stood out in your black t-shirt and black jeans. You'd started to grow your hair back out again.
Why did you even come? I lost all of junior year in those two seconds. I waved, and you waved back.
After you encouraged me that much though, how could I not text you?
I mean, just to make sure you saw me wave. You could've been waving to anyone, really.
You asked where I was going to college.
I told you.
You told me that was the town you live in.
I don’t know how in the world that could’ve happened. Neither of us knew the other’s plans. God had stepped in there. So I mean, how could I not see you if you lived right in town?
Then there I was, standing in front of the mirror in my dorm room shaking like a leaf. Even though, like I said, I looked perfect. I just wanted everything to go back to normal. I was like an addict. I could take as many years as I wanted to recover, but I knew things would never go back to the way they were when I could just melt into your arms and breathe again. We’d had two years to evolve as people, and we’d no doubt evolved differently. We were from separate universes as it was.
I don’t think you’d had that same realization before you got to the coffee shop, because when you saw me, you changed your mind about me. I think it must’ve been something in your eyes that gave it away, or the slightest change in your smile, but you had expected something that just wasn’t there anymore, and you knew it as soon as you looked at me.
You stayed though, and talked to me like everything was fine. Because like I said, you’re an angel. Then the awkward pause came when we knew there was nothing left to say. We got up and hugged, but as weird as this sounds, we just didn't fit together as well as we used to. It wasn't the same hug. I was the one to break from it first, because I knew I was going to cry. Suddenly I didn’t want you to see me at my worst anymore. Suddenly you were a stranger and I don’t feel like it’s socially acceptable to cry in front of strangers.
So I left.
A few weeks later you texted me and told me about how you were going to Texas. I’d like to think that it wasn’t because of me, but I know it was. I know you still loved me, and God knows I love you too, but after you make so much progress breaking an addiction you can’t just go back and let it all fall apart. I’m stronger than that. I know you’re stronger than that, which is probably why you felt the need to leave.
As soon as I walked away from you that day I started to cry. I went back to my room and cried some more. For a little while I was convinced I would probably never stop. But I filed my nails so they were too short to cut me.
I know that God brought us together for those short weeks because he needed us to be aware of the fact that we weren't meant to be together. He needed us to see that it was just a phase of our lives that had come to a close.
I hope that one day you get married to a gorgeous woman who treats you the way you deserve to be treated, and you have perfect kids and a perfect life. I really, truly want that for you. I may hate your wife, but I’ll know you deserve nothing less. Maybe one day you’ll pull out my favorite picture of us and put it to the side feeling nostalgic, even just for a minute. That’s all I can hope for if I’m being fair. I just hope you know that if fate ever brings us back together, I’ll welcome you with open arms. I’ll love you for the rest of my life and I cherish every moment that we had together. I miss you every day.