As I sit back on my couch eating the last few handfuls of Special K and watching three completely different scented candles burn simultaneously, I came to a sudden realization, an epiphany if you will. What started out as a weak attempt to reach out to old friends has evolved into what I believe to be a cry for help instead. On what grounds? I’m not sure but it became clear that even those who are constantly surrounded by others are, perhaps, some of the loneliest people we know. They always say the ones who seem to have it all on the outside lack almost everything on the inside.
Today was just like any other day at the cheese shop except yesterday I was cutting Swiss cheese and today I was cutting Gouda. As I went to make another slice into the giant wheel of aged cheese, I looked down to the shelf where my phone was laying and noticed the screen light up. Per usual, I got excited. My rose gold 5s has been pretty dry lately because apparently no one wants to tell me good morning anymore but that’s another story to tell, a pretty depressing one might I add. Maybe I should stop rambling? Okay so yeah, I looked down at my screen and boom, there was the most unexpected notification from a former friend I could have never predicted even if I possessed the power to see into the future. A former friend who has held not only my hand through hard times but my hair for more drunken ones. A former friend who makes it impossible to talk about high school without mentioning her name.
Last fall was the death of us and by late winter into early spring I had moved on because in all honesty, friendships come and go. But today before afternoon struck, it seemed as if my old friend was seeking to make an effort and attempt to narrow the very large gap she put between us. However, I did not see this as a “making-amends” sort of deal. Rather it was a plea of guilt for shutting me and others out of her life. For the first time ever in my relationship with her, I finally felt superior in the way she was truly alone and I wasn’t.
Being alone isn’t measured by how many people you are surrounded with but by how comfortable you are with yourself in the absence of company. That right there is how I know I’m not alone. I flourish in my independence and for my old friend, she fears it.
There is nothing like losing your childhood pet. I know it sounds childish but they were such a large part of your childhood, it’s hard to let go. I guess we have hit that age where our dogs are old men and women and there is nothing we can do about it. I remember when my dog died so vividly, which is so weird because I was pretty high on codeine from having a wicked case of whooping cough. When Hurricane Sandy hit, my dog died the first day of the storm. He was 13 years old and was in a lot of pain. I knew it was for the best but it doesn’t make it hurt anything less.
My mom called me to tell me that they probably going to be out to touch for awhile with the storm but Jagger (yes I am the only six year old to name their dog after a Rolling Stone legend) had to be put down before things got worse. I collapsed into my small twin bed and let myself become enveloped by my varying-hued Anthropolgie comforter. I let the medicine from health services carry me to sleep. I didn’t want to see anyone or talk to anyone. It is hard to explain but you lose a part of your youth when you say goodbye to a childhood pet.
With the storm, after my parents hung up I couldn’t speak to any of them for weeks. In the midst of the worst part of the aftermath, there was a Bruce Springsteen concert on campus. He may be one of the only things from New Jersey I truly love (besides my mother of course). I didn’t have tickets and didn’t want to spend 80 dollars for a ticket either. As if I wasn’t devastated enough, it was killing me not to be going to the concert. My parents had taken me to my first Springsteen concert when I was eight years old. My sister was five at the time and the two of us stood on the seats of the Meadowlands for three hours screaming the lyrics to Thunder Road and every song from The Rising album.
When The Rising album came out after 9/11, it was one of things that made my father feel better about everything that happened. He had watched 700 of his former co-workers and friends fall into the rumble in downtown New York but when he put that CD in his Jeep Cherokee his problems seemed to disappear. There is something about the music that makes the loneliness disappear into a sea of numbness and familiarity. You can hear in Bruce’s voice a mutual aching heart.
So I sat in my bed for two days forgetting about the concert because it was just another disappointment. That night, a friend of mine pulled me out of bed an hour and a half into the concert and skipped up to the Bryce Jordan Center with me. I was still in my pajamas and smelled of Vicks vapor rub. The air hit me like a moving bus because I hadn’t left my room in so long. We were so close I could feel the vibrations from the E Street band vibrating through the pavement outside. When we got up there, an old couple was heading out. The man was grabbing onto his wife as if she were his cane. It was so dark that I don’t even remember what their faces looked like but they handed us their ticket stubs and said it was worth a shot. We ran around to the back door and this man in his 60s was in one of those tuxedo penguin suits that ticket grabbers wear. He looked at the tickets and knew exactly what we were up to. The concert was almost two hours in but he ripped the stubs off and gave us a little smirk.
The two of us ran to the top seats and danced in the nose bleeds as Bruce went on for another three encores. The world was spinning as Rosalita radiated through my ears. I was never so happy watching Bruce struggle through another encore of Shout. I thought he was going to kneel over and give up but song after song he kept going. The capacity of that man to perform is unlike anyone you will ever see. Unwilling to give up for the night, Bruce’s face got redder, the sweat dripped harder, and he sang louder. I realized that the loneliness and heartbreak I had felt the past few days was nothing that couldn’t be forgotten. I stood on the bleachers just like my eight year old self did years before and let myself be lost in the crowd.
Scarlett: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.
My father walked me to school every morning up until the one where he left. That day I was home sick and he was watching me while my mother went to work because I could not stay home alone.
Growing up, I begged my parents to leave me home alone and walk to school on my own. It was a sign of independence, the only real chance at maturation I had as an eight year old.
When he moved out I began walking to school alone. Maybe it was because I entered the fifth grade. Maybe it was because safety is something only afforded when enough bodies exist to offer protection.
The reasons I could not walk alone were broadcasted nightly. My mother would point at the TV, past the newscasters with pleasing smiles, and at the portraits of blonde girls labeled "missing."
I wonder if all those girls had gotten golden retrievers or if that is just how I remember it. But it is not only the blonde girls who are taken. It is the blonde girls who end up on the news.
Today, as I walk alone, I look at my phone and find my father's number. I call him on the way.