"I know it's cold out, but I like driving with all the windows down now. I get claustrophobic. And I kind of like the cold, actually, and I know it won't bother you. It gets a little loud on the highway, but I think we're mostly sticking to backroads anyway. Would this feel less weird if I had a new car, instead of the same sad scrap pile I've been making work since I got my license? If something about this made it feel less familiar, less like going back in time?
Oh god, am I rambling? Wow. Let's start over.
Hey. It's been a while, hasn't it? Almost five years. I'm sorry about that. I never really meant to leave for good, when I moved out of town. Or, well I guess I did, actually. But I never meant to leave you.
I was serious, you know, when I invited you to come stay with me. I think you thought I was just saying it, but I swear I meant it. My apartment's small, and it's got something wrong with the bathroom light that makes the bulb blow out at least once a month, and two of the burners on the stove don't work, but I mean. Mi shitbox es tu shitbox. We'd lived out of each other's pockets for so long, before. I really did feel like we could've done it again.
But you said no. And that's okay! You … wanted to stay here. God only knows why. I mean, I can guess, but I really hope I'm wrong, you know? It's just, I've been thinking about it for so long and every time I asked you to come out and visit and you said you were sorry but you couldn't, you always sounded like you really did regret it. You said there was shit here you had to take care of. And I always thought to myself – what shit? – like, seriously. We both know I was missing you more from the city than anyone in this stupid town would have. And I think Jan could've found another waitress for the diner. So, what was here that was so important? I think I never asked because I was afraid of the answer.
It's him, isn't it? You stayed for him.
Anyway. I could've gotten you a job at the coffee place I worked at when I first moved. Their coffee's awful, but they have really good muffins. I still go in there all the time for them, so I'm still on good terms with the manager, and they're always hiring. You could've done that until you figured out what you really wanted to do. Or you could've done that forever. I wouldn't have judged you for it.
I think you'd like Tony. My roommate. Ok, actually you guys would probably kind of hate each other, but I think you'd have fun hating each other. You're both kind of petty like that. And he's gay, so there wouldn't have been any of that pressure I know you feel around literally everyone who's attracted to women, where you're constantly wondering how bad they want you.
He actually offered to come with me for this, Tony. For emotional support. I turned him down, but it was still nice of him to offer. It was kind of obvious, how anxious I was about coming home. And of course, he knew why I was coming out here. Tony knows all about you, how much you mean to me. I talk about you all the time.
I forgot how empty the roads are, out here. You'd never see a street this quiet in the city, no matter the time of night. I think it should be comforting, but it's not. It's unsettling. I feel like there could be a ghost around every corner.
Sorry. I didn't mean it like that.
I don't understand the point of you staying here for him. It's not like it was gonna make a difference to him. Nothing makes a difference to him anymore. Like, do you remember when you asked me if I believed in an afterlife? It was only a few days after… well, After. And I said my whole thing about reincarnation and the law of conservation of energy and how I think it makes sense, and you said you thought that if anything happens to us after we die, it's got nothing to do with what happened to us in this life. You said you thought if death wasn't just a final ending, then it was, at most, a slate wiped totally clean.
So, it's not like you thought he was looking down on – or up at? – you. It's not like you believed there was anything you could do to get him to forgive you. And I know you didn't believe in any god so it's not like you were waiting on their forgiveness either. So, whose forgiveness were you looking for? Why did you think you could find it here? Why not just put me out of my misery and come with me?
Sorry. That was a poor choice of words.
You know every single person I've met since moving out there has heard all about you. I don't know how to not talk about you. You are a story I can't stop telling, a part of every memory I have. You're the thing I built myself around. A version of my life where I don't meet you, or you don't exist, is not a version of my life. It's version of someone else's life, because I am not me without you. The shape of myself is the shape of the hole inside you, I am just the thing filling your edges, and without those edges I have no form.
I think I'm losing the plot a little, here. I'm running out of ways to say that I need you.
And maybe I have no right to say any of that shit, when we haven't actually seen each other in five years. I know the way your face has gotten thinner and the color you dyed your hair from pictures. I don't know if you still wear the sweet pea spray from Bath & Body Works. You haven't been a body I could touch in years. You've barely even been a voice on the other end of the phone line. I know that for the most part all we've had these last few years were words on a tiny screen, sent and read only in the darkest hours of night. And those messages, meaningful as they were, were sporadic. It doesn't sound like much, like enough of a thing to be a necessity. But there's a difference between surviving on scraps and starving to death.
Our lives have been clinging to each other by the very tips of their fingers. I know that. But it never felt like a permanent state, to me. I always thought we'd find our ways back to each other. I didn't call you, but I always knew I could. And now…
Did you stay here to punish yourself? I don't think you deserved to be punished. I mean, obviously I didn't think that, or I would have let you turn yourself in when you wanted to.
I can't figure out whether or not I owe you an apology for stopping you from doing that. I thought I was saving you from yourself, but maybe I wasn't. But what was I supposed to do? You couldn't see yourself that night. They'd have locked you up for sure. I mean you were covered in his blood. You were still holding the knife, for God's sake, just standing in the hall with it in one hand and my phone in the other, absolutely hysterical. Even if I hadn't wrestled the phone away from you, what would you have said to the operator when you dialed 911? You were completely incoherent.
I can admit now that it might have been a little dramatic of me to smash my own cell phone against the wall when you tried to get it back from me, but all things considered, I think I was holding it together pretty damn well.
I was always good at holding it together. You were the one who was always going off the rails. But I loved that about you, most of the time. Everything was such a huge deal to you. It made life feel bigger than it was.
You made everything exciting, back then. Every petty feud with someone was an all-out war. God, remember when we egged Jenna's car because she said that dumb thing about how you should try harder in class and stop messing around with guys? What was it? Right, that's it, she told you if you spent half as much time studying as you did sucking dick then you'd probably get valedictorian. It was stupid, and you knew she only said it because she was jealous about Drew asking you out, and you basically told her that and I don't even remember exactly what you said but I remember her crying. And then we still had to egg her car, and that still wasn't enough, because you wanted to slash all her tires but I wouldn't let you. You always wanted to take things one step too far. I always forgave you though. Every single time.
You know I can't really remember what happened that night. It's just kind of a blur. I remember him coming over. My parents were out of town. You weren't supposed to be there. I mean, we hadn't planned on it, but you wouldn't leave when I told you he was coming over and I just let it go. I could tell he was kind of annoyed about it but he wouldn't say anything. We'd been planning on 'watching a movie', but you being there meant we actually had to watch the movie. And then it's all just flashes: a bottle of vodka, the glow of the TV in the dark room, your head on my shoulder, his hand on my arm, the room spinning – or no, shaking, because I was shaking, or being shaken, my head snapping back and forth, fast.
I know the two of you got into it. Or he and I got into it. Or we all three got into it. But I don't know what it was about, all the words we said are gone from my memory, totally irretrievable. It's just those flashes, and then you standing there with the blood and the knife, and him on the floor, so still.
Tony says I need a therapist. I haven't told him about that night, obviously, but sometimes I say something I think is normal and he gives me this funny-sad look, or little things I don't mean to talk about slip out. Like that memory gap. I didn't tell him anything about what I can't remember, just that there's something, and sometimes I dream about it. I mean, I kind of had to tell him something, because I still talk in my sleep sometimes and I fell asleep on the couch one day and he heard me saying the word stop over and over. He said that it was creepy as hell, and I have repressed trauma, and gave me the name of some website where you can find shrinks online.
I have not looked for a therapist. Tony brought it up again, before I left to come back here. He said I should consider it for the sake of grief counseling, if nothing else. I told him I had a grief counselor already and his name was Jim Beam and – don't even say anything, I know that's terrible, I cringed at myself while I was saying it to him. Tony just shook his head and texted me the link to the stupid website.
I know it's kind of fucked up that I don't even fully understand why you killed him, even though I helped you bury his body. I wanted to ask you about it. I almost did, so many times. But I didn't know how to without making it sound like I was trying to judge you. I didn't want to bring it up again after the fact, when I knew we were both trying to bury it. There wasn't any time to ask you anything or try to make sense of it the night it happened.
Do you even remember it that well? After I got you in the shower and turned it on cold you finally stopped crying, but you basically went catatonic. I never told you this, but that honestly freaked me out more than the corpse on my floor. You just sat on the steps, shivering in one of my sweatshirts and watching me try to clean it all up. I had to clap my hands in front of your face to get you to listen when I was asking you to help me get him up off the floor, but I couldn't have carried him myself. Do you remember that the bedsheet I'd gotten him rolled up in was already soaked through with blood. I didn't have anything else to wrap him in though.
You didn't say anything until we were in the garage, and we'd gotten him in the trunk, and I was telling you that we should take him to the marshes, where the ground's all mud and nothing that sinks down into it is ever coming back up and it's too wet for anyone to go trekking through for fun, and you cut me off in the middle and just said I'm sorry and God, you sounded so quiet and broken and for the first time in our lives you couldn't even look me in the eye and I –
I just… I told you to get in the car. I didn't tell you it would be okay, or that we'd figure it out, or that I forgave you.
I do, by the way. Forgive you, I mean. For all of it, like I said a few minutes ago. I'm sorry I didn't say it before today. I need you to know that's the biggest regret I'll ever have in my life, not telling you I forgave you sooner.
I really did love him, you know. I loved him and you kind of tolerated him for my sake until you didn't, and then you killed him. You were sorry about it, and I forgave you because the way I loved him has nothing on the way I love you. He was a boy who I would've gone to prom with and probably broken up with two months after moving out of here and not seen again until our 10 year high school reunion, if I even bothered to show up for it. It was a moment-in-time kind of love. But you? You're my forever bitch. I don't care that every eight-year-old girl in the history of time has pricked her finger and stuck it to some other girl's pricked finger and sworn to be bestest friends forever 'til death does them part, when we did that, I fucking meant it, and now I-
I'm gonna need to stop for gas on the way back to my parents' house. I forgot how far out the marshes are, but we're almost there, now.
I don't really know why I thought it would be a good idea to come out here. When I first got in the car, I thought I was gonna head out to the overpass, the one they told me you crashed under. But then I turned left instead of right. I don't know, I guess I felt like, if any part of you was still around, it wouldn't be hanging out on the edge of some lonely stretch of highway. I felt like you'd be out here, haunting the thing that never stopped haunting you.
Don't worry. I'm not crazy enough to go traipsing through the marshes in the dark to hunt down a ghost. I just want to see them, park my car where I parked it that night, at the edge. The last time I really and truly had you all the way with me.
I don't know now, if I was right about where to find you. I've been talking to you this whole time we've been driving, and I swear I can feel you here listening. I swear I can hear your voice. Maybe you're just haunting me.
Oh. There they are. We can't stay long. I've got your funeral in the morning."