I tell you a story and then consider: Is that a personal experience or something I watched and have neglected to properly cite in my mind’s filing cabinet that’s marked ‘memories?’ This is an understandable occurrence when handling the memories of my teen years--so little was happening, and the little that did occur was often molded based on something I read about, listened to, or had watched. Like every chapter, song, and episode was a ‘try this at home’ tutorial.
15 and in the city for the weekend, each train ride in my friendship with Louise crystallized further. She was my phone lock screen, my constant text recipient, my McDonalds-in-the-middle-of-the-night best friend. She was the Sophie to my Frances, or the Frances to my Sophie, depending on the day. She was the friend whose experiences feel like my own. Whose experiences were my own.
Creating a collective memory–living within it, this immaculate cottage of emotion and memory–things are bound to be left out. There are a few items on the to-pack list that go unchecked, ideas about the self that are worth exploring but are left by the wayside in place of talking about clothes, movies, and books we feel we should read but haven’t set out to. Our sexuality: the thing we left back in our now empty rooms of individuality. At the time, it seemed we were competing over the same man. Now it seems he was more actively jostling for the attention of two girls who were more enamoured with each other than we could ever be with the skinny man whose legs we described as our ‘thin-spo.’
On the train, when I lost my virginity to a boy with whom L had also fooled around, she asked me if I thought I was pregnant. As if it were a normal post-coital check in. She was always trying to make things larger than they were, more dramatic. Not with the typical verbiage (literally) that one would occupy to enlarge something, but with this general belief that the most notable reaction would follow every action. We sat on the train–before they opened it up so you could look down from the front car to back car, every pair of sneakers aboard visible–stuck in our own little points of view. It was easier to inhabit hers, to think it was sensical to pick up a stick to pee on on the way home.
In her book of poems, Yvonne Rainer writes, “The negotiations / around I am not you / become moot / at parting.” Louise and I didn’t know each other long before we became the same. The parts of ourselves that were different than the other, or the parts that we both had but simply didn’t want to address, were quickly negotiated out of existence. There were movie scenes and artist references that weren’t of mutual understanding, so they either had to rise to mutuality or fall out of our repertoire entirely. It wasn’t worth being anything but an exact copy of the other.
Neglecting to consider the self is the easiest route of the friendship. Leave the baggage resting by the front door, address it all a little later. The meaning of my bond with her was left dormant, I unflinchingly constructed my self around hers. What does it mean to define oneself around another. To have your being traced right next to theirs.
We scrapbooked ourselves together, swapping stories of near kisses for stories of well-landed embarrassments. Our lives were suddenly and finitely validated by one’s
Our stories of undeniable embarrassments were validated by the notion that they lived on in our shared memory. A text conversation gone sour, or a general distaste for parties was fine, encouraged even. The more defined you were, the easier it was to live mostly in the mind of another. “Of course, said Geryon. He was trying to fit this Herakles onto the one he knew,” Anne Carson’s Autobiography of Red goes. Missing a friend so intricately constructed, or maybe more finding this person once again, is nearly impossible. Context is everything. The alchemy’ll be off when removed from its original scene. The spark, entirely irretrievable, exists only with its contained environment.
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