The Purge

The purge happened on Tuesday night. I was procrastinating finishing homework for my new job and started cleaning out a closet on a whim; 2 hours later my foyer was clogged with overstuffed bags of shoes, purses, jackets that I definitely haven’t worn in the past year. The purge itself felt like a funeral for my single life,  I wore [those] shoes to [that] party, and I carried [that] purse at [this] event. At one point something fell out of a purse I hadn’t used in years that immediately made me think of The Child, and then I saw a pair of shoes I haven’t worn since the night I knew Austin was the right decision. This kept happening as the bags filled faster; I wore that scarf on that awful first date, and I wore that jacket when the original Ex and I broke up. As I packed each bag there were waves of memories flashing from the time since I moved here in 2013, and when I stopped and looked at the carnage, I realized that Washington Heights no longer feels like home.

It’s not a coincidence I was living in the past on Tuesday evening. Actually, that’s how most November 15ths are for me, at least now. The thing is, November 15 is a day that I didn’t think I’d remember after a while, but it turns out I’m going to remember it for the rest of my life. Two years ago I lost a family member, the indescribable instigator of my understanding the concept of “family by choice.” Since her passing so many things have happened, not least of all the two newest (and cutest) members of the family. In two years I committed to yoga, got my cert, left the 9-5. I planned a permanent Austin vacation, then A arrived, and now I’m packing up for Queens. Two years ago from November 15 is a day I’ll remember forever. But it will also always remind me what happened three years ago that same day.

Three years feels like a lifetime. Three years is not a lifetime at all, but it is a lifetime of sorts for me. Three years ago Tuesday was when I walked away from life with the original Ex and started life on my own. That lifetime brought me so many amazing memories; that started Peaches and Jumpsuit and my all-star sister-wifing of M&N’s relationship, and there were concerts and happy hours and some of the best worst decisions in my 28 years. Three years ago feels like a lifetime, but then again so does two years ago, when we lost my aunt, and so does one year ago, just under a month before I’d meet A and I’d start a new lifetime with him.

There’s a quote from a recent TED show on NPR that has stuck with me. Well, the idea of it has stuck with me – I can’t find the actual quote as I’m writing this. Anyway, the gist was along the lines of: time does not move as quickly as we believe it will, but moves much more quickly than we expect. When we’re young, a 6-hour school day can feel like torture, because all we know is maybe 6 years of life. Of course an hour feels longer – you don’t have the past context of 10, 20, 30 years to know how fleeting one hour can be. And right now, in our late 20s, we bemoan how quickly the seasons pass, but all things considered we have a lot of time to savor the moments as we live them. It’s only after they’ve passed that we realize how fleeting each one really is. Time is a funny, fickle, silly thing, the kind of silly thing that somehow makes three years a blip and yet an entire lifetime as well.

Somehow in my split decision to clean up I packed eight freaking bags with material things to discard, enough to create a fire hazard in my hallway and three total trips up and down my fifth floor walk-up. As I huffed and puffed my way back up the stairs on the last trip up, cursing the circuit workout I’d done after my shift at Equinox earlier that day, I stopped as I walked in the door and smiled. Looking around, my apartment felt empty. It’s the beginning of the end of a short-lived yet wonderful era in life. It felt good to get rid of that literal and figurative baggage. It felt even better the next day to take the elevator up to another fifth floor apartment in Forest Hills, free of so much baggage, and run past the door into the arms of the love of my beautiful new life.

And I sighed.

There are these moments in life where your mental guard slips for just a moment, and you think something you immediately regret. Much as I know that no one else is listening to my inner commentary, I still feel guilty when my mind comes up with “Chivalry isn’t dead bitch, do not fight me for that spot” while eyeing an empty seat on the subway at the same time as someone else, or “Is she aware of what she looks like in a crop top?” while wandering around the Heights. This usually happens when I’m tired, or annoyed, or some combination of the two; the concrete wall that keeps negative thoughts at bay falls down for just a second, just enough for the words to slide through. Sometimes the thoughts are a little funny, frequently they’re a lot offensive, but most of the time I forget eventually that such a thought crossed my mind, and I move on, no harm. Sometimes, though, something crosses my mind when I’m least expecting it, when I’m really happy or really content, and all of a sudden the mental guard slips and I’m stuck with a thought that isn’t offensive, or funny, and it stays with me, stays far past its welcome and far past the time I want to devote to that feeling.

It was one of the rare times when we were all together, all seven of us, and it was perfect. I watched the way they talked about the future with a carefree ease, next week, next month, next year. How they’d smile at each other when everyone was looking and how that smile changed when the others were turned. We were all running around mad with details, colors, styles, dates, locations, and they were smiling, completely relaxed, like it was the most natural thing in the world to be so calm and ready, while the rest of us couldn’t stop for excitement. And in those moments, when they were talking like that and smiling like that, I had to stop and catch my breath for a minute as my heart skidded, because that was the split second the big wall around me crumbled, and I sighed and thought I want that.

And sometimes there are moments where we’re all together, just the three of us or all six of us, and it’s perfect. We’re all laughing and carefree attitude, enjoying this time in our lives for exactly what it is, celebrating anything with a glass of wine and a crazy night out. Sometimes in the midst of the crazy or in a quiet moment downtown, I’d turn and see him giving her this look, that look, and remember how new this all still is. She’d catch him staring sometimes, and return a secret smile or a wink, a brief shared moment for just them. And in those moments, when they shared that small yet infinitely powerful exchange, I had to stop and catch my breath for a minute as my heart faltered, because that was the split second the big wall around me crumbled, and I sighed and thought I want that.

It’s been a year, 12 months, 52 weeks, 365 days, since I stood up from his bed where I’d spent so many nights for the last time, tears streaking my face like a summer thunderstorm, unrelenting and messy and powerful. It’s been a year since I leaned in for the final kiss, a year since I said “I love you” and he just said “Okay” as I left his apartment for the very last time. Somewhere in this year I stopped playing the previous four over and over, somewhere I stopped wondering what he was doing all the time. Somewhere in here it stopped being so painful to see his name in my gchat, on social media, and somewhere in here I stopped hoping to run into him each time I’d find myself by that apartment. It’s been a year, 12 months, 365 days, since starting life on my own, really on my own, for the first time, and it’s been the craziest year of my life. And today, as I felt myself falling into memories and a sweet nostalgia of that time, and that LB, I had to stop and catch my breath for a minute as my heart clenched, because in that split second the big wall around me crumbled, and I sighed and thought I miss that.

I wouldn’t change anything about the past year, the roller coaster of learning experiences and PLDs, and I wouldn’t change anything from that day, 365 days ago, 52 weeks ago, 12 months ago, a year ago, because I’m not that person anymore and I’m sure he’s not either. I wouldn’t change anything about my life right now, wouldn’t give up the nights alone with little miss and a bottle of wine, wouldn’t trade weekend yoga and a run in the park for those mornings snuggling on the couch, watching The Sopranos and reciting along, fat with bagels from the same place and a comfortable love. But I couldn’t stop that thought from entering my head, couldn’t stop looking at the Maybes and I Wonders, and for a minute I let that thought seep into every single memory from the past year, blurring the edges with a powerful image of how different things could have been. It’s in these moments, with these thoughts, that I have to steel myself to raise the mental gates again, lest the split second of weakness force the whole foundation to fall.

But as that forbidden thought crept uninvited into my head, I felt my phone buzz with a funny message from my lovely friend M, the only other person awake this early on a Saturday, and I smiled, wide, the kind of smile attached to memories of spontaneous trips and nights out that turn into mornings. And all of a sudden I was overcome with how much really has changed in such a short period of time, in just 365 days, 52 weeks, 12 months, a year. I’m so curious about what another year will bring in this life I’ve been building since I had to learn how to schedule around my time and not somebody else’s. And as I started to think about the upcoming year of weddings and surprises, of trips, concerts and all of the PLDs, I had to stop and catch my breath for a minute as my heart swelled, because in that split second I forgot I built a wall around me one year ago, and I sighed and thought I’m good.

Just a little, oh, little

Everyone gets perks of a kind at their job, whether it’s a free lunch on Fridays, a break on your data plan or the promise of an annual bonus. In New York City, those perks exist, of course, but every once in a while you get an opportunity for something amazing, like the chance to see a Tony-nominated Broadway musical with as many people as you’d like for free. This is how my lovely friend M, my fashionista C, my dearest K and I found ourselves right outside the hellhole that is Times Square on Tuesday night, smiles on faces and orchestra tickets in hand for If/Then, a wonderful show I highly recommend. For anyone unfamiliar, the general plot is about how a single decision can shape your life, but it doesn’t necessarily change your path. The show is hilarious and poignant, somewhat predictable yet surprising at the same time, and the constant comments about bad decisions and wrong decisions had us all rolling in our seats with laughter, miming “Preach” when the main character stares at herself in a mirror and just belts “What the fuck?!” M turned to me in a particular funny song and commented “This show is like reading your blog!” which prompted another round of silent laughter, because honestly, the thought may have crossed my mind once (or twice) as well.

Now, unfortunately for me, I don’t actually have that much in common with the main character. She’s got a PhD, works for city development, dates a hot soldier (who can SANG) and takes a really wild journey on both paths she forged for herself. I, on the other hand, almost left my apartment without a shirt on this morning, recently determined that going on a fourth date with someone who really likes me isn’t worth giving up a weekday plan of sweatpants and leftover pizza, and I don’t know if I’m forging any paths for myself, save for the clean line in my living room amid laundry and shoes leading from the couch to the fridge. She’s also a pragmatist, making decisions based on facts and stats, to my idealism, with the constant wonder of what might be, if only everyone else could see inside my head. Yet the biggest thing that stuck out to me, is that through both her paths, she never allows her self-worth to be defined by a man, regardless of whether he’s her boss, her best friend, or her really, really hot soldier (who can SANG).

I probably wouldn’t have been watching for her to melt into a puddle of man-related mush had I not been on the receiving end of a stinging comment recently from an old friend, after I mentioned I was going on the first of the aforementioned dates a few weeks back. “You’ve got a new guy every time I see you!” he told me, shaking his head theatrically. “I don’t want you to keep putting self-worth in someone else.” I tried to argue with him that none of that was true, and followed up by complaining to M, trying desperately to insist I’m not that person. She let me talk for a little while, venting out my frustrations, and then hit me with a truth bomb, like she always does: my greatest virtue is my greatest flaw. I don’t give up on people unless absolutely forced to. So even as things are clearly falling apart, I’ll cling desperately to the idea that I can fix it, that I can make it all better, and I’ll lose myself in the idea of someone else rather than facing the reality of the situation. She cited a day last year that I haven’t forgotten either, where a short phone call from her bedroom with my then-boyfriend ended with me hanging up the phone, dropping to my knees with my hands on my face and starting to cry. Shaking, jagged-breath, ugly crying, asking why he couldn’t just meet me halfway, why I just couldn’t have a day with my girlfriends without drama, and why, why couldn’t I fix it. “You looked so broken,” she told me, as I realized she had a point. “It was like watching you finally give up. And it was so, so hard to watch.”

I was so frustrated after the initial comment from my old friend, while convincing myself to go on that first date, because he kind of had a point. I have met a lot of people in the past year from all over the city, allowing myself and self-worth to get lost in the colorful high of meeting someone new and clicking instantly. The frustration here came from the fact that despite an actual date with someone cute and sweet, someone else kept showing up, uninvited, into my mind, every time I started daydreaming of possibilities; it felt like drowning in my own thoughts, gasping for breath as I tried to push down the memory of his smile, using the distance and bad timing as reminders that life isn’t a series of What Ifs. I think I’ve had too much experience with fireworks now, people bursting into my life with a flash, mesmerizing me with the colors and the light, before abruptly disappearing, leaving me with a memory of something beautiful and a scar from getting burned. M made a great point above, that giving up is something I don’t do quickly and I don’t do it well, and it’s probably what prompts me to fall into a low kind of love with the fireworks, despite knowing the scars are ugly, twisted and tough to crack. It’s the part of my personality that resonates with a song where the main character smacks herself in the mirror and just says “What the fuck?!”

I’d like to say that the show last night inspired me to get my head out of the clouds for a little while, stop dreaming in these grand scenarios where someone takes my breath away and holds on to it, rather than blowing it like chimney smoke back in my face. It was just a Broadway show, though, and I’m just a girl who puts her head in the clouds, come hell, high water or another fireworks display. The show did, however, made a great point that things happen sometimes, and it doesn’t matter if you dreamed them, expected them, or planned for them, because they’re going to happen no matter what. It’s a lesson I’m hoping to remember the next time I’m feared up about returning to reality after dreaming about someone impossible with a wistful sadness of the What Ifs. And if I start to tie my happiness or self-worth into someone else again, it’s a great reminder to look at the person I don’t want to become straight in the mirror, smack her in the forehead and tell her loudly “What the fuck?!”

(Great) Expectations.

When you attend the wedding of someone you’ve known for almost twenty years, you expect a few things. You expect the bride to be beautiful as she walks down the aisle on her father’s arm, looking at her husband-to-be. You expect the groom to look like he’s won the jackpot, shooting looks at his best man like he can’t believe it’s happening, and also can they hurry up? You expect to cry, fighting over tissues with your sister after you both spent over an hour getting ready, having both recently acquired a serious appreciation for fun makeup tips. And you expect it to be a total blast, regardless of silly details like how the food tastes (delicious), what happens when someone else shows up in all white (yup), or whether there’s a band or DJ (DJ, mama B and I did the Cha Cha Slide). What you don’t expect is for your 6-inch heel to break, after you’ve had a few drinks at cocktail hour, at the exact moment everyone has been seated for dinner, and you have no more than 2 minutes to run to the bathroom before the wedding party comes in. No it’s okay, I didn’t need that much skin on my knee anyway.

Generally speaking, I think it’s good to have expectations. There are the basic ones, like I expect you to let me know if I have food in my teeth, and I expect that I’ll wake up in time for work so I don’t break my heels while running late to the office, 2 days before I’m planning to wear them to a wedding (superglue/apparent fail). And I think it’s also good that some people in your life are set to higher expectations, like I expect you to love me even when I’m complaining for the zillionth time about the same thing, and I expect that I’ll always do the same for you and then some. Setting expectations is like a challenge, a dare to meet standards and be a better version of yourself. Expectations create this exciting future, shaping every little thought, like “maybe this time” and “forever.”

On the other hand, expectations can be a dangerous thing. They can be tricky, leading you into false hope and heartbreak, like reading “I can’t” in a text the weekend after everything was said. But in the same way reaching expectations pushes you to keep setting them higher, missing them is equally as powerful, forcing you to reevaluate what seemed easy before. The evil side of setting expectations is you have to manage them; you have to pull back when trying to anticipate what might happen in even just the next few weeks, like whether you’ll have to pick yourself up after getting swept off your feet all over again. It’s a roller coaster, trying to find a balance between setting and managing things you can’t predict, though to be honest, I thought it was supposed to be easier when you grew up.

It’s officially six weeks until the next wedding, for another lifelong friend, and since we’ve been using initials since high school, her’s get to stay my secret. I’m already deep in the wardrobe planning process, with a particular focus on footwear to save my other knee, and of course, already making a few expectations. I expect she’ll be a beautiful bride, walking down the aisle on her father’s arm, looking at her husband-to-be. I expect to be surrounded by love and music and dancing and love. And I’m also just going to expect the unexpected at this point, for everything leading up to the wedding. I may end up with another broken shoe, or maybe another broken heart. Or maybe, just maybe, everything will be okay.

 

Clumsy Me

I am a klutz. I trip constantly, I’m always walking into tables or falling off the couch, I spill food on or around myself at least once per meal (including snacks), I have more burn scars on my hands from forgetting a potholder or an oven mitt and my coworkers have long since stopped asking “what happened?!” when they see another gargantuan bruise on me, having figured out that the only thing beating me up is gravity. I don’t know where I get it from because neither my parents nor brother are even close to my level of clumsy hot mess (my twinster T gets close, but I’ve got the edge), but either way, I have the clumsy gene and there’s nothing I can do about it.

This weekend I managed to injure my lone remaining good foot while racing to the pool area from my parent’s deck in the beautiful Saturday sun, in desperate need of the Bose stereo so mama B, my brother’s wonderful girlfriend D, my lovely friend M and my work buddy S and I could continue a dance party to the best of the 60s. Still grooving with the stereo as I ran from the fire pit past a row of lawn chairs, I sped up to turn a corner and smacked my foot directly into the metal leg of a rogue lounge chair and exhaled the loudest “MOTHER F&!)#*@!&R” I’ve ever uttered in my entire life. Exactly a week after twisting my left ankle so badly it still hurts to walk down stairs, I was now hobbling around with a likely-broken toe on my right foot. The crowd from inside came out to see what I’d gotten myself into, probably expecting a snapping turtle attack, and instead we all just shook our heads and laughed: of course LB ran into the lounge chair. Of course.

In most aspects of my life, I’m fairly well organized and put-together. My desk at work would beg to differ, but my inbox is semi-organized, I would never wear black shoes with a brown belt, and I’ve gotten into a great routine at home to stop magazines from piling in the corner and keep empty wine bottles from an extended stay in my recycling bin. I even organized my closet a few months back, summer dresses next to jumpsuits next to blazers next to skirts (aside: yes I have a jumpsuit section and it’s the best part of my closet. End aside), and it’s stayed organized for much longer than I’d ever anticipated. All in all, I’m a fairly organized and put-together person. In fact, I’m really only clumsy with myself.

“Clumsy with myself” is another way to describe the reckless abandon I’ve been integrating into my life these days, throwing my heart around like a rubber ball and waiting to see if it breaks or bounces back. It’s been such a weird year so far, 2014, and as we’re officially in the second half of the year, I’ve been thinking a lot about what might happen, or what I want to happen, before it’s 2015. Some of it’s silly, like getting a new couch and finally getting rid of my horrid Ikea dresser in lieu of a bookshelf; other goals are bigger, work goals, financial goals. And despite knowing and setting and wanting these goals, I’m letting my reckless, clumsy heart direct how I feel about progress to-date, measuring self-worth in days, weeks, months dealing with everything on my own, all the time. It’s clumsy and careless and full abandon and there are some days where I just want to SCREAM at myself to get over the short-lived happy love and get back to reality, paying attention to the pragmatic and ignoring all the little wisps of spontaneity trying to pull me back to the klutzy, clumsy self I am.

In desperate need of heels this morning, I tried gingerly slipping my feet into my favorite “short” (read: 4 inches) stilettos, hoping that I could break my longest-ever streak of 6 days without heels in the office. Not only was there a good amount of pain when I stood up in my “comfortable” shoes, but in trying to sit down as quickly as possible, I kicked out the wheels on my chair and fell ass-first on the floor. I sat laughing like an idiot, as my coworkers shook their heads and laughed with me, Clumsy LB, at it again. It’s not the most glamorous description, and sometimes it’s painful, but being clumsy with gravity and with myself may just be another ridiculous aspect of my life I need to get used to. Perhaps it’s time to re-embrace the reckless abandon: on from the small infinity of a fast love lost and into the new unknown, counting the bruises, spilled food and broken toes as milestones along the way.

MPDG

Across my social media profiles, from AIM in 2002 to Instagram in 2014, I’ve cycled through a lot of different ways to describe myself. The early years involved song lyrics from the pop group of the moment tYPeD liKe tHIs (brief reminder: this is a judgment free zone), which turned into Mean Girls quotes, which turned into me trying to wax poetic while mostly just not making sense. While putting together the early stages of this blog, I decided it was time for a “rebranding,” another way to describe myself with a little more permanence, something to hit the desired balance of intriguing and funny, interesting and unobvious. I thought for a while and brainstormed, but a small brush of inspiration led me to settle on what I think hits the perfect chord: “Aspiring Manic Pixie Dream Girl.”

Don't pretend you're surprised this picture landed in here eventually.

Don’t pretend you’re surprised this picture landed in here eventually.

The Manic Pixie Dream Girl, or MPDG, is a film concept coined a few years ago which essentially describes a female character who has no central development of her own, and stands instead to serve as part of the male protagonist’s lessons learned, a stepping stool towards growing up. My personal favorite example is Holly Golightly, but there are myriad other examples of this particular stereotype. It’s a hotly controversial film tactic for a few reasons; largely that it makes the female character a prop rather than a part of the male character’s journey, but you can argue that women put themselves into the role of MPDG without realizing it, citing a caretaker instinct that just wants to help.

I think the reason the MPDG gets such flak for playing into that stereotype is because it’s seen as anti-feminist, someone who exists independent of her own goals and aspirations for the sole purpose of helping the male protagonist find some joy in a situation which is otherwise causing pain. I like to think of it as a joke, to aspire to be this archetype so widely panned and dissected in the movie world, fluctuating between anti-feminist and pro-joie de vivre, especially because bringing happiness or fun into someone’s life who needs it, independent of my own goals and aspirations, sounds like something to admire. It’s not to say I don’t have my own goals and aspirations at all – I’m an incredibly ambitious, motivated, competitive person; I have milestones set that I want to reach that have nothing to do with anyone else. But there’s no harm in being my flighty, hippie, positive (mostly) self around someone who might need a boost from time to time. I don’t think wanting to spread some sunshine to people around me in any way reduces or cheapens my ambitions and goals.

And yet, as someone who puts a lot of energy into making other people happy, it puts me in situations where I become a prop in people’s lives rather than a star player. Looking back at the past few months, I can even categorize myself in someone’s life: the rebound, a faceless entity there to help remind a broken heart that there’s a light at the end of it all. Finding the delicate balance of making people happy and making yourself happy is a hallmark of life, but only when someone meets you halfway. I keep hoping I’ve found the right balance, struck the chord where calling myself an MPDG is funny because it’s funny, instead of funny because it’s true.

Perhaps at the end of the day I’m just a Manic Pixie Dream Girl after all, a flower child existing for the amusement and the enjoyment of others, but not something to adore, not something to keep. Maybe it’s the hair, maybe it’s the tattoos. Maybe it’s the way I carry myself, maybe it’s just a fantasy for someone, like finding a real New York City gal on a subway and having her fall in love, just to see what it’s like. I don’t think it would stop me from sending out this love, because radiating the warmth I know so well is something I would never change. I can never escape that I had and have so much love in my life. Instead, I’ll keep sharing it with anyone who deserves it, who needs it, and maybe someday there’s someone who will do the same for me.

Extra, Extra!

There was a moment in the recent past where I had a small piece of news to share, a compliment from a boss on my work or maybe a nice word from a client. It was a small gesture after a long week that made me feel that all the crazy emotions I’d been handling those previous days were worth it, that someone appreciated what I’d done. I started dialing mama B, but stopped, as she and I had barely talked all week so I would have to relive the crazy before getting to the good part, my news becoming a conclusion rather than the highlight of my day. I went to text my lovely friend M, but stopped, as I’d be seeing her the next day and it wasn’t something that needed to be shared right away. After running through my mental inventory of people who I would tell, thinking “meh, not her” or “eh, he wouldn’t care,” I finally stopped for a second and realized what was really going on. I sighed and stared at my phone, allowing just ten seconds to accept what was happening and move past it: I wish I could have told my ex.

One of the weirdest parts about single life is not having a ‘default’ person to share all your news. Much as my friends and family can celebrate with me, commiserate with me and cry with me when I have major news to share, it’s not the same as telling that same news to someone who’s seen you at your most vulnerable, your happiest and everything in between. Everyone will be happy for you if you share “I got the job!” or “I got the apartment!” but few people were there when you were crying on the couch about how unhappy you were after another Wednesday being taken through the ringer, or right after you saw the apartment of your dreams and couldn’t stop talking about it. It’s not that friends and family don’t appreciate your news, funny office stories or the fact that you made it to Starbucks before it got busy, but it won’t be the same as sharing that news, those stories or even the Starbucks with someone who cares as much as you do, because you do.

There’s an old joke from college, “if it isn’t on Facebook, it doesn’t exist,” which plays well into a single-situation as well. For a really long time, news wasn’t real until I could share it with him, someone who would share my excitement, or tears, frustration and elation. The first few times after the breakup I told M some minor news or an innocuous bit of trivia from my day, she smiled and laughed as she was supposed to, but I felt silly celebrating this not-even-a-milestone, self-consciously censoring myself more as time went on. I was prepared to live with the outwardly alone-esque aspects of single life, like finally getting the full comforter to myself and not waiting up for the “good night” text that rarely comes, but this has been a difficult adjustment. Celebrating my tiny milestone alone still feels foreign sometimes, like it’s not actually good news.

Yesterday I got a really wonderful compliment from a boss that I admire, peppering my entire day with smiles and a contented mood. I didn’t realize until this morning that I hadn’t discussed it with anyone – it didn’t come up when I spoke to mama B, haven’t felt the need to send anything to M. It’s not a secret, and obviously I’m happy it happened, but it felt okay to celebrate just me last night. As the six-months-single mark rapidly approaches, I’m still learning how to handle the little things that remind me I’m pretty much on my own, but as long as I can give myself 10 seconds to understand the moment and move on, I think I can handle the next six months and beyond.

Awkward Turtle

Have you ever had to break-up with a friend? From experience, it’s not as emotionally jarring as a relationship break-up, but there are residual feelings of hurt and such that last much longer than post-relationship parting. Over time, we all have friends that fade into the back of our minds, instigated by distance, time, or the general growing-apart that comes with growing up. Consciously ending a friendship, however, is another beast. It’s the decision to delete the person who shares your good news and bad, the one who calls you out on poor decisions and then makes a few of her own. It’s telling the person you swapped clothes and secrets with, survived high school with, learned to drive with, that you won’t be there anymore, not in the present, not in the future. It’s hoping that time and the distance of multiple states will ensure you never run into each other again.

So what happens when your ex-best friend moves to your city?

It all started with a bit of casual Facebook stalking while immobile on my couch last weekend with what felt like strep (again), but was apparently just my larynx being an asshole. She and I haven’t been connected on social media since our break-up (friendship break? burnt yearbook? There should be a specific phrase for this), and I stopped checking in on her years ago, but I heard the phrase “Awkward Turtle” on whatever sitcom was providing the soundtrack to my exciting night in, and she immediately popped into my head. Memories of casually wandering through our hometown, linked arms, Frappuccino in hand, laughing at the absurdity of ourselves, came flooding back like a tidal wave. I can still smell her shampoo (bumble&bumble), hear her voice shrieking “AWKWARD TURTLE” as we teased each other in the back of the music room, the devious double-reeds, at it again. We used to stay up late at my house, planning our weddings, planning our prom, planning how we’d survive college when she was going Very North and I was going Very South, taking pictures of everything with disposable cameras, preserving those moments of carefree abandon like precious jewels, promising Best Friends Forever.

The details of this break-up are as personal to me as those from my relationship break-up. For such a long time, those details were tinged with red, seething with feelings of betrayal, abandon, apathy and myriad other emotions I never thought I’d associate with her. Our last correspondence was mine, a scathing message almost 7 years ago, where I told her that if I ever saw her in the future I’d turn away, like she was a bug on the sidewalk instead of someone I’d loved as a sister for all those years. As the months and  years passed, rage became anger became nothing, and the hole she left in my life slowly scabbed over and healed, leaving a tiny scar that stopped twinging in time. I never thought I’d have to see her again, never imagined she’d be in my city, living close to my office and working close to a neighborhood I frequent.

She looks different these days, her long hair chopped to her shoulders, the curls straight as the grid lines of the city. I’m sure I look different as well, though I can’t see the changes. I find myself wondering if I’ll actually run into her someday, if we’d even recognize each other amidst the strangers lining the sidewalks, heads down, walking fast. I’ve tried to summon the same rage I felt all those years ago, but mistakes we make at 19 are inconsequential by 25, and all I can feel is the deep sting of nostalgia and curiosity. I wonder if she thinks about her part in our break-up, the nasty words she sent by snail mail and the apathy she conveyed when I tried to reconcile one day, crying into the phone, in need of her friendship one last time. I wonder if she remembers my terrible words, written as I was blinded by anger, so much that I hardly remember what they were, just that they were awful on purpose, playing on every insecurity I knew, a grenade of “FUCK YOUs” written in colored Sharpies, her favorite. I wonder what kind of adult she is, and if she lost the dreamy quality I desperately tried to emulate for so many years. I wonder if she would still abandon me for a boy. I wonder so much.

She inspired me to write; she inspired me to be amazing. She made me into someone that distrusts easily and deeply fears another friend abandoning me when I need one the most. We were more than children but less than adults, stuck in a limbo that tore us apart. She might still hate me, or she might be as curious as I am to catch up one last time, to see if we grew into the adults we planned as children. Maybe I’ll reach out to her with a simple apology, and see if she wants to get a glass of wine. Maybe I’ll just keep hoping to run into her in the street one day, just to prove 19-year-old LB wrong. I wouldn’t turn away, I wouldn’t cross. I’d probably just stare, let the memories take hold of me and see if she does the same.