The first thing I ever wrote about my best friend was her eulogy. It had to be beautiful, obviously. I wasn’t just the best friend, I was the writer — beautiful was bare minimum. I wanted more. Demanded better. Imagined myself delivering some soaring evocation that would let us all pretend her back to life.
I admit: It wouldn’t be out of character if I had also, secretly, wanted to impress the crowd. If, sunk in the black depths and the resolution to never care about anything again, I cared about making an impression. Characters need flaws, I’m always reminding my students. Life and literature demand conflicting motives — you want flat clarity of emotion, watch a soap.
But it turns out grief is steamroller flat, monomaniac: I only wanted her back.
Her eulogy would be, should have been, a poetry of resurrection. Except that I hadn’t slept in three days and my brain function approximated a battery-powered doll, battery winding down. Pull the string and watch it cry. It was 3 a.m. Then it was 4. Then it was dawn. And finally, instead of a sorcerous invocation, I cribbed a writing exercise from eighth-grade English, spooled out a list of memories with the blunt inside-jokiness of yearbook ads and bad wedding toasts, as if anyone but me cared to hear about our goldfish poetry or Trivial Pursuit.
At least it fit the sprezzatura of the service, not a funeral technically — that would come later, muggy and formal in Fort Lauderdale, where she’d grown up. She’d started in Florida but ended in New York, with us, college friends still too young to know how to do death, and this was our DIY effort to mark it.
I think it was raining. I know I was wearing borrowed clothes, because I was only in the city for the summer and hadn’t thought to pack for a funeral. Crowded with people who hadn’t seen each other since graduation, the church had the feel of an ersatz reunion, how have you been, where are you working, what the fuck do we do now that we know we can die.
I am the writer, and this is all I write: girls who need each other to survive. Girls who hold on too tight, girls who let go. Lost girls, lonely girls, dead girls. I write fictions of abandonment and blood—everything that feels true, nothing that is. I am the writer, but I never write about this.
The setting: the apartment she shared with her boyfriend, which until that night I’d never been in without her. Somewhere in Greenpoint, where until that night I’d never gone without her. A one-bedroom, railroad style, with furniture that used to be mine, because she was my roommate before she was his, and when I left her for L.A., she took whatever didn’t fit in my trunk.
We were there to make photo albums for the service. It seemed important to get these right, reshape the past for public consumption, and so we winnowed: Yes to the Ultimate Frisbee catch, no to the tequila shots. Yes to the roommates hugging, no to the liplock with the ex.
They winnowed; I cried on the bathroom floor, knees hugged to chest, locked in with her shampoo, her face wash, her moisturizer, hyperventilating her familiar soapy smells. Knowing that when the night ended, I would have to leave and the boyfriend would get to stay, surrounded by her. I was the one who knew the significance behind every object in that apartment, eight years of accumulated story: the Paula Abdul tape, the stuffed turtle, the stolen sweatpants. I would never know as much of anyone as I knew of her, I thought then, and I was right.
This is the story I tell about friendship, in fact and fiction: that I’m fated to be a sidekick. That I chase after wild girls, thrill to their spark, let them boss me around. I don’t write about the girl who was the exception.
She was 26, with Barbie hair and a hatred of Somerset Maugham; she was private, like I was private; she was stubborn but almost only ever spoke up for herself under her breath. She preferred eating off small plates. She believed in a special dessert stomach with infinite capacity for ice cream. I don’t know what good it does to say so.
The easy truths don’t matter enough; the truths that matter matter too much. I can’t write what doesn’t belong to me — what I know about who she fell in love with and when, who she imagined herself to be, what she told her mother when she got sick, what her mother told me, after.
To tell the story of what happened to her as a story of what happened to me, to shrink her into my best friend — deny her name, job, family, past, concrete existence beyond the part of her that became part of me — seems impoverished at best and megalomaniacal at worst.
Writing all of her feels like larceny. Writing nothing feels like erasure.
I can at least tell you about me, before: 26, a year into grad school in L.A., a week out of an irritating on-and-mostly-off romance, dissatisfied with life just enough to whine but not quite enough to act, home in Brooklyn for the summer after a year of pining for pizza and subways and party small talk that didn’t inevitably end with “—and I’m working on a screenplay.” Lucky enough to imagine, secretly and stupidly, that life might actually be fair.
Me, the day after: the walking dead. Sleeping in a friend’s studio apartment, both of us afraid to be alone. Not sleeping. Watching her sleep, begrudging it. Waiting for dawn. Making lists of people to call. Making calls. Saying the words, over and over again, that she was dead. Picking an outfit for her to wear, and debating whether death recused you from needing a bra. Another detail I’ll allow: She hated wearing a bra.
The story of her body won’t give up its secrets.
I havent written a research paper in so long that i'm not even sure i still know how to... i may have to resort to a five paragraph essay
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