For once, I sat shotgun. I wanted to see what she looked like in the driver’s seat but she looked the same as she did on the passenger’s side. I think I just wanted to watch her for once, instead of having to focus on both her and the road. She rolled the top down even though it was the dead of winter and I watched a lock of hair get caught in her mouth. She was wearing this obscenely long scarf and I was terrified of the end getting caught under one of the wheels and her head falling off. I heard that happened to some famous dancer a hundred years ago.


Senior year, we had no classes together. The only time we’d see each other was during lunch, where we’d sit with the trunk popped in the back of my Subaru and eat whatever the other person had brought. She’d bake cookies and listen to my recap of the first two periods of the day. I’d sit with whatever random Trader Joe’s snack I had while she told me about whoever had pissed her off as of late.

“I can’t see how anyone gets through the day without complaining about literally everything that’s ever happened to them.” Cookie crumbs fell out of her mouth as she spoke. She didn’t seem to notice.


I met her in our sophomore year Spanish class. My vision of her then feels different from my vision of her now. A lot hazier. Even after I learned more about her, the edges were still a little blurry. I couldn’t quite make her out unless she was right in front of me. I also had no idea how to get her to talk to me.

I never would have initiated the conversation. She had this look of determined concentration on her face before she looked up at me. She asked me what we were supposed to be doing and confessed that she’d slept through the majority of class so far. I tried to answer using the whole semester of Spanish I had under my belt, but it didn’t come out quite right. She half snorted and tried to be polite about it, but I was mostly just shocked one of us had worked up the courage to say anything.


She hopped into the passenger seat and looked me up and down. “Nice shirt,” she said. It was her shirt. She didn’t mind that I had it, but I still thought wearing it in front of her was the funniest thing in the world. She’d lent me this shirt the first time I slept over, and then never asked for it back. It was the acknowledgment that we had parts of each other that we gave away, something that the other wanted us to have.


I was driving her home. She was slumped in the passenger seat. I caught a glance of her at every intersection. When the light turned red, she turned to me. 

“Why don’t you pin me in your messages?”

“I don’t have anyone pinned.”

She looked at me quizzically. “Not even your parents?”

“I just never bothered to do it. It’s not that big a deal.”

The light turned green. I looked ahead again.

She grabbed my phone. “Well, I’m pinning myself, dammit.” She had almost announced it. 

I pulled up in front of her house. She asked if I was coming in. Normally, I’d say yes, but I had some miscellaneous family gathering to attend. I watched her walk up to her front door and fiddle with her keys. I recognized the look of concentration on her face the same as I always had, but I felt like I could read it from a thousand miles away.


We traded books a lot. Every few weeks, instead of a study date, we’d drive to the bookstore by my house. We went to a place that was locally owned because she said she’d rather die than give her money to Barnes & Noble. She also had a flair for the dramatic. 

We’d roam the aisles of that bookstore for hours, often looking together at first, then splitting up. Returning to the register with huge piles of books that neither of us could afford, we’d inspect each other’s stacks and buy whatever we both wanted to read. Whoever read the book first had to leave a note for the other. She’d always leave hers tucked into the twelfth page.


The boom of noise and pungent sweaty odor that assaulted my senses as soon as I walked in filled me with the fervent urge to turn my ass around and abandon her at this stupid house party. I could just let her catch a ride home with whoever the designated driver was. Watching a bunch of drunk white men jump around for three hours was not my idea of a good time, but she’d told me she was sick of the two of us sitting in her bedroom sipping old tequila mixed with cran-grape juice that tasted like melted popsicle.

“Plus, if my parents find out we stole any more of their alcohol they’ll literally crucify me. It’ll be fun, I swear!”

She pulled me into the center of the makeshift dance floor. “Go have fun! I’m gonna get us drinks!”

As she turned toward the kitchen, I stood there, stranded. What kind of friend leaves you to your own devices two minutes after getting to the party you didn’t even wanna go to? I tried to follow her, but she had already wandered off to God knows where. 

“F*** this,” I muttered. I threw back a shot of vodka and returned to the horde of sweaty seventeen-year-olds she’d left me in the custody of. 


She slammed the passenger side door as she got in. And didn’t even bother to buckle up.

“What did you think you were doing?” she yelled. She seemed a bit peeved.

“I was having a good time! You literally abandoned me the minute we got here!”

“I was going to get us both drinks and got distracted. Sorry if I wanted to say hi to the other people I know instead of staying glued to your side! But then I come back and you’re on top of a coffee table with someone’s shoe in your hand? What is wrong with you?”

“I was finally having fun! Do you know how often they play music I actually like at these parties? Besides, I wasn’t even buzzed.” I paused. “But I guess I can only have the kind of fun you want to have.”

She stared at me. She looked hurt. “That is not fair.”

I paused again. I looked straight ahead. “You know we’re gonna have to sit here until I’m sober.”

“Oh, please, you had one shot an hour and a half ago. You’re fine.”

We sat in the driveway for another twenty minutes. 

I turned on the ignition.

“I’m sorry for abandoning you,” she grumbled.

I reciprocated. “I’m sorry for being a d***.”

“It’s okay. It’s not your fault.”

I tried to stifle a half-snort. She laughed.


She told me I was an attention commander. I had no earthly idea what she meant.

“I just don’t know how you manage to keep every person in a room hanging on your every word so easily. Whenever I try to command attention,” (She made a “wax on, wax off”-esque arm motion here) “I feel like a ****.”

I told her she should. She asked me what that was supposed to mean.

“It’s just, sometimes when you’re trying to command attention,” (I copied her arm movement, too) “you just get a little loud. And your personality gets a little grating.”

She asked me what I wanted her to do about it.

My defenses went up immediately. I assume hers did, too. “I’m not asking you to do anything about it, per se, I’m just commenting on the accuracy of your self-awareness.”

“You’re being such a d*** right now,” she grumbled.

“That’s fair.”


She had just finished what she decided was her new favorite book and needed me to read it immediately, so I obliged. She didn’t leave her note on the twelfth page, though; instead, it was on page 224. I tried to wrap my mind around the significance of a number that’s not even a multiple of twelve, but the page number had nothing to do with it. The note was also much shorter than usual. All it said was “Lines 3-5. Read them.” So I did.

The book was about a girl whose sister and best friend growing up was a chimp named Fern. It should have been childish, but it felt profound. I read lines three through five on page two hundred and twenty-four over and over again.

“Now I searched through my weariness, into every breath, every muscle, every heartbeat, and found a reassuring, bone-deep certainty. I loved Fern. I had always loved Fern. I always would.”

It made me think of the kind of envy you feel when you see people who have known each other forever and you know that they’ll always know each other forever. The types of relationships where you never have to worry about distance, or time, because you are just so sure that it will always be there for you when you get back. I wondered if I’d get that with her. Like, was this supposed to be aspirational? Is this what she wanted from me? Is this what I wanted from her?


She was always there. If I had a rough day, she’d know immediately after I’d show up at her house. We had this wordless, impeccably polished routine we’d move through whenever she read that initial look of sadness that showed up on her doorstep. In her room, she’d place her laptop at the foot of the bed and put on one of my comfort films that it seemed like she’d always known. She’d just lay with me, her arms around me in a sideways bear hug. And we would stay there as long as I needed. Sometimes her leg would be hooked on top of mine, pulling me closer. I could feel her steady breathing at the nape of my neck. 


“Why is 12 your lucky number?” I asked on our drive to her house.

“What do you mean?”

“Well, people normally have reasons why their lucky number is their lucky number. And you never told me why 12 is your lucky number.”

“It’s because of you, you idiot!”

I kind of just stared at her. Probably for a little too long because the car behind me honked to signal that the light had turned green. I hit the gas a little too hard. My mouth was the slightest bit agape. I must have looked like an idiot.

“I need a little more information than that!” I said a little too loudly, flustered.

“It’s our friendaversary. December 12, like three days before break started. You know I had been trying to talk to you for that entire semester, but I was like, “She’s probably gonna come up to me first.’ And then you didn’t!”

“That’s because I thought you were gonna do the same thing!”

We laughed about how hopeless we were and how it’s a miracle we ever managed to talk to each other. I remember wondering what my life would look like if neither of us had worked up the courage to say anything. The totality of her presence was both intimidating and a constant reassurance. 


She had her license, but always said she preferred to let me drive. To be fair, I was a much better driver than she was. When we were seniors I would take her to school and back because we lived so close to each other. She’d have to text me whenever she had to stay after school for Robotics Club or something and I’d have to tell her when I had to stay after for a dance rehearsal or an Art Club meeting. It was kind of inconvenient most afternoons, but we stuck with it just because we knew we may not be seeing much of each other after this year. I think she thought I thought she was a burden. She offered to pay for my gas a lot.

I think my giving spirit was one of her favorite things about me. She confirmed this when she told me my giving spirit was one of her favorite things about me.

“You would give someone both of your kidneys if you could. You are just way too nice sometimes.”

She was a lot more selfish than I was, but not in a bad way. She kept more to herself than I ever did. I was an open book, made all the more obvious by my publication of every single thought I’d ever had on every single social media platform available to me.

“It’s part of your whole attention commander thing. The more people know about you, or even just know of you, the better audience they are. Your everythingness is magnetic.”

She was a pretty good psychoanalyst for someone on the robotics team.


I was in a truly abysmal mood on the drive back to her house. It wasn’t entirely her fault, but it wasn’t entirely not her fault, either. I had to wait up for her after school so I sat in the library trying to make sense of my calc homework. I had been stuck on the same problem for a solid twenty minutes by the time she was finished and my aspiring STEM major best friend refused to lend a hand, assuring me I could figure it out myself. Which I couldn’t. So I told her I had to go home early for some miscellaneous family gathering and carted her back to her house.

“You look like you’re mad at me.” 

She had timed this statement perfectly, right between the end of one song and the beginning of the next. And because for once she had used the silence to her advantage and successfully commanded my attention, I had to give my response as the music kicked up again. I turned the music down. I told her I wasn’t mad.

“Okay, but like, you’re definitely mad at me.”

She wasn’t wrong, but I was inclined to forgive her in the next fifteen minutes or so. I didn’t really count it as being “mad” at her. Just airing my frustrations in her general direction.

“I need you to tell me when you’re mad at me. It pisses me off when I know that you’re mad at me and you won’t tell me that you’re mad at me. So just tell me you’re mad at me!”

“I’m not mad at you! Seriously.”

“So serious?”

“Like the plague,” I said. And half glared at her. She dropped it after that.


“Has anyone ever asked you if we were dating?’

I sat up in her bed. Her hands were cradling her head on the pillow next to mine.

“No. Why?”

“Someone asked me the other day.”


I asked her, “have you ever thought about it?”

“No, of course not! It’d just be weird.”

“Yeah, I think so, too.”

I rolled over so my back was facing her.

I think I could die right now and be fine with it.


My breath caught in my throat. She looked at me. She closed her laptop.

“Were you about to say something?” 

“No, I’m all good. Put the movie back on.”

She did not.

“No, you were definitely gonna say something. What was it?”

“I honestly can’t remember. I’ll let you know when it comes back to me.”

I’d already told her how much I loved her a million times before, but this felt different. I took a shaky breath, working up the nerve to say it. She looked at me with anticipation in her eyes.

My words got caught again. I couldn’t say it. She opened the laptop.


She looked over at me. She had this look in her eyes, like she knew she was about to do something I wouldn’t be able to stop thinking about. And she leaned in. I was a few shots deep. So was she. I didn’t think it was really happening. 

I could feel her breath against my cheek. It smelled like spearmint and tequila. I leaned in, too. She collapsed onto my chest.

“I can barely hold myself up right now,” she mumbled vaguely into my shirt, the one I had stolen from her.


A few days later, I found myself at her house again. I pulled up with the feeling of TV static playing on an endless loop in my brain, giving me this full-body sensation of anticipation and hope and dread and terror as she pulled me out of the car. She urged me upstairs like I was something her parents weren’t supposed to see. I didn’t know why I felt like a secret. 

She opened the door to her room and ushered me in before her, clearly in a hurry. She pushed me onto her bed and kissed me. She pressed her lips against mine, and I felt a new sort of determination rush through her. She grabbed the collar of my shirt. I paused for a second, then pressed back. Her hands were on either side of my head. Then cupping my face. The door was still ajar. I wrapped my arms around her neck. She was off of me in an instant.


She woke me up after I thought we’d both fallen asleep. 

“Can you just make sure you don’t tell anybody about what happened?”

“What do you mean?”

“You know, when we…”

I knew what she meant. And I didn’t. We never talked about it again.


There was a steady ache stuck in my body after she left. I can’t place exactly where it was. It seemed like it migrated, taking a gallery walk through my body, every movement to another memory. Every part of my body remembered something of her. My back remembered her hands clasped around it. My neck remembered the feeling of her worn-out shirt collar. My chest remembered the pressure of hers on top of mine. Everywhere the ache went, there she was. 


She was the last person I said goodbye to before college. I was the last for her, too. 

“I don’t know why you look so devastated,” she laughed. “I’m only an hour away.” She had gotten into the school of her dreams. I was so proud of her. And she was right. We could try to see each other on weekends, maybe sneak each other into frat parties on our respective campuses. I don’t know why it felt so final. But it did.


She didn’t feel real. In all the time I’d known her, I could see her whole image, know everything about her, see her standing in front of me, and I still wouldn’t be sure. She felt like a fleeting memory, something I could try to hold onto, but would slip through like water in my hands. 

She collided with me. She was alive with this resounding, mercurial intensity that made me feel like I was about to burst at the seams. She loved so deeply, with so much intention. I feel lucky to have known that feeling.


I sat at the foot of my bed, my feet dangling from the edge. My roommate had just left for an econ lecture. It felt like I hadn’t left our room in weeks; maybe I hadn’t. Two months into the semester and we still hadn’t seen each other. I wasn’t allowed to have my car on campus but she was, so she knew she needed to come to me. And she didn’t. We hadn’t talked since we both said goodbye to each other. I don’t think either of us knew what to say. I picked up my phone. She was still in my pinned conversations.

“You free on Saturday?” I hit send.

I saw her typing. I thought the little grey bubble might bounce forever. Then it disappeared. 

I flopped back onto the bed and stared at the ceiling, examining all the hairpin cracks above me. I’d never really inspected the structural integrity of these dorms, but the accidental mosaic over my head told me that I probably shouldn’t. My phone buzzed.

She sent me a picture of her unintelligible Statistics 501 homework along with a two-word message: “Sorry, busy.” I felt like a response wasn’t necessary.


It hurt to think about her, to picture us laying in her bed, laughing uncontrollably over God knows what. It hurt to picture her in the passenger’s seat, messing with the Spotify queue that I had so painstakingly curated. It hurt to picture her in my life when she wasn’t there anymore. I felt a lump in my throat and a tightness pulling at my chest. I don’t think I’ll ever be rid of her. The lump got bigger. My chest got tighter.


I loved her so much. I think I still do. I think about her a lot, too. It’s so weird to see us living separate lives now. We were once so intertwined, like you couldn’t tell where one of us ended and the other began. I’m not gonna say I’m empty and desolate without her now, but I am gonna say that I think about “what ifs” too often. What if we had been able to identify how we truly felt about each other? What if we both had the courage to act on those feelings? What would my life look like with her still in it? Where would I be if we still knew each other the way we used to? 

Like always, she sees a lot more of me than I do of her. I never broke away from my oversharing nature and still use Twitter like a public diary. She pops up on my Instagram feed every few months, and the hesitation before double-tapping is the closest we get to an interaction anymore. I wonder what she thinks about me. I wonder if she thinks about me.