It’s funny how you always think you’ll have another chance to talk to someone. Well, maybe “think” is the wrong word; It’s a subconscious sense of the ebb and flow of a friendship. It doesn’t punctuate itself with bookends of “hello” and “goodbye,” but takes shape in the endless back and forth of stupid pictures sent over Facebook, the French homework riddled with secret notes, or the performance of a silly wave after you hop out of the passenger’s seat and head up the front steps. In this sense, maybe it only makes sense we never said a proper goodbye. Formality was never your style to begin with.
You are the truest soul I have ever met. You are an Allen Ginsberg Franz Kafka Salvador Dali Angel who descended from your cloud and cast a protective spell over my 15-year-old self. You taught me how to hula hoop, how to run through the forest and skin my knees, how to scream poetry at the clouds. I like to think you taught me how to never grow up.
I remember when you slept over at my house and, as we watched Oliver! I lay there steaming at your insistence to eat an inch of peanut butter smeared over bread while laying in my bed, crunching crumbs into my pillow. Some summer, we attempted to have a picnic in the park across from my house. Neither of us could ever sit still for long enough to attempt propriety, though, and we ended up climbing all over the stone mansion and taking goofy pictures with the statues. Another time, neither of us could sleep and so we built a pillow fort in your living room, where we watched videos of Andrea Gibson and split a box of Oreos (I get the cookie, you get the cream) until morning. That’s the Katie it’s impossible to forget: My Sylvia Plath Princess. I just never thought your stories would end the same way.
I don’t know what happens to people when they die, but I do know that wherever you are, you’re making someone’s heart swell to unhealthy levels with adoration. Frankly, it’s inevitable. You are just that kind of gal.
If it’s not too much trouble, let me know how you are doing every now and then.
As an all-around solitary person, I often wonder about the inner-workings of friends, couples, families, angry mobs, etc. that I encounter, even for the briefest of moments. The other day, I decided to go for a stroll through the streets of Florence and imagine the past, present, and future of every couple I saw.
Sandra met Nico about a year or so ago. She didn’t usually go out, but it was a Friday night and her friends had been begging her for weeks. That night, in the haze of four glasses of wine, Nico’s greasy smile had looked much more inviting. I spot them sitting side by side on the #25 bus. Nico is sporting an incredibly unfortunate Ed Hardy t-shirt that is only complemented by his acid-wash jeans. Sandra snaps her gum loudly between painted-purple lips and stares wistfully out the window. She’s trying to think of a way to get Nico to finally chip in and pay rent, since he’s been crashing at her place ever since he got kicked out of his parents’ place for using his grandma’s inheritance money to get a tattoo of a snake swallowing a tiger, but she doesn’t want to nag. She’s always been told not to be “one of those girls.” In approximately four weeks, Sandra will walk in on Nico sticking it to a blonde college student on the countertop of her kitchen. She won’t make a scene, but the next day she’ll quietly kick him out of her life and breathe a sigh of relief. His Axe body spray had been giving her a rash, anyway.
In the center of Piazza San Marco, I see fourteen-year-old Martina sit in the lap of fifteen-year-old Antonio. Amidst the large group of friends, these two appear to be the stars. Perhaps it’s Antonio’s ridiculously white smile or the truly poetic way Martina’s pink sequin scrunchie catches the light. She asks him to make the face he made a month or two ago when he saw her for the first time as she walked into their math class. Antonio obliges and pops his eyes wide. The group of friends surrounding them bursts into laughter and Martina pinches his cheek like your aunt with the mustache. About another week from now, Martina will have had no fewer than three breakdowns resulting from Antonio’s failure to bring her the chocolates with the coconut that she likes, getting two answers wrong on the history homework he did for her, and having to cancel their six-week anniversary date in order to attend his grandmother’s funeral. Antonio will be heartbroken and for weeks only able to masturbate to pictures of American country superstar Martina McBride.
Silvio and Bernardo were supposed to be a one-night stand, but when Silvio had to go back to Bernardo’s to get his keys the next day, they ended up sharing lunch and an intense mutual appreciation for Anderson Cooper. Today I see them strolling through Piazza della Signoria. They stop and admire the clothes in the window of Chanel and talk at a rapid speed, seemingly just to be vocalizing rather than conversing. It’s difficult to tell them apart as they have nearly-matching green windbreakers and slicked-back brown hair. Even their noses have the same awkward arch that makes you wonder if they were punched in the face at some point, but then are too nervous to ask so you just assume the answer is yes. In a year or so, Bernardo is going to make partner at his law firm, resulting in a intimidation-laden crises of self for Silvio. He’ll passive-aggressively congratulate Bernardo for weeks while simultaneously curdling into a ball of self-destructive frustration. Finally, the day will come where Silvio tells Bernardo that things just aren’t working out anymore. Bernardo will accept things without a fight, and Silvio won’t figure out his calling as a painter for another three years.
Along the banks of the Arno, I see Rafaele and Justine leaning over the dusty brick in order to admire what is potentially the world’s most unromantic shit-stream. They’re talking animatedly, though Justine’s mousy hair keeps blowing into her own mouth in a rather unattractive manner. Rafael’s pants are practically belted at his armpits and his forehead is shiny with sweat. He’s still nervous seeing Justine in person though, considering they met online. It’s been two years since that fateful post on the message board for ferret and weasel enthusiasts, but only two weeks since the start of their romantic Florentine getaway. Tomorrow, on their last day together, Justine will be the recipient of a wolf-whistle from a conventionally attractive young man. Upon turning back to Rafael, she will only be able to see his pocket protector and his neck acne. When Rafael gets the courage to go in for a kiss later that day, Justine will politely refuse him. They agree to part as friends, despite the fact that Rafael is filled with a murderous rage that will cause him to hold-up a mini-mart later in life, just to feel in control.
Patrizia and Patrizio have been married for 60 years and 60 days exactly. They don’t really remember how they met anymore, as both of them are slowly spiraling into the warm embrace of dementia. They think it might have been at a picnic. Or maybe Partizia was a stripper, it really doesn’t matter either way. On this day, Patrizia has suggested they get out of the house and get some fresh air. Patrizio helps his wife into her mink and waits as she blots on a smeary patch of red lipstick. I catch them just stepping out from their apartment and onto the cobblestone street. They forget to close the door behind them and begin their slow, aimless shuffle into town. A while from now, just before their 75th anniversary, Patrizia will decide she wants a divorce, if only for a change of pace. She files on the grounds that he hit her once when they were about 40. It had been an argument about Patrizia’s drinking problem and they had agreed just to forget about it. With a shaking hand, Patrizio will sign the papers, just wanting to make his soon to be ex-wife happy. The next day, he’ll have suffer a brain aneurysm and die.