You wake up, and you fall out of love. All of a sudden the people you loved the most are just people now.
Today was a track meet at Rancho, and Pacifica was visiting. Rachael was on the Pacifica track team. That was really the only reason why I was there. I only wanted to see her. Rachael, my Rachael, our Rachael, nobody’s Rachael. The girl with the blue hair and the shiny blue track outfit was coming to Rancho, close enough for me to reach out and embrace. The girl I thought I knew.
I toe the golden dirt on the hard, beaten track, squinting into the distance at the train of gangly boys in colorful, flimsy uniforms. They thunder closer like a gargantuan caterpillar of fleshy limbs, and I feel my blood sink to my toes as they round the bend. Across the track, there is the football field, surrounded by a low, decrepit ring of concrete. I feel like a lost soul, sticking my foot in the Styx and staring loathingly across at the other side of hell. I see her blue hair, the motions of her hands, and I step out. I keep my face forward as I stride across the track quickly, missing the stark white chalk lines unconsciously and breathing out the breath I had no idea I was holding in when I step over the concrete ring onto the grass.
I am a tourist now, stepping into the cage of the blue-clad beasts. Here is the homo sapien Pacifica. We are seeing it out of its natural habitat in the proximity of its natural enemy the homo sapien Rancho. What beauties, what terror. I walk closer, and the smile finds its way onto my face somehow. She is oblivious to my presence up to the point where I stand behind her and say, “Rachael.”
You call it love. You call it denial. We called ourselves the Original Five. We were five girls who thought themselves best friends. We all thought we loved each other, and we all thought we were inseparable. It was that kind of loving friendship, where you trick yourself because everything is heaven. No one really knew each other. We all kept our secrets from each other.
Christ loved strangers, right?
By the time eighth grade was coming to an end, we could all see the inevitable schism forming between us. We all knew, but none of us possessed the heart to say goodbye to each other. We all felt like the puppies no one wanted to keep, destined to be split apart. “No, of course we’ll always be together,” we told ourselves.
Of course, and Bush was fighting for freedom.
Freshman year oozes along like congealing blood, and it was all I could do to look back and see the fresh, stinking corpse of our heavenly days in junior high, those days we were together. Hannah moved away. Rachael and Marisol were at Pacifica, and there was news that they never even hung out together anymore. Stephanie was around, but somehow we never get around to saying more than hello.
The first thing I realize is how cold it is. The wind is making tissue paper of my tough denim clothes, and I shiver. My face is numb, but maybe that was due to the fact that I never smiled so hard before. The second thing is the way the sun makes everything look like twenty-four karats, the way it illuminates Rachael’s face and makes her polyester uniform glisten like cheap substitute silk as she turns around. “Oh my God!” she shouts. “Oh my God, Deanna!”
If we made a sad short film out of this, this is the cue for the cinematic slow-motion shot of us running towards each other, arms thrown out and then colliding in genuine glee. “Oh my God, I missed you!” Cue the sappy indie rock music we all loved so much. This is emo.
“So what’s up?” I ask. “How’s everything going? How’s Pacifica?” I want to know it all. How was living without us?
“Great!” she replies. “Yeah, stuff’s been happening lately. It’s really crazy. A lot of stuff.”
Stuff happened. Yeah, I understand the breadth and depth of what “stuff” might have encompassed for her, the whole weight of “stuff”, the connotations, but God, stuff? You get up, and it feels like you’ve dropped something. This was the culmination of our fermented friendship. This is what happens when you leave a body rotting someplace for a year and then come back expecting to find wine. Fermentation, it only works with grapes and grass. With friendships, you got stuff.
I hadn’t given up yet. I hadn’t yet realized where we were, despite the whole thing about stuff. This was why I wasn’t on the track team. No one would give me medals for being quick. “Yeah? That’s great,” I say. Perseverance was my favorite word.
She nods. “So what about you? How have you been doing?”
“Um, good,” I say. “I’m going through a weird depression thing right now, but I’m dealing with it…”
“Oh, yeah. I was depressed for a while. It sucks.”
“Yeah, it does.”
Even emo couldn’t fill the awkward silence that follows. I notice Stephanie crossing the track with the same timidity as I had and I wave. The happy reunion scene replays. We talk, we point at the guys. We even play hacky sack for a while before we get back to talking again. This is giving me a whole lot of hope, all this hacky sack. We laugh together, we play together. It brings back a whiff of nostalgia, and I’m seeing the corpse of who we were.
We laugh to fill in the awkward silence. I have no idea what else to say. What else is there to say? Finally, Rachael, the blue girl, she gets tired of it or she reaches an epiphany. “Ugh! I can’t believe this! We weren’t like this before! We didn’t have this kind of quiet before!” The emperor is now very, very naked.
Oh, gee, thanks Rachael. We mourn the loss of our friendship with smiles, denials. Ha-ha, this is curiously funny, but my smile goes away. Ha-ha. The rest of the night, all I can think about is the dead corpse of our friendship, and the smell of nostalgia is thick with the dry smell of dusty bones and flesh.
We talk sometimes, Rachael and I. We all talk sometimes, but not always. We barely know each other anymore. We all have our separate lives, we’re all changing. I probably drift farther and farther away from all of them, simply because I have never been good with keeping friendships from dying, even when our friendship was still alive. I see this now because I didn’t see it then. Those days were beautiful days, bittersweet and pure. I wouldn’t spare a dime to go back to them. You wake up, you fall out of love, and you move on.