it was freshman year. we all knew the stories, little angels, we followed all the rules. we were the role models, the pageant queens, the straight a students. we lived up to the expectations that were set for us and we never made any mistakes.
we had classes to attend. notes to take, colleges to visit, clubs to sign up for, futures to plan. we were on bright paths and nothing was going to stop us. we always turned our homework in on time, we aced every test, we babysat and never missed curfew and spent our money responsibly. never a drop of alcohol, not a single one of those dangerous parties.
our parents were always so serious. we did everything they asked and they always wanted more. they said, never let any boy get in the way of your life. boys are a distraction, boys are rude and disrespectful and they all have bad intentions. we heard them loud and clear.
it was supposed to go without saying, I think, it was supposed to be that one unspoken rule. we did everything they asked.
daily routines. five minutes in between classes, after we had each gotten the required books from our lockers. hidden hallways, underneath the stairwells, empty chemistry classrooms. we always found a way. afternoon study sessions, we kept the door shut every single time and it never raised suspicions. algebra study guides, highlighters and flash cards. it's easier to share.
sleepovers every friday and saturday night, what else was to be expected? one blanket, one bed, lights out, perfect timing. midnight snacks. secrets and giggles and night lights. there was never anything suspicious about us, because we did everything they asked.
it wasn't necessarily forbidden so we didn't necessarily keep it hidden. they didn't know, so they didn't ask, so we didn't tell.
when we would eat dinner at each other's houses, we'd hold hands under the table. we knew each other's starbucks' orders by heart, even though I think she had memorized the entire menu just for fun. we'd walk each other home after school, I lived right next door, after all. we'd go on walks until we were sure our neighborhood was far enough behind, then press each other up against brick walls.
our friends were catching on. they noticed the way we looked at each other. we could feel them talking about us when we weren't supposed to hear them, but they never said anything to us. maybe that was a good thing, she said to me, but it probably wasn't. if they say it behind your back, it's never a good thing.
our parents still didn't know, but we weren't hiding it. we weren't doing anything wrong, we didn't think, because they never ever mentioned this. they just said to stay away from boys. they never said anything about girls. we did everything they asked.
school work always came first. we still had appearances to keep, sort of. we weren't hiding anything. sometimes we had to study alone. it's hard to concentrate on basic biological terms if you want to kiss your science tutor. our parents understood, sometimes even best friends need a little time to themselves.
exams came and went and we aced them all, perfect scores, just as expected. anything less and we would have drawn attention to ourselves and our situation and we didn't want that. we wanted solitude and to hold hands.
summer. real jobs, summer vacations, supervised birthday parties. translation: no alone time.
fast forward to sophomore year. new teachers to impress, new subjects to accommodate, more credits to add to our college applications. more homework. more time together, it seemed. we had to start hiding. all of a sudden, we were doing something wrong. we were doing things that friends didn't do, we were closer than just close.
things got awkward. we never wanted to be with each other around our parents because we thought they'd feel the electricity in the room and we couldn't risk it. we didn't have to hide at school, everybody knew by now. we got odd looks sometimes, but no one ever said anything. small blessings, she said.
we were careful. cautious. so we thought that we were safe. we never anticipated the separate parts of our lives crossing. nobody wants an unwelcome intersection, but that's exactly what we got.
it spread everywhere. pictures of us. in any other situation, they'd be beautiful. snapshots, candids of our life together in the most innocent moments. lunch time in the grass, her head in my lap and my hands in her hair. in the hallway, my lips on hers in a casual way, a hello or a goodbye kiss. walking home from school, holding hands.
we were in trouble. they were yelling, slamming doors, voices escalating in all the wrong ways. unimaginable volumes and ugly words, I've never cried so much in my life. they separated us. threatened to move far, far away. we were never going to see each other again, they said.
I don't know what happened inside her four walls. I screamed her name in my sleep (we did everything they asked) and somehow it felt like it was just a whisper. my hoarse throat always gave me away the morning after.
I sat down with my mother at the beginning of the summer and told her I liked girls, but not just any girls, her. she was disgusted, said she rather I'd been sleeping with every boy in my grade, at least then I wouldn't be broken. mom, I said, I did everything you asked. she said, I never asked for this. I tried to apologize to my father and he said he didn't talk to strangers.
summer wasn't summer. my sunshine wasn't there and the seasons were all messed up, it was snowing everywhere and somehow my heart froze. icicles formed on every inch of my skin and somehow I'd become numb to a snowstorm of memories. ice cold. I've always hated winter. she did too.
junior year. I saw her once but I swore I was looking at a walking corpse, the only color in her eyes was sadness. I used to see life and now she was hollow. girls in love don't look like that, I thought, that's what girls in pain look like. it all made sense now, I guess, when it came to girls like us there was no difference between the love and the hurt.
we weren't hiding anymore and it hurt too much to think about her so I thought about nothing. school mattered to me when it mattered to her, when it mattered to us, but now it was just a graveyard that my mother dropped me off at every morning. I'm tired of visiting the dead, let us rest in peace.
there weren't expectations to meet now so I couldn't fail to meet them. by doing nothing at all I was doing more than I had to, so I'm my mind I was excelling. I was empty.
we did end up moving far, far away, but she didn't. she stayed right there with all of our memories and it had to hurt her every day unless she'd just learned to forget, somehow, though I don't know how she would manage to forget something like that.
I tried to keep my distance (we did everything they asked) because it felt like the nice thing to do, and once upon a time, with her, I was a nice person. if anyone deserved anything nice from me (we did everything they asked) it was her.
so I waited until the summer after senior year. the summer before college, when everything would change again, and I'd had enough change in my life to last a lifetime (we did everything they asked).
too long without the one person who made me feel like a person, too many years in the solitude I remember I somehow asked for but my hand is empty, I have no one to hold. she always spoke of how getting things in the mail was one of her favorite things, it was beautiful to know someone had chosen to send something just to you. I'd written it over and over a thousand times when I should have been attending class, taking notes, visiting colleges, signing up for clubs, planning my future. nothing mattered when the past still had its iron grip around your throat, test scores meant nothing.
to her: I hope your heart is still beating. I remember when things got difficult, you would ask me if I could turn off the world for you. I would have ended the world for you if I needed to, I promise. there's an absence in everything right where you used to be and I don't know how to fill it. this is too much and not enough and I'm sorry, I think. we did everything they asked, but it was never enough. we were never enough.