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To a Long Lost Friend
Fall has come and gone now. The lavender still rests on my dresser; it’s faded purple a grotesque contrast to the scratched, peeling yellow paint. And yet, I leave it there, for no other reason besides that it reminds me of you. Do you remember the field behind your house? It stretched out like a blanket, you know? Like it went on forever. We always wanted to reach the end of the field, we never tried though. Maybe because we both knew deep down that it would end, and that would be that. The end of our dreams, the end of hopes of a secret life outside this tiny town. So, instead we just stared out at the horizon, lost in our own dreams.
There was lavender in that field, too. You would braid it into your glossy, black hair; and trail its perfume behind you. I dried it out in between the dusty, old bibles in the attic; its scent still lingers, folded up into the dark corners that are covered in spider webs and dust.
That green record player (remember we called it ‘the green goody’) sat in one of the corners. You would haul over your Beatles records, and we danced until the floor shook beneath us and the glasses below on the table began to rattle. Once the music stopped, we would collapse onto the floor and talk until we couldn’t fight sleep off any longer.
You told me about the kids at school, and how they made fun of your nose. “It’s too flat. My eyes are too squinty… my hair is too black.” You would whisper all of this to me in between gasps of air, trying not to cry. I always wanted to look like you, although I would never admit it. More than that though, I wanted to be you. You were always the brave one, the wild one, the girl who could never be tamed. I was plain in comparison, destined to live in your shadow, which was fine by me.
But then, something happened. I should have seen it coming, but I didn’t. You didn’t show up Saturday night for our weekly sleepover, and so I called your house to see if you were sick. I remember I counted each time that the phone rang on the other line, and scuffed my sneaker against the hardwood floor. It needed to be mopped- we mopped it so many times, didn’t we? And so the phone kept ringing until your mom picked up. You were at a party. A party?! She thought I was with you. You know what I did? I covered for you; saved your sorry ass. It wouldn’t be the last time either.
And then you kept skipping the sleepovers, and weeks turned into months. I just kept covering for you. Every Saturday I would crank up the Beatles and dance until I collapsed onto the floor, “Can’t Buy Me Love” muffling my sobs.
You had changed the next time I saw you. Your beautiful hair that I had always coveted had been dyed pink, green, and blue. And I just looked at you like I didn’t know you, and you stared right back. You left our sleep over early that night. I don’t know where you went. After the door closed behind you, I took out all the records and smashed them. The pieces scattered all over the floor like broken glass. They cut my feet for days after, but I didn’t regret it.
One night, over a year later, you called me. You were drunk; I could hear it in your voice. “Come get me, please come. Get me, help me...” You just kept repeating it over and over again. You told me you were at a party in a trailer park. And you had to get out of there, fast. There was only one trailer park in our town, a half a mile up the road from where I lived.
I threw on my shoes and ran up the hill, not stopping until I reached the trailer park. I could hear the party before I saw it. The drunken shouts, the rap music, and the pounding bass fogged my senses. And yet, I kept going.
You were on the steps when I arrived, a cigarette hanging out of your mouth. You wobbled as you stood up, and slowly made your way towards me. “Youuu caaamee” you slurred.
And that was the last memory I have of you. The party pulsing in the background. You, with your multicolored hair, hanging onto me like I was the only thing keeping you on the ground. And for once, I was the anchor, the brave one, the strong one. In that moment everything froze, morphed, and changed.
But then you were gone, lost in the sea of bodies. I never saw you again. I vaguely remember calling your house the next morning, just as the sun was peeking up above the mountains. Someone answered, I don’t remember who. “She’s gone” was all they said. They kept talking, but that was all I needed to hear. I felt it somewhere inside that it was true, and that I would never see you again.
I ran up to the attic. “Gone” whispered the empty corners, as they stared menacingly back at me. “Gone” Cried the Beatles as they crossed Abbey Road. “Gone” screamed the wind as it whistled through the trees. “Gone” I thought.
I skipped your funeral. They held it in the old stuffy church where we used to go to Sunday school. The teacher always smelled like cat pee, remember? And we wore those itchy dresses and tight shoes, and you hated that too. After church one day, you tossed both of your shoes in the river, and sang the doxology as they floated away. And so, I skipped your funeral and didn’t wear tight shoes or an itchy dress because I knew you would have hated it.
Instead, I went to the field behind your house. The sky was so clear; I bet that you really could have seen forever. I started thinking about how we used to dream of what was at the end of the field, and I started walking. Every few steps, I reached down and plucked some lavender out of the grass.
Guess what? We were right. The field ended with a barbed wire fence that bordered a road. I twisted the lavender through the wire, paying a tribute to all those childish hopes and dreams of somewhere bigger, better than this. We were wrong. This is it.
And so, this is the end of my ramblings. You can breathe a sigh of relief, wherever you are. You are now just a memory, a whisper of a song, lost somewhere in the winds of storms between childhood and now. Maybe I will find you one day, folded up in the corners of the attic where the Beatles still echo, and where lavender smells as sweet as childhood dreams.