Letter to the girl on fire

Off the Beat

Dear PRPB,

Sometimes I hear your laugh floating in the air above the desks between us — tinkly, sweet and forceful all at once. Your unmistakeable trills wash over me, leaving a smile in their wake. It’s good to hear you unintentionally yell in that voice you use when you’re describing an injustice committed against you, perhaps by some confounding boy. Though you’re over there and I’m over here, I am, even if by accident, included in the thrilling and somewhat spectacular ins-and-outs of your life.

We were far apart at first, only until we realized that this had to be more than friendship — family. The shrill voice, chunky jewelry and statement red lipstick that intimidated me on our first outing came to comfort me. Making someone a part of your family takes time and commitment. I familiarized myself with the nooks, crannies, shadowy corners and dusty spare-rooms of your relationships with every person you knew.

I could recall the adoration, homesickness and tinge of resentment that fills your voice when speaking about your parents; the mixture of ecstatic love and humbling guilt when speaking about your boyfriend. I grew to know how you feel about every person you know, and why.

You listened as I bleated on and on about friends from high school, people you’ll never know, people I barely think about anymore. But you needed to stay alert because that was all crucial information about how I came to be the way I am, how my thought process developed, what motivates me to make decisions. To become family you have to read the complete unabridged history. There are no shortcuts.

Then summer arrived and we scratched our initials in the frost of an icy bottle of Smirnoff.

Fall passed and you jetted off to a foreign land. For eight months we texted every day, barely noticing that we weren’t together. I heard about every cheap bottle of wine you drank in the park, every new city you visited, the friends you weren’t making. You waded through my attempts at accepting other people into my life; any developments in the stormy sea of my romantic life. We missed each other, but we flourished without proximity.

Four months ago, we were falling over ourselves on Treasure Island in the eye of a storm; screaming our darkest realizations into the impenetrable rain; squatting in squalor begging for a ride over the phone; living out proverbs in a seemingly endless bildungsroman. From then on, your face has been my anchor when nothing else could keep my feet on the ground. Your voice has been my music when none was playing. I’ve thought about you every day for two years.

Then I became a phantom; I disappeared without a trace, caught up and carried out to sea by an unexpected wave. I left you alone and stranded without explanation or warning. Our relationship was so strong that I thought I could leave it untended as I incorporated a new person into my life. But that wasn’t fair and I’m so sorry. The truth is it’s not that I’ll always have room for you in my heart, but that my heart would be empty without you in it.

Though at night you sleep 10 feet from me, though at work you sit 20 feet away, I find myself farther from you than ever before. I disappeared and now the space between us grows. I disappeared, and now you’re disappearing too.

We don’t have an ever-present text conversation. I overhear jokes about the boy who liked your Facebook profile picture, but didn’t text you back. I get filled in about it a day later.

I used to know how you felt about every person you knew, and why. Now I have hazy notions of their previous hookups and brief glimpses of their family portraits. It seems strange to me that now there are people you know who remain mysterious to me.

Our lives are different now, yet every experience, emotion and memory over the past two years has been shared with you. So being left out of the details of your sex(less) life and gulping through your “new best friend” Snapchats doesn’t hurt so very much. Not knowing when your next problem set is due or that some bitch forgot to save you dinner doesn’t seem so very grave. Not knowing the petty shit doesn’t matter because we’re going to be family for the rest of our lives.

I’ll be feeding the flames of the girl on fire until one of us croaks. We’re playing the long game, baby.

I love you.

“Off the Beat” columns are written by Daily Cal staff members until the spring semester’s regular opinion columnists have been selected.

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