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annual specter recognition

Lauren’s was December 23.

I was five, and my entire universe was a three house radius. She lived four houses down. The first time I saw her on the sidewalk we ran to each other like long lost sisters, instantaneous best friends. Lauren who made up ridiculous songs with me, and went along with my stupid ideas to dress up liked old ladies or once, inexplicably, rabbits. We scavenged in my backyard and played whirlpool in hers. She was the first person who ever really got me.

And then in seventh grade we drifted apart. She wanted to skip class to smoke and fool around with boys after school. Meanwhile my mom got hyper religious and I was too much of a people pleaser to rebel. Lauren was really shitty to me, and then all of the sudden she was gone, sent to live with her dad.

She contacted me via Facebook a few years ago to apologize. What is there to say? I can’t be mad at the decisions a thirteen year old made. We all made some pretty shitty decisions when we were young.

William, who lived across the street. May 22.

Just like me. And David. And, weirdly, Morrissey. I had a crush on William for a short time when I was in middle school, and I felt guilty about it. Because we were moving up in the world, and he was moving down, and I knew my parents wouldn’t approve. Not that it mattered. I’m sure he never gave it a second thought.

Aulbry’s was July 11.

In this case, I am the shitty friend. I met her around the time Lauren and I fell out. I was lonely, and even though we were opposites in so many ways, I enjoyed her company. But I was also a terrible snob. I knew how people perceived her, and I was afraid of being perceived the same way. By high school I had a new group of friends, and she was an outlier. We still hung out, but it got harder. She was into trucks, and country music, and getting felt up by some awful guy named Jake at the playground by her house. I was into art, reading, indie music, and completely inept with guys.

She got pregnant her first semester of college. Suddenly she had a husband, a kid, and all of this responsibility. And I was the one who wanted to be irresponsible for once – I finally had half a clue of how to act around guys. I had a serious boyfriend. I wanted to go to shows and parties and not hang out with a new mom who I had less and less in common with every day.

The worst part was that our moms were, still are, extremely close friends. So every time I heard about how Aulbry was doing, the guilt felt fresh. It’s all fixed now, but I can’t help but think about how I abandoned her when she probably most needed someone to talk to.

Gene’s was July 10.

I only remember this because it was the day before Aulbry’s and because I had a ridiculous, embarrassing crush on him for about a month when I was 16.

Crystal’s was October 1.

Some people come to you over time. Some people come at you all at once. Crystal was the latter. We were playing table hockey at a youth retreat. Such a weirdo and just so… completely herself. If she cared about what people thought, it never showed. Her personality never seemed to match her packaging, but that was part of the charm. She was the best late at night, when exhaustion and mania set in. Like when she flipped the card table over at Fabens. I was 17 and I don’t think I’ve laughed as hard since.

She moved away for school when I was 19. I missed her so much. We kept in contact for years, hung out over summers. But then she got married and quit coming home as much. I see her mom and dad a lot, which is nice. It’s like getting to keep a tiny piece of her.

Molly’s was August 28.

Of all of my old friends, I miss her the most. There was a simplicity about her way of thinking that cut through all of my bullshit. Glowing from within, with the wide smile and dark brown cork-screw curls. After high school I would drive down and visit her at UT. We would stay up all night. It was actually at her house that I first gave my future husband my phone number.

I don’t know why she stuck with me. She had every right to be upset with me. I very nearly screwed things up. She had the grace to stick with me, although we fizzled out a couple years later.

John’s was in late April, just before we split.

I don’t remember the exact date now and only mention it because it was such a good day. We skipped our morning classes and stayed in bed. It was one of the last good days we had. Again, I am an asshole. I think he wanted to give me another chance a couple of years later. A small part of me wishes I had taken him up on it, even knowing it would have eventually ended.

Wendy’s was April 30.

I still can’t talk about Wendy. It’s been a few years now, but everything still feels really raw.

Katie's was April 17.

Katie, Katie with the inside jokes about goats around Lake Travis and the little straw ring I gave her. At times our connection flamed so bright that we joked we were engaged. And then she actually got engaged, and her wedding was maybe the best wedding I've ever been to, even considering the bitter cold. She was a beautiful bride because she was a beautiful person.

Conrad’s was May 26.

Four days after mine, which is probably why I still recall it. He took me out for dinner once to celebrate our shared birthdays. After dinner he apologized. I’m still not sure which thing he was apologizing for. I think that was one of the last times we hung out. Before the time he caustically told me to “have a nice life” at the end of an otherwise tame night with friends. I hope with time he has forgiven for whatever I did to make him so bitter towards me.

Shad’s was April 27.

I remember this because Crystal and I made dinner for Conrad and Shad to celebrate his golden birthday. He was a few years older than us, and I thought that 27 seemed so grown up compared to 21. He once accused me of being coy and toying with his emotions. It wasn't true. But he also wasn't the first (or last) guy to tell me this.

Jamie's was St. Patrick's Day

She was there in so many of the small things that made life good after Molly & Crystal moved away, until everything imploded. Is it vain to think that she only stepped in to fill the void I left behind? It hurt to be friends with her after that. I remember the secrets she would share while we waited between classes in the Hall of Languages. Could she really not see how much it hurt me? Still, I hold the memories of the coffee shop dear.

Mary’s was on Leap Day

I miss being young and stupid, getting drunk in my first apartment, going to shows, driving to Deep Ellum on a Friday night just to go the record store. One time she bought a polka album, so we put the top down on my ’72 mustang and drove down Main Street, through the crowds and past all of the clubs, blasting polka music.

Taylor’s was August 11.

Taylor had the exterior of a living doll and the mouth of a sailor. So many good memories packed into such a short time. She and Mary were a set, but I always related to Taylor more. We made shirts that said JeMaryTay, a mix of all of our names. I still laugh to think they were drunk during my wedding. The night before we had a giant party in my apartment, filled mostly with friends of Cory’s, so we holed up in my room. The three of us spent the night drinking and blasting Mates of State with Mindy. (I wish I remembered Mindy’s birthday.)

Taylor invited me for years to come celebrate her birthday with her. Long after I had any right to her time. I was such an asshole. Or, possibly, terribly depressed. Either way, I miss her friendship fiercely.

Kate’s was April 29.

We used to celebrate her birthday with Wendy’s. A joint party with husbands and kids running around. She loved literature just as much as I do. I can’t say I wasn’t warned about Kate. Good riddance. I was her friend as long as I was useful to her, and then she moved on. Or I tell myself that, because it absolves me.

Hayley's was October 28.

Three more days and she would have been a Halloween baby. It would suit her so well. We orbited each other for years, unsure of the other, until that night Trey and Cory left us alone for an hour. By the time they came back we had gone from tentative to walls fully down. One of my favorite memories is still the night she and Trey stayed over until 6am. We finished off a whole bottle of whiskey. I told the story about the guy outside of my window. Cory said the thing about living in Montana, and we all thought it was hysterical.

She pulled away first, and I let her. I suspect Wendy had something to do with it. But if not, I owe her an apology.

I turn 44 on Monday. I wonder if any of them will think of me. I they do, I hope they reflect back with kindness.

10:52 a.m. - 2023-05-20

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