Weeping is not the same thing as crying. It takes your whole body to weep, and when it's over, you feel like you don't have any bones left to hold you up.
I really don't even know you, and yet, in my life, you are forever entangled; to my history, inextricably bound.
Every morning, I wake up and forget just for a second that it happened. But once my eyes open, it buries me like a landslide of sharp, sad rocks. Once my eyes open, I'm heavy, like there's to much gravity on my heart.
In your entire life, you can probably count your true friends on one hand. Maybe even on one finger. Those are the friends you need to cherish, and I wouldn't trade one of them for a hundred of the other kind. I'd rather be completely alone than with a bunch of people who aren't real. People who are just passing time.
See, some people politely encourage their tone-deaf friends to sing. Some people even convince them to go on live television and audition for national competitions. But me? I am not that friend.
Mom asked for a cupcake miracle? Well, here comes the freaking holy angel of icing, at your service. --
I was, but then I realized that I was holding on to something that didn't exist anymore. That the person I missed didn't exist anymore. People change. The things we like and dislike change. And we can wish they couldn't all day long but that never works.
Family tragedies had a way of smashing everything apart and then gluing it all back together. The problem was no one ever knew how long the glue would hold.
It takes a strong woman to lose everything, then stand naked in front of the mirror and face herself again. You need time, honey. And I don't mean time for it to go away. I mean time to learn how to live with it. This is a pain you'll always carry.
It was just over a year ago. Twelve months, nine days and six hours ago, actually. But thirteen months ago everything was...perfect.
I can't stop thinking about what he felt like against my body, against my lips. I can't remember anything else, anything before that. And I realize in this moment that I've finally done it. That horrible, awful thing I swore I would never do.The frosting. The cigarettes. The blue glass triangle. The shooting stars. The taste of his mouth on mine in the hall closet. Gone. All I can think about is Sam. Matt is – erased. My whole body is warm and buzzing. Sam is smiling next to me, because of me. And I've never felt so lonely in all my life.
But I knew he wouldn't kiss me. Not tonight. Not like this. There was too much between us now, all the words and near misses. All the potential, the alternate futures that would stretch out before us in an unending spiral, all built on what happened in this moment. I held his fiery gaze and remembered the five-oh, the half-and-half, the promises I'd whispered to myself in the dawn light.I might lose all my memories one day, but that wouldn't keep me from making them.
I'm still dropping dishes thinking in slow motion about the GPS woman in Mom's car. I imagine her beckoning me from outside the kitchen window illuminated like some robot-angel calling me forth to the Lexus where she will ferry me off to that planet of monotonous peace that special otherworldly place where all the residents are relaxed and confident and completely numb. Your life will. Get better in. Six. Point four. Million. Miles.
You ask me why I’m nice to you,” he said. “Why, why, why. But you don’t ask me stuff that matters. Who I am or where I been. What I see when I look at you. What I want.
They say you can never step into the same river twice. And maybe that's how it was for Papi now, memories shifting and re-forming soundlessly beneath him while the rest of us sat on the shore and watched.
They tear each other apart. Sometimes there aren't any happy endings or logical explanations and we just have to accept that and move on. Sometimes it really is that simple.
Sorry.” I’m surprised and glad she doesn’t recognize it. I run my thumb back and forth over a crusty bit on the shoulder strap as a five-second version of the cake fight flashes behind my eyes like a movie stuck on quick search. Don’t cry over spilt frosting, Anna. “I just – I like this one.” “What for?” she asks. Just tell her. “It’s from the – it’s just the–” I bite my lower lip. Tell her. “Anna? What’s wrong?” Oh, it’s nothing, really. Just that it’s from the first time your brother kissed me and made me promise not to tell you. And I was in love with him forever, and he was supposed to tell you about it in California, and we were all going to live happily ever after. I still write him letters in the journal he gave me, which he doesn’t answer, since he’s dead and all. But other than that? Honestly, it’s nothing. “Anna?” She watches me with her sideways face again. “Huh? Oh, sorry. Nothing. I’m fine. I – I’ll get rid of it later.
Through pictures, we cut reality in pieces. We selected only the choicest moments, discarding the rest as if they'd never happened.
This boy wore the ocean in his eyes, green-gray-blue, ever shifting, and I recognized him immediately. Knew before he said another word that he was as dangerous as he was beautiful.
Beneath the vast diamond sky, I felt both all important and utterly significant, the goddess and the damned in equal measure.
So just over a year ago, there was this guy. I really liked him. I mean really – since I was a kid.” “Did Frankie know him?” “The three of us were best friends. We basically grew up together.” “Complicated.” “Very. So anyway, last year on my birthday, he finally kissed me.” Sam stays quiet, focused on his feet taking off and landing against the sand. It feels strange to tell him about this for so many reasons, but the words are coming too fast for me to stop, even if I want to. “We started hanging out all the time – even more than before. Every night. Only we didn’t know how to tell Frankie, because we didn’t want her to freak or feel left out or whatever.” “Makes sense,” Sam says. “He thought it would be better if he told her himself, so I promised him that I wouldn’t say anything. But before he could talk to her about it, he–” I almost choke on the word, holding my hand against Sam’s arm to stop our forward motion along the shore. “What did he do?” Sam asks. “He just – he – I’m sorry. Wait.” The words of this story have passed a thousand times from my hand to the pages of my journal, but never from my lips to the ears of another living soul. I take a few deep breaths before I’m able to meet Sam’s eyes and say it. “He died, Sam.
It seemed everything that had ever lived and died in this world had passed through here, had left its indelible imprint.
Happy birthday,” he whispered, his breath landing warm and suddenly close to my lips, making my insides flip. And just as quickly as he’d surprised me with the cake, he kissed me, one frosting-covered hand moving from my hair to the back of my neck, the other solid and warm in the small of my back, pressing us together, my chest against his ribs, my hip bones just below his, the tops of our bare summer legs hot and touching. I stopped breathing. My eyes were closed and his mouth tasted like marzipan flowers and clove cigarettes, and in ten seconds the whole of my life was wrapped up in that one kiss, that one wish, that one secret that would forever divide my life into two parts. Up, down. Happy, sad. Shock, awe. Before, after. In that single moment, Matt, formerly known as friend, became something else entirely. I kissed him back. I forgot time. I forgot my feet. I forgot the people outside, waiting for us to rejoin the party. I forgot what happens when friends cross into this space. And if my lungs didn’t fill and my heart didn’t beat and my blood didn’t pump without my intervention, I would have forgotten about them, too. I could have stayed like that all night, standing in front of the sink, Matt’s black apple hair brushing my cheeks, heart thumping, lucky and forgetful…
I follow the path we’ve taken so many times this summer – across the front, down the street, cut back through a neighbor’s yard, down the stairs to the beach, past the pier, through the campfire labyrinth, up to the deck of the Shack, and straight into Sam’s arms. Without speaking, he kisses me hard on the mouth and I kiss him back, sobbing and crumpling into his chest like a broken puppet.
And in this moment of pale dawn in the hours before we leave California, I finally realize what has been the hardest thing for me about Matt’s death. It isn’t that I lost a brother, like Frankie, or a son, like Aunt Jayne and Uncle Red. The hardest thing is that I’ll never know exactly what I lost, how much it should hurt, how long I should keep thinking about him. He took that mystery with him when he died, and a hundred thousand one-sided letters in my journal wouldn’t have brought me any closer to the truth than I was the night I pressed my fingers to the sea glass he wore around his neck and kissed him back. For over a year, the letters were my only connection to him; the only evidence that I didn’t imagine our brief time as other. When I first saw my journal helplessly floating on the waves, I felt a loss so immediate and overwhelming it was like being back in the hospital lobby when the doctor told us they couldn’t fix him. One minute, the journal was in my hands, soft and familiar and real; the next minute, it was gone. Just like Matt. And just like Matt, I need to let it go.
I'm sorry. For all of us. Sorry for all the little ways the people who were supposed to love us most could hurt us so deeply, despite their shared heritage and blood, as thought their knowledge of our pasts gave them unlimited access to all the most tender places, the old wounds that could be so easily reopened with no more than a glance, a comment, a passing reminder of all the ways in which we failed to live up to their expectations.
Right after Matt died, I was afraid to do basically everything. I couldn’t even bite my nails or sniff my shirt to see if I needed deodorant without feeling like he was watching me. I willed and prayed and begged him to give me a sign that he was watching, that he was with me, so I would know. But he never did. Time moved on. And I stopped being afraid. Until right now, vulnerable and insecure and a little bit drunk. Lying in the sand and falling in crazy love with someone I just met. Matt is watching me. Observing. Possibly judging. And the worst part of it is, I don’t want to wake up under his landslide of sad rocks anymore. I don’t want to taste the marzipan frosting and the clove cigarettes. I don’t want to think about the blue glass necklace or the books he read to me on his bed or the piles of college stuff or some random boy in the grocery store wearing his donated clothes. I don’t want to be the dead boy’s best-friend-turned-something-else. Or the really supportive neighbor friend. Or the lifelong keeper of broken-hearted secrets.
Have some carrots. They're good for your eyes.Then you have some fries. They're good for your... I don't know. They're just good.
The guilt of not telling Frankie about Matt and me is overwhelming, but it's a pale second to the violation I feel that she read my most private, raw thoughts and destroyed them. She broke into my carefully guarded heart, stole the only remaining connection I had to Matt, and turned it into a monstrosity.
Dear Matt, In less than a day, I’ ll be standing on the same sand you stood on so many times before. Well, not the same sand, with the tides and winds and erosion and all of that, but the same symbolic sand. I’m so excited and scared that I can’ t sleep – even though I have to wake up in five hours! You know, I saved every one of your postcards. They’re here in a box under my bed – all the little stories you sent, like little pieces of California. Like the beach glass you guys always brought me. Sometimes I dump it out on my desk and press my ear to the pieces, trying to hear the ocean. Trying to hear you. But you don’ t say anything. Remember how you’ d come back from your vacation on the beach and tell me what it really felt like? What the ocean sounded like at dawn when the beach was deserted? What your hair and skin tasted like after swimming in saltwater all day? How the sand could burn your feet as you walked on it, but if you stuck your toes in, it was cold and wet underneath? How you spent three hours sitting on Ocean Beach just to watch the sun sink into the water a million miles away? If I closed my eyes as you were talking, it was like I was there, like your stories were my stories. In many ways, I feel as if I have memories of you there, too. Do you think that’s crazy? Matt, please don’ t think badly about Frankie’s contest. It’s just a silly game. It’s so Frankie, you know? No, I guess you wouldn’ t. You’ d kill her if you did! She just misses you. We all do. I’ ll look out for her, though. I promise. Please watch over us tomorrow, and for the next few weeks while we’re away. You’ ll be in my thoughts the whole time, like always. I’m going to find some red sea glass for you. I miss you more than you could ever know. Love, Anna
I closed my eyes under the fluroescent lights and tried to make another birthday wish, a onetime do-over, a rebate, a trade-in on the kitchen sink kiss that started everything, offered up for just one last miracle.
Dear Matt, We finally made it to California, and it’s just like you told me. I feel you here with us – I think Frankie does, too.’ How dare you write about me in here! How dare you write to my brother! You think just because you fooled around a few times he cared about you? You think he wouldn’t have ditched you the second he found some new girl at Cornell? Get over yourself!