"Don’t Let Our Youth Go To Waste" by contributor
They talk almost the whole day, because they both wake up early and he goes to bed late so the three-hour time difference doesn't matter, really. Three hours and something like 2800 miles (he mapped it once) apart. After she leaves therapy she feels worse than when she came but that doesn't matter, really, because this is maybe the happiest she has ever been. There are no seasons in California but everything she does is now tinged with warm colors. They talk about hitchhiking, The Graduate, Galaxie 500, those expansive wailing guitar riffs that go on as far as the eye can see. Dean Wareham tells them not to let their youth go to waste and she takes it way too much to heart.
She’s back in this impersonal home that doesn't quite fit her anymore and it doesn't feel real that he’s coming because the person she is here is not the same person she is there. Having endured two months of waiting, she will get the car and they will trek up to Rockford, a test drive for running away together. As soon as he gets off that powerful westward train she is going to meet him, early downtown as the sun comes up over the straight-backed skyline, the real thing. Three days after he was supposed to get to Chicago, she stays in bed for twenty hours and listens to sad old men whine on the record player. Four days after, she goes to the state park by herself and ghosts the lake around too many people on Memorial Day. The CD player breaks halfway through the trip out.
She has lost the capability to feel anything strongly anymore but cries when a Sam Smith song comes on the radio. He is traveling out of the country and they don't talk anymore, mutual drifting, mostly you just make me mad. She goes on the first date she has ever been on (eighteen years of waiting, and now only apathy!) to her favorite coffee shop in the neighborhood where Nathan works. She is surprised by how vaguely well it goes, how extremely ice blue his eyes are. A week and a half later he brings her a cherry slush from Sonic, they fuck, and she picks her sister up from a friend’s house afterward. She is surprised by how much Nathan likes her, by how well he kissed her on his suburban roof at the beginning of the summer.
She'll be in New York in a couple weeks, so she guesses they should hang out, finally. She has let herself forget the sear of being ignored and attributes the persistent chest sting to mere circumstance, and depression. In the elevator down to meet him, she almost throws up and he is shorter than she expected but she doesn't mind, she doesn't mind the rainy mist even though he apologizes for it, even though they both love the rain. They get high in a gazebo in Central Park and Chinatown is a hazy misty blur of sore feet and rose bubble tea and a neon shop. On the L train she rests her head on his shoulder. They sip sweet malt liquor on his friend's roof near Pratt and when they tell him how they met, he seems surprised but not put-off. Later in the park he starts tracing his fingers on her thigh, every single nerve in her body is concentrated into the parts of her legs that shift under his fingertips. The sun glances across their faces through the leaves and all she can hear is the sound of her breathing.
He ignores her again and she retreats deep. He was supposed to be here by now but instead he’s living in a Portland that is farther away from her, down here, down south, too south. She spends the time alone in her room foggy, ambivalently floating from place to place. She starts to wonder what the point of life is if she'll continue this desperate uncertainty for many more years. Drawling promises echo all around her head in that hard-to-place accent and she ditches her long Wednesday afternoon class to drive up to Baldy and make herself small, surrounded by mountains and valleys. The higher she gets, the less sure her feelings are. She finds comfort in that. She has taken up residence in that reckless headspace of having nothing to lose, so she decides to just ask for what she wants. Henry takes her to a show one night.
She has spent months trying to both remember and forget how he fucked her over, what a sad piece of shit he was, horrible, manipulative, he called her baby, he was objectively a fucking asshole. She supposes it’s not cheating if they were never together, refuses to acknowledge the words “emotionally abusive.” A week later, she retells the story in a cold Walgreens parking lot on the way to a house show, methodically swallowing Good n Plenty, the gray-white and pink capsules cracking between her teeth. She is okay now, because Henry sleeps in her bed every night the week before break. She doesn’t know that the beginnings are always the best parts. Once, Henry references her favorite TV show in the middle of sex and she knows he's alright.
It is a Wednesday night, late, and she gets herself too high on purpose. The low feelings are still there but through a grainy film, delayed by a few seconds. She knows Henry is too tired to come over so she doesn't ask but keeps texting him inane things, receiving short responses and not taking them personally. She is proud of herself because she takes almost everything else so personally, even though Henry is always busy. The next time she traces patterns on his back, blue morning light bleeding through the shades, her rational self pushes its way to the surface, gasping: “Henry is not yours,” it tells her. “He never can be. You need more than he is willing to give right now.” She rolls over, quiet, thinks of that song, won’t you just let me pretend this is the love I need? She has learned that she should not predicate her happiness off of anything tangible, but she likes how it feels too much, and always lets it happen anyway. When they break up, Henry cries in front of her, and she is mean to him.
April He says he is coming out west in the late spring and he has things to tell her that need to be said in person. She remembers the mix he gave her in his childhood bedroom in the middle of Jersey farmland, dimly lit, rolls of film scattered everywhere, how nice it was to touch the face of someone she had created in her head. But she is so tired, she has lost the capability to be mad at him, she only feels nostalgia-tinged melancholy. She wanders, and the moon is omniscient and swollen when she sees this boy. Same jacket, same glasses. She is awash in it all again. “The guy sitting across from me right now looks so much like you,” she sends him. “Really? I saw a girl that looked like you today too. Maybe it’s the full moon,” he responds. Maybe you’re full of shit, she thinks. “I would buy that,” she writes back.