Friday, June 27

How It Is

An old friend of mine passed away last week and I haven't known what to feel about it for a long time. There was a lot of numbness, so much so that it took walking into the church for her funeral to finally start crying. During the service there was a period where people could get up and talk about her, and sure as shit any time there was a lull, any moment where the pastor thought it might be time to move the service along, someone else would run up and say something. This continued on through the night at an open mic at everyone's favorite dive bar, the Hub, (decorated with Christmas lights, tissue paper, photos of Liz; there was art supplies everywhere and bubbles and feathery shit. She would have loved it.) and all night people would wander up and share an anecdote or their feelings. It took listening to all these people all night to figure out what I wanted to share about her, and it will take a couple hours of writing and editing to get this right, but here goes.
Liz was easily the most difficult friend I've ever had. If you could hear the dozens and dozens of stories about her that were shared, it wouldn't be hard to infer that she was complex. She had a lot of faces, a lot of ideas, a different way of being for her every changing whim. She was spontaneous and wild and strange and she was not easy. For me, she was not easy. As I have aged I have slowly become very type A. Things have a place, fun should be scheduled, outfits planned, etc. This did not make it easy to be friends with Liz. She would text me at 11 p.m. on a Thursday night and ask if I wanted to go dancing. She would decide to go tubing at 1 p.m. on a Saturday, so late that we wouldn't even get to the tubing place until 3 when the sun was gone and the water was cold. She managed to make a zine that included the work of all her friends and it was so beautiful and weird and terrible, and for whatever reason the second issue could not be made. When we actually managed to schedule a fun thing she would enjoy, like a costume party, she would show up late without dressing up, be surprised and say she didn't think it was really happening, have to leave to put on a costume and would come back even later looking great. Meanwhile, we've all been drinking and sweating off our costumes, thus making photos of the evening queerly lopsided in her favor.
Thinking of this now, it's pretty diabolical, but if you knew her you knew it was never on purpose. It was just how she was. Everything about her was flighty and flaky and ephemeral. I can do things on a lark, Liz lived her life on one. And if she invited you for a ride, you never wanted to miss it. It was annoying to me to begrudgingly agree to her wild hares, but I did it because they were fun, she was fun, and as difficult and irritating as it was for me to put off whatever I actually had scheduled for a day, she was so magnetic that it was worth it. At the funeral my friend Jon said that Liz made you do shit you didn't want to do, and that was her for me. I did a lot of things I didn't really want to do for Liz, but I'm glad I did. You always were.
One night, for some reason, I wandered late into the Hub pretty tired, feeling bloated, wearing a stained Totoro t-shirt, flip flops and glasses. She was there with another girl and they both looked great which made me feel even shittier. There was a band playing covers of the Talking Heads and the Pretenders, and Liz was really stoked and wanted to dance. God damn it all I did not want to dance, did not want to move my shitty body in front of everyone when no one else was dancing so they could all see the stain on my lame t-shirt or the smudges on my glasses while I sloppily shifted around next to a beautiful, effervescent Liz. I was very unhappy about the prospect of dancing, but I did not say this. I got up, took off my flip flops and danced bare foot in a bar with barely a drink in me just because Liz wanted me to. And I fucking hated it, but it was also pretty fun.
A few years ago she texted me and said she wanted to do teen things. She wanted to be a teenager again. She picked me up dressed like a mall goth and we cruised Wash and went to Big Cigs and bought cloves to smoke, and we went to Taco Bell and Discontent. We kicked hack in a parking garage. Around this time I was applying to graduate school, and I got an e-mail saying something was wrong with my application. I was suddenly very depressed because I couldn't take care of the issue right away and the incident completely snapped me out of reliving my teen years despite the fact that I could taste clove cigarettes all over my mouth and I was combing through a rack of tie dye in a head shop. As fun as so much of this day was, I also remember feeling really frustrated. Liz was trying to make her nostalgia tangible, asking me to come along with her for the experiment, and I couldn't. This cloud of responsibility was weighing over me, preventing me from going back. I felt very lost, and I feel very lost now. I got a call about a job interview the other day for a real, adult teaching job, and as exciting as that is I've also spent this week combing through nostalgia, trying to find the right story or the right memory to make sense of my feelings about Liz, about her passing. I don't really know where I'm at in time anymore. I've never felt older in my life than I do today, thinking about my friend who didn't even make it to 30, thinking about being a teenager with her and all the shit she made me do that I didn't want to do. I never played hack as a teenager, I hated it, but I pretended for her and it was fun. I don't know why I never played it before. There doesn't seem like there's going to be an opportunity for it anymore, which is weird to say, but it feels like that. The only person who could bring me back to a time in my life when the pinnacle of fun was literally just driving around is gone. I've felt my youth dwindling for a long time and yesterday I think it was buried. I know, I'm rolling my eyes too. Here's part of a poem.

From "How It Is" by Maxine Kumin

Dear friend, you have excited crowds
with your example. They swell
like wine bags, straining at your seams.   
I will be years gathering up our words,   
fishing out letters, snapshots, stains,
leaning my ribs against this durable cloth
to put on the dumb blue blazer of your death.

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