We started out in sneakers, reluctantly kicking each other in the shins. We stood beside her mom’s wood-paneled station wagon in a suburban driveway, waiting for our mothers to tire of small talk. She wanted to be alone and I wanted to brush her hair. The years we had together would be like this, a tussle of wills.
We were two girls whose planetary intersections mapped disaster. I am a goat, and I clumsily fawn over those I love. She is a bull, but distressingly delicate. She lashes out if anyone gets too close. Her favor is powerful — because she is beautiful — and I thirsted after it.
We shared years of brilliant parries and fabulous costumes. Jane and Marilyn, Thelma and Louise, Juliet and Pauline. We wore gloves up to the elbow and combat boots. Her star rose, and it was clear that she would ascend and never look back. For a time, we were both ensconced in happy little orbits of normalcy. Separate vows, unplanned homes miles apart. We each kept a matrimony plate spinning until the tide overtook, and the dish ran away with the spoon.
I thought of her every day. I never relented. At his funeral and wake, I kept a mint tin stocked with pills in my handbag, each with a slight chemical variant suited to what I thought her needs to be. I rattled like a pharmaceutical maraca. I put pills on her tongue, made her casseroles, said the wrong things, apologized, and made her dance. I Photoshopped the grief out from under her eyes.
One of the last times I saw her, she hissed as I tried to take her heavy luggage up some stairs. She didn’t need help. We stopped talking shortly after she flew away. Years later, I met another woman who was dark and heavy with grief. The light in the stairwell hit her harshly, and her eyes were hollow. She was struggling to carry her own suitcase up some stairs. I made a joke, telling her I was sure she could handle it. We laughed.
Every once in a while, I look up at a dawn sky and remember the nights we never went to sleep. That first time, we were teenagers spinning Jeff Buckley CDs from a boombox in the woods. It felt euphoric and transformative, the sleep deprivation and the dew on the speakers. Toward the end, we were restless because anything could happen in the night. It could all be taken away in an instant. Lights blinked on monitors that felt imagined, like alien lighthouse dioramas on a movie set.
Once he was gone, everything washed out to sea with him. For me, she remains in the moon.