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Split Ends MAG
Last week I saw her in the street. Her hair looked slept in but perfect as always, split ends and all.
In another time, when she was eight and I was nine, we wanted to be artists or movie stars. We dressed up as husband and wife; she always made me be the man because I looked better in a jacket, she explained. I never argued; she was so strong-willed even at eight that any argument was futile. We planned our futures together. She would become a famous movie actress and star in all the best horror films, and I would stay in our sunlit apartment with our two black cats and paint flowers and write all day, drinking tea simply because it was poetic.
I invited her over to my house weekly, just so we could stay up all night pretending to be witches and smear my mother's eyeshadow on each other's faces.
“It makes you look more like yourself,” she giggled at me, drawing a pink line down my forehead.
A year and a half passed. She began wearing more black and started dyeing her hair, even though I told her it was fine. We entered sixth grade and she raised her anchor, and I lost her to the horizon; I guess she was craving a new world and had decided it wasn't where I was. I sighed.
You know when you play the same scene over and over in your head until you're not sure if you've changed the script without realizing it?
I asked why; she said she just wanted to be normal, just regular and boring like everyone else. I argued that no one was boring, that everyone was simply trying to make it in their own way. She smiled and shook her head . I sighed again.
Maybe it was when we laid in bed holding hands and I told her about how if the school year went badly, we could always build a Lego rocketship and fly to Neptune and found an entirely new colony of people where no one was sad because all the architecture would be crisp and colorful, built from blueprints by Gehry and Haussmann. All policies would be completely egalitarian, and there would be no glass ceilings (except literal ones, of course).
Maybe it was when she wrote me a letter in biology class, using her nearly illegible block print that she was so fond of. She thought I didn't see the dog-eared letter hiding between the pages describing the mitochondria and the unnatural properties of certain animal cells. I knew what that letter said, but I never told her what I saw.
Maybe it was when I told her to stay, just a little longer, because things would get much easier and more beautiful. That she should stay, because who knew, we could become the first reporters to secure an exclusive tell-all with God. I drew her a diagram detailing how we could run away to Antarctica and start a family, breeding mammoths back into existence as our pets.
Antarctica is cold, she said, but I'll stay.
We drifted, like jetsam. We split.
When I was fourteen, she was thirteen and a half and beautiful. She taught me to skateboard and we fell back together. She held onto my waist and laughed as I tried not to fall. She held me close and whispered that it was okay; if I ever did fall, she would catch me. She was always the only one I would ever let catch me anyway. Sometimes we'd go out. We walked around art museums, enjoying the musty smell and hidden corridors. She teased me about my skirts and I poked fun at her worn-in Vans, even though I secretly loved them.
“Baby,” she would smile at me. “Never leave me, okay?” And I never did. I never would; she was the only one who understood my unconventional taste for classical music and the way I always took my coffee black. Sometimes she'd bring me to parties her friends were having, where, ironically, she'd be the one feeling out of place. She'd get jealous if I talked to other girls, especially if they were laughing, especially if they had short skirts and no split ends.
To me, her imperfections were what made her absolutely perfect. I'm not sure if she understood that.
Usually, though, she'd just come over, like so many times before. We'd cuddle in bed and talk about how stars that burnt out millions of years ago still felt real, and how strange it was that pianos had strings. We'd turn on her favorite horror movies and I would scream and throw overly buttered popcorn at the screen as she rolled her eyes.
“You're such a dork,” she said, but she loved me all the same.
When she found out that I cried when I ate, she held me and told me I would always be gorgeous to her. From then on she went out of her way to make me grilled cheese and bring me fries and sodas. She called me every night and we would stay on the phone until two. I listened for hours as her telephone wire breath fell into my ear; I clutched the phone to my heart in hopes that it would teleport me to the only place I wanted to be.
“Meet me,” she said. And so I did. We sat on a park bench and watched people pass by like in a Woody Allen movie. I pretended I didn't hear when she told me that she liked someone else, that maybe this wasn't working out. She glanced down at her split ends and whispered that she would always love me and no matter what, I would always be her baby. A couple on a tandem bike rolled past on the sidewalk. She rose and looked back at me. I looked up at the sky.
“I'm sorry,” she offered, and she really did seem sorry. But I was already gone, out of my head, tears in my eyes, questioning the chemical pathways of desire and the sanity of the synaptic language of love.
Sometimes hearts feel heavy, even though there's nothing left to miss. I felt lost in space. And time. And just plain, old lost.
Sometimes no matter how many times you edit the screenplay or rewrite the notes, it will only be enough when it wants to be.
I felt like Vincent Van Gogh because he was lonely; he buried his tears in a box deep underground with earthworms for guardians until one day there were too many tears and the box simply burst.
People say things happen for a reason but that doesn't mean they're right.
Last week, I saw her in the street. She told me to meet her, and so I climbed out my bedroom window and wandered for awhile, eventually tumbling into a midnight diner. She was sitting at a booth, musing into the curling mud-flats at the bottom of her hot chocolate, which she had always preferred to coffee.
Her hair looked slept in and more perfect than ever, split ends and all. I dropped down opposite her, and gave my best Bogart impression:
“I was born when she kissed me. I died when she left me. I lived for a few weeks while she loved me.”
She cast her eyes down to the worn linoleum tabletop. The steam from her cup rose and warmed her cheeks. Or maybe she was blushing. She looked up and smiled.
I looked at her.
She looked at me.
“Never leave me, okay?”