I don't know how to start this. I know you'll never read it, but I need to let them out, all these things I've never said.
I'm writing this because it's the first anniversary of your death, and I don't know if I can take it.
I want to talk about my Mondays with you, working at the vintage store downtown: the coffee we bought, the jingling of keys mingling with our laughter, echoes reverberating off the walls as we'd close for the day. After school, there'd be that familiar flood of customers, but after, the store would be ours. We'd spend hours trading stories, eating where we weren't supposed to, dancing to the records that no one would buy.
We discovered that we had too much in common to just be co-workers, and started hanging out during school and our days off, going to movies, having sleepovers. We were inseparable. But as time rolled by, from September to November, I felt what had started as friendship become something much more. A gnawing started in the pit of me, a fire in my heart, sweaty palms and disrupted thoughts. I didn't understand what it was, at first, but slowly I began to know. Finally, I could take no more torture, no more not knowing.
So one night, right before Christmas break, I kissed you.
And you kissed back.
When we finally pulled away twenty minutes later, we stared at each other, panting and red.
Before I could tell you what I desperately wanted to, you buttoned your shirt, picked up your bag, and walked into your house without saying goodbye.
You stopped answering my texts after that, and my calls, and my emails. You started avoiding me at school, changing your work shifts and eventually quitting.
I was ashamed, miserable, and confused.
How could you let our friendship deteriorate completely over something so brief?
I loved you, it's true, but surely you can't hold that against me. You, compared to Scarlett Johansson almost daily; you, reading psychology texts; you, lighting birthday candles in a cigar box shrine to Anthony, the patron saint of lost things. You made it difficult for me not to love you. You were beautiful.
So, after enduring a horrible two month period of silence, I drove to your house wearing the same clothes I wore when I kissed your lips, in the same car where I once took your hair in my hands and pulled you close. And when you opened the door in baggy sweatpants, looking pale and tired, I whispered the same words I tried to say before you walked away from me.
"I love you."
You stared at me.
I stared back. Neither of us broke the silence for several agonizingly awkward minutes, the wind dotting our arms with thick trails of goosebumps.
Just as I thought that maybe I should just go home, you grabbed me by the collar and yanked me into the hallway, kissing me angrily. You led me up the stairs, past your parents watching TV in the living room, and into your bedroom, where you locked the door.
Not once did I stop to ask you what had changed your mind, what had told you to make this decision. Would you have, if you were terrified of the silence between us if it wasn't filled with the sound of lips and tongues and the rustle of fabric? Scared that the sound of your voice would drive love away again? Nor did I think much of your tears-you were just sweet Kate being sweet Kate. Sweet, innocent you.
After we were done, clothes strewn across the floor and the sheets, you would not let me hold you, or even touch you, and instead sat on the edge of the mattress completely naked, staring out the window at the early February frost curling across the pane.
I looked at the clock and saw my curfew was almost up, so I silently dressed, glancing at you, but you never moved. Not once.
When I was fully clothed and had found my keys, I walked over to you and kissed you lightly on the forehead. Before I could pull away, you grabbed my wrist and touched my nose to yours.
"Goodbye," you whispered. "I didn't want to not say it this time."
Another sweet, innocent thing. I smiled and crept down the stairs, past your now-sleeping parents, and drove away.
I left that night filled with hope: hope for us, for something good, for anything but another two month silence. Anything.
The next morning, I bought two coffees, one for me, and one for you, just the way you liked it.
I drove to your house, humming some song on the radio, and saw the yellow crime scene tape across the front gate.
Two minutes later, a cop told me that you were dead.
Suicide is such an ugly word.
I hate her.
I love her.
How could you?
For hours I sat in my car, freezing cold, the heater off and the radio on, playing some syrupy sweet pop crap that you would have hated me for listening to. The cops finally left with your parents, and for the second time in two days, I snuck up the stairs and into your room.
It looked almost exactly the same as when I left over twelve hours previous: sheets rumpled, books everywhere. There was a plate of food on your desk: a cold, greasy breakfast, probably brought up by your mother when you wouldn't reply to her calls to wake up. I ate it all, savoring the bits that I know you would have. I drank my coffee, and then yours for good measure, throwing both cups away in your wastepaper basket, which was overflowing with papers and burnt matches and plastic wrappers.
I laid down on your bed and clenched the sheets in my fists, trying to understand how I could have kissed every inch of you on that bed the day before, and would never get the opportunity again. I cried then, turning to muffle my sobs in your pillow, and sobbed even harder when I realized it smelled like you: vanilla. I sat up and pressed the pillow to my face as hard as I could, trying to inhale as much of your scent as possible before I had to accept that I would never see, touch, or taste you again; all of my senses, useless without you.
Eventually, I had to leave, my face and soul numb, so that your parents wouldn't find me. For the last time, I snuck out of your house and drove away.
I couldn't bring myself to go to the wake a week later, but your funeral was the day after, and I knew that if it was my last chance to really say goodbye, I had to take it. I managed to make it through the entire service crying only three times, silently into my wrists.
After, there was lunch at your house- I went, even though I couldn't possibly imagine eating anything ever again. I slid past the large clumps of women in black and men in suits and children who didn't understand what happened and went upstairs to your room.
The door was closed, and when I opened it I almost cried again. But I controlled myself. I was there for a reason. My final goodbye to you, the only girl I ever loved; the first girl I ever kissed; my best friend.
I walked across the room to the desk and found a psychology text open to a bookmarked page- a section on homosexuality. I flipped through the next few pages, finding highlights and Post-It Notes covered in scribblings. I saw my name a few times. I couldn't bring myself to read.
I put the book back the way it was and left the card I'd bought on the way to the church. It was pink, with two bees on the center surrounded by little red hearts. In curly text on the top, it said, "Bee Mine." Stupid.
I looked at your posters, your bed, your books, your clothes. "Happy Valentine's Day," I said to them, and then I walked away without saying goodbye.
Your parents moved away just after that, selling the house to a middle aged lesbian couple and their adopted daughter.
I don't know what happened to the card I left you: but I think your parents knew who it was from, though I didn't sign my name.
I wasn't even going to tell you any of this, knowing how pointless it was. Then a picture of us fell out of an old binder, and I saw you smiling up at me.
And now I can't stop crying.