Do you remember that Summer we wasted together? Those two months I spent on the back of your motorbike, arms wrapped around you tightly. My blouse billowing in the wind. It was such a hot and sticky summer that flimsy little thing was all I could bare to wear. ‘I wish I could see that blow open, I bet your tits look great’, you’d tease. That day you waited outside my apartment, and we sped off to Rockaway. I’d baked cookies, and brought them in a little ziplock bag and I swam while you lay in the sand smoking cigarettes and eating these things that got soggier and sandier as the day passed by. We got stuck in traffic on our return and I remember my legs got so sunburnt they hurt just to look at. I had that tan line for months, well after the air had become crisp and the leaves had turned. Well after our Summer fling was over.
One of the first nights we hung out together you took me to a bar in the Lower East Side. It was where your friend worked; your sponsor in fact. I didn’t know that sober people worked tending bars, but with you I met so many. You got me a really nice scotch. We chatted and joked around as I sipped at it slowly. I don’t remember what we were laughing about but I do remember scrawling across your leg. ‘That would make a cool tattoo’ I teased. And so you proceeded to drag me to a tattoo parlour several dirty, concrete blocks over, and I watched as you had my handwriting inked onto your thigh. ‘Poor choice’, it read. I felt as though I had just branded you as an off-color product. We went to a dank dive bar and celebrated our new motto with picklebacks and pool. At some point I decided to leave you there to meet the guy I was fooling around with. And as I rolled down the window of my cab to wave a drunken goodbye, in one swift movement, you grabbed my arm and slid your bracelet on my wrist. As the cab veered off I toyed with it and smiled to myself. You’d had me smiling all night, and I wondered why I wasn’t going home with you instead.
I was really shocked to hear that you’d died. I couldn’t quite wrap my head around it. There was just a message on my phone from a friend.
Not knowing was the worst. I imagined a fiery car crash; you never wore protective gear. An overdose maybe? You were straight edge. You were so adamantly anti-drug. Did you start using? It didn’t seem like you at all.
I didn’t know that you’d relapsed. That you were drinking again. I’d thought about it. I knew you weren’t talking to your sponsor and that was concerning enough. You always thought you had it all handled.
We’d go out and I’d drink all night and you’d stay with me and chat away with everyone. And when we were done we’d go sit at a diner or get dollar slice and I’d sober up a little. Sometimes I’d get an attitude with you and pick a fight, you’d call me a bitch, but we’d go home and you’d tear my clothes off and we’d fuck anyway and laugh about it all after. You’d leave me in your bed to go to work in the morning. I’d wear your grey t-shirt. Somedays you’d bring me coffee and a croissant in bed, from my favourite cafe downstairs. In the evenings we’d lie in bed with the window open, it was so stuffy in your little brick walk-up. I’d lay against you even though it really was too hot for it. You didn’t mind. You’d lay back and smoke out your window. You were always smoking. I think I have an old Polaroid somewhere of you smoking as you did pull ups.
We were both blonde, and you were the same size as me. Five foot ten and lanky. I was stronger than you. This always made you seem small and boyish to me. We had a connection more than a friendship, but we never fell in love. We didn’t quite like each other like that. We were two bad kids living as hedonists. All we did was fun and easy and felt good. We weren’t exclusive; I’d go out with other guys and I know you were fooling around too, and that was just fine for us. And then I met a guy I did like, someone I really wanted to be with. He was six foot four and older. So I blew you off, just like that, in a brusque and unkind way. ‘Why didn’t you text me back?’ ‘Where were you?’, I used your messages as excuses to stop responding. I ghosted you. ‘He’s taking it too seriously’, ‘He’s so clingy’ I’d say. When in fact, it had just lost its luster — I wasn’t having fun anymore, and that’s all it had ever been. It was unfair to you, and something I regret. When you showed up where you knew I was having coffee, I remember you asked me what was wrong, and why I had been acting weird. I was wearing that same little white blouse from the beach. I brushed your hand from my leg and said I didn’t know what you were talking about. Months later when we were in LA at the same time, you texted my friends and I to hang out, and I didn’t even bother to respond.
Do you remember that time you crawled out of bed at two in the morning and drove across town just to see me at a bar? You gave me a little flower you’d bought to apologise, for what I don’t even remember now. When you spent days figuring out how to cook something so you could prepare me dinner? You were a dreadful cook and it was such a terrible meal, but one I remember so fondly. You’d take me to a restaurant, and get me a glass of wine. We’d sit and chat and you’d always say ‘I don’t know how you do that, I could never stop at one’.
I’m so sorry for the way you passed. I heard that you drowned in a hot tub. A sudden freak accident, yet anticlimactic somehow. We’d talked just a couple of weeks before. I’d messaged you happy birthday, and we’d exchanged pleasantries. You had just turned twenty five. You were so young. I always imagined you growing into an old tattooed man, living in Sydney with that girl you’d gotten engaged to. Maybe having a couple of kids. I didn’t expect you two to break up after all that time, nor for you to pick up and move back to New York so abruptly. It must have been tough, I wonder how you felt about it. You just wanted to be free. I guess now you’ll be young and free forever.