At church today, an elderly woman stood during the “Joys and Sorrows”-sharing part of the service to tell the community about her sorrow, which was that she was unable to be by her “best friend in the world’s” side as her friend’s life was coming to a close on the other side of the country. She told us this, then took a moment to look to the side before blurting, “…I don’t know what I can do… or what I’m going to do…” and then turning to light a candle. Meanwhile, I buried my face in my hands to hide my now-convulsive sobs; I wanted nothing more than to intercept the woman with an embrace as she made her way, deflated and burdened, to her seat. Without thinking it, I realized that that woman may one day be me and I may be talking about you.
And then I thought, “God, I hope I die before Allison does so I never have to live without her.”
And then I remembered how much you fucking loathe that Winnie the Pooh quote about him wanting his friend to die a day after him so he doesn’t have to live without him and what a selfish douchenozzle move that is to wish on a friend – that they’d spend their last day in total misery because their BFF just died AND they’re slowly dying. And then I started giggling about how that sort of thing pisses you off enough to make one of your rare rants about it.
We met ten years ago to this week, by the way.
I’m sure you’ve realized in retrospect that you met me at the exact moment I reached the precipice of my freefall into unfuckingimaginable insanity/destruction after years of a slow-but-consistent descent in prologue. Really, the fact that we were still friends within a year of meeting each other is miraculous in itself because HolyLordballs, was I busy losing my damned mind.
I have a confession I never actually verbalized to you: you were my Bright Spot then. I remember meeting you and going to your dorm room and seeing this art that you’d created just because you wanted to make a prettier space for yourself (wha?! I didn’t know people did that! I thought people made art to show it off to each other or because their art teacher assigned it or because they wanted to submit it to something and get “famous”) and you sang songs that you’d written for your own amusement and you were this completely self-actualized, energetic being in a world of idiots (read: me) who were flailing around trying to leech energy off anything they thought was “cool” or “important” at the time and it was an unbelievable state of mind to encounter from where I was. Because, most of the time, when there’s someone who is somehow “above” the mentality of their peers, he or she has to have some sort of following or need to declare their mental/spiritual/artistic superiority to everyone else – especially if that person has been recently liberated from the confines of high school. But not you, dude. You just sort of did what you did and you liked what you liked and you were completely oblivious to the fact that you weren’t just “different”, but really, genuinely, special. (And not “special” like our generation’s everybody’s-special-in-their-own-snowflake-way “special”, but special like holy-shit-she’s-going-to-change-lives-and-do-shit-that-bends-reality special.) I’m not saying that either one of us knew what, exactly, you were supposed to do with all that “special”-ness at that point in the game and, you know, you’ve had a bit of a learning process with it, but I still knew then. Even though at the time, I was busy being either a)completely obliterated or b)completely absorbed in that disgustingly destructive relationship I was enamored with, I still recognized the energy we had together, even when people around us did not. (And still don’t, I think. I’m okay in the idea that we confuse people, though.)
ANYWAY. I don’t wanna bore you with a wordy scrapbook of memories ’cause, you know, we’ve talked about them to a masturbatory degree. (The only people who love talking about how awesome their situation is more than we do are Burning Man attendees…)
But, after a decade, I’m convinced that there has to be something Bigger going on here than two weirdos having befriended each other in a bullshit theater class. (Seriously. That class was buuuulllshiiiit. “Constructive Rest Position”? Learning to tremble? Bite my ass, Jermaine.)
You loved me when I hated myself so much I literally tried to murder myself. You have loved me when I let my demons reject you from my life. You have had that same delusional faith in me even when my life was nothing more than rolling out of my bed at my parents’ house and driving to the technical college up the road in my pajamas day after day because I’d failed at literally everything else. When I told you I was pregnant by some dude I’d been dating for 3 months, (less than a year after my second mental hospitalization, ohbytheway) your immediate response was to exclaim “CONGRATULATIONS!” and send me a bouquet of my favorite flower (lilies) the next morning, even though everyone else around me provided me with silence and fear for the next month. You have cheered me on from the sidelines, even when you were literally my only enthusiastic fan and you have never once shown any doubt that I wasn’t the person you’ve been trying to convince me that I am, even though I’ve done things to contradict that hypothesis many, many times.
Even though the noises in my mind sometimes get too loud for me to focus, I want you to know that I have never stopped loving you just as much. I cried every night you slept in the hospital and, aching with powerlessness, leapt at the chance to cram all your necessities (read: record player, paints) into my Jeep from Greensboro to Charlotte. I blew all my money from that coffee-shop job of mine for those monthly (sometimes fortnightly) treks up to Asheville to see you and I never once hesitated to plaster your art all over my dwelling space the minute it was given, in any form. I made sure to practice singing along to the more obscure PJ songs so I’d know all the words for the “next time” we got to see them perform (it totally worked!) I have always continued to talk to Chloe about you and show her pictures so she wouldn’t forget her godmother between the times she got to see you.
But I am, by no means, unaware that I’ve dropped the ball a lot and, when looking at this friendship and identifying its role within my life from this vantage point, I can’t help but feel the deepest regrets for the times I’ve let you down – you more than with anyone else I’ve ever disappointed. (Don’t tell my mom.) Dismissing your declining health and its symptoms (and understandable insecurity of those symptoms that compounded them) as “selfishness”, I pulled myself away from you and cut you off completely, in the name of “self-preservation”, instead of bothering to find out what, exactly, was at the root of your uncharacteristic actions. In my heart, I knew better, Allison; I know you better than to assume you’re just another brainless, unaware victim of self-absorbed-twentysomething-ism… why didn’t I do more? Why didn’t I stop to look deeper? Why didn’t I at least recognize that you weren’t being yourself – that something was obviously hurting you? I don’t know, Allison. I’ve spent hours of time wondering to myself what the hell kind of mental state I could’ve let myself get to in which I would completely ignore the “you” I inherently know and then regard your disease as your Self so much that I’d turn my back on you entirely. This time spent has only caused me insufferable pain – pain that worsens when I contrast my actions with the ones you’ve made when the roles have been reversed. As a friend, by comparison, I have been a selfish coward whose actions haven’t supported all those rambling speeches about your greatness I’ve made over the years. I don’t know why I have ever betrayed your trust or love when you have never once been disloyal to me, but I do know that I may never forgive myself for it. It’s just another testament to your wonderfulness that you somehow have, as always, seen that these actions aren’t indicative of my real Self and have forgiven me. Additionally, you have never once held me hostage for my shortcomings… Don’t think I don’t always carry those truths with me.
I always say that Chloe was The Thing That Saved My Life, but you need to know that YOU have constantly been The Thing That Makes Me Better. You bring out something in me that makes me a totally different person than the one I always thought I was; the energy I get when you’re around makes me love being alive and love being present and love being creative and fucking LOVE being myself. That sounds inane and melodramatic and really, really adolescent, but it’s true; you make me really happy to love the things I love. (“I JUST LOVE THE STUFF I LOVE!!!”) Just like I’d always kept my burning passion for Pearl Jam stuck in my pocket until I met you and let it reignite like crazy ever since, you’ve been the one to give me permission to really hurl myself at my loves, regardless of how idiotic they look to everyone else. You’re the one who lets me ramble for hours about Jim Henson/“Sesame Street” and who wants to watch “Tommy” 4,000 times to blabber about its nuances with me and you’re the one who will introduce me to new stand-up comedians or let me subject you to them and then dissect their genius for years upon years and you’re totally okay with spending Bear’s naptime just hanging out, smoking a hookah, drinking a shitload of Cheerwine, watching/running commentary during “Gia” and giggling about how fabulous it all is after making freshly-picked-strawberry-jam and you’re the one who gives me confidence to submit my writing to other people when I think it’s not terrible and you’re the one who gave me the balls to actually put that first stencil to use tagging various landmarks by immediately shouting “YES! LET’S DO IT!” and you’re the one who fucking laughs her ass off when I make a joke that I think is pretty good. You’re the one (many times the only one) who encourages me to not only figure out exactly what it is that I am, but to get really good at being that thing and then showing it to other people, when you will cheer loudly about it. Jesus Christ! Just writing that makes me feel unworthy.
Oh, but oh yeah! AND you’re able to do all of this cheerleading while also going out and seeking your own identity and truth and rocking at that, too.
DO YOU KNOW HOW RARE THAT IS!? Do you have any idea how fucking lucky I am to have found the aforementioned person AND that that person hasn’t totally given up on me yet AT ALL EVER (maybe because she’s insane, but I’m okay with that)!?!?!?! Because I don’t. I literally cannot conceive the odds of finding someone as special as you, having you come into and stay in my life for this long, and giving me all the gifts you have (and not just because I’m terrible at math…)
So, yeah. I just wanted you to know that I thought about all this today in church and realized that I’ll be talking about you still if I make it to 70 years old. And I realized that I would literally peel the skin off my back and sew it into a greasy, bloody skin-shirt for you if you absolutely needed it [in some post-apocalyptic, dystopian reality where that would somehow be crucial for survival.] (That sort of plot-hole is why I don’t write sci-fi.)
And I hope you know that everything I’ve ever said about your energy and vibrancy and incredible talent is the truth and is one of the rare, few things I Definitely Believe In. And I hope you know that I love you and have loved you no matter what my slow-to-adapt mind has convinced me of. I feel like you know these things, but I also felt like I needed to state them plainly and in print, where they could be cited and referenced.
More than anything, though, I’m so grateful that you’ve been such a definitive part of my last ten years. I don’t want to say anything hokey or forecasting about the future because that always seems to backfire for morons (ex: “Hope I die before I get old” – P.T.), but do know that these last ten years have been wonderful (even when they were fuckinggoddamnawfully terrible) because you have been in them.
Thank you so very much, Allison. Even if all our inside jokes and all our co-creations and all our memories and all our shared loves were suddenly stripped away from my conscious mind, I would still love you and everything you inherently are. I promise.
Right behind you,