Dear Old Friend,

You’ll never read this, which begs the question: what is the point? 

And I suppose there is no point.  

My head has just been swirling since I heard the news this afternoon, and I thought that maybe I’d feel better getting my thoughts on a page.

Maybe I’ll light a candle and read it aloud, later.

Just this past week a friend sent me a silly meme.  He wrote, along with it, “Jess, why do I feel like this will resonate with you?

It was two of the Powerpuff Girls, their hair sopping wet, pouting at each other.  The caption: me at age 9 saying goodbye to the girl I met on the beach that I would never see again.

I laughed because it was true.  I’ve always been a sentimental person, and I remember all of my friends, however long or short our friendships—even though, many of them, I’d have no idea where to find, even with social media at my fingertips. 

The 1-day beach friends.  The McDonald’s PLAYPLACE friends.  The theater camp friend who made me snort Dr. Pepper out of my nose…my best friend from children’s choir, who loathed choir practice as much as I did.

And you, of course.  My first “boyfriend.”

Well…I suppose you never were my boyfriend—at least not knowingly. 

After learning, at age five, that it would be illegal for me to marry my cousin, Sammy, I decided to marry you, instead.

That was why I followed you around at our parents’ boring parties.  You were fun, and intelligent, and, of course, my future husband.  

You were a year older than I was, a full six years old, and so very mature in my eyes.  I considered myself lucky to have you!  I’d pick out my best and most twirliest dress to wear when I knew I was going to see you.  I had to make the perfect impression.

You knew how to pop the Pepsi can tabs at the parties without cutting your fingers, which was most impressive.  You opened mine for me, and listened to me dawdle on and on about how I was going to be the head majorette in the 4th of July parade even though I didn’t know how to twirl a baton and was a goddamned liar. 

And when I’d stop talking for a few minutes, you would teach me things about math and science and we’d run around until the adults inevitably said “slow down, you two!”

I was so sad when you moved away.  Over the next few years, whenever I got dragged to a party, I’d ask if you were going to come, and the answer became “no” more often than not.  

On rare occasion, usually in the summer time, the answer would be “yes.”  One summer, at the lake, we rode in a boat, and you showed me how to fish.  You liked a band called “Slipknot,” and at the end of the day, you gave me your screen name. I remember it by heart, to this very day.  

Then lots of years went by.  You got into a school in the city.  I got very sick.  

During my recovery, I looked you up on Facebook and sent you a message.  I wasn’t sure if you’d remember me, but you said “of course I do!  How are you, little Jesse!”

I thought to myself, maybe I’ll become a Broadway actress next year and we will reunite in the city, and fall in love, and my five year old self would’ve been right all along.

But we didn’t.  Fate had other plans.

Last I knew, you were living overseas.  Multi-lingual and as intelligent as I always knew you to be.

I live in our hometown again, since the pandemic, and I have thought of you from time to time—I’ve had so much time to peel back the pages of my childhood memories.  

You don’t have social media anymore, but I found you on LinkedIn about two months ago.  Your face is more mature, but it is still quite the same face from my memory.

I’ve only just started monkeying around with LinkedIn, and I thought, “shall I add him? Send him a message and say, ‘I know this is strange, but it’s me: Jesse.  You used to open my Pepsi cans, and I was in love with you!’”

But I didn’t.  The fragile ego in me thought “better not.  He looks awfully professional and awfully important.  He’d be far too busy.” 

I’m very sorry that I didn’t.  I had no idea you, too, were drowning in the sea of unemployment that this violent pandemic has sunk us in.

I don’t pretend that my reaching out would have changed what happened.  I just know that I’ve felt so hopeless and purposeless and just plain sad through all this, and now I know you were, too.

Maybe our commiseration would’ve brought you some comfort.

Maybe just the realization that your long lost “girlfriend” across the sea still remembers our talks and our memories.  Still remembers your screen name, and your favorite band.  

Maybe knowing, even in your darkest, most loneliest moments, that someone so long gone from your life now, still held you in such high regard…maybe for a moment, you would’ve felt better.  The smallest moment can sometimes cause the biggest shifts in perspective.

Your childhood friend loves you very much.  Even though it’s been so long, she wishes she could still reach out.  Even if it was just to say “thank you for teaching me to fish.”  

When I look back on the people in my life, you are one of my favorites.  

You’ll always be one of my favorite people.  

My heart breaks. I hope this pandemic is over soon.

Love,

Jesse

My Mom Thinks I’m a Difficult Person

The other day my mom told me that I remind her of “the red head on Difficult People.

And I was like…”sooo…the MAIN difficult person?”

And she was like, “not because I think you’re difficult, though!”

And I was all, “ew, eye roll emojiiiiiii”

And so you know what I told her today? I said, “Mom, you never showed me Hocus Pocus as a kid and that’s why I am the way I am.”

She laughed, but I did not.

Because can you imagine the utter humiliation I felt in college when my roommates skipped class to watch Hocus Pocus and drink pumpkin ale and I said “oh, is this Casper Meets Wendy?”

IS IT ANY WONDER I’M UNSUCCESSFUL AND UNEMPLOYED?

Well, I’ve had nothing but time during the pandemic to think about what has made me the way I am, and quarantining in the town where I grew up, I’ve been able to do some real investigating. If you live in the Syracuse area and have noticed a girl with a tiny topknot and sunglasses-even-though-it’s-overcast, driving a gray CRV slowly by your house, trying desperately to see over the steering wheel, it’s 100% me.

I’m driving by your house because

  • a) an old friend of mine used to live there and I used to go to her house and play, and I’m trying to get in touch with my inner child
  • b) I remember passing your house on the school bus and imagining whoever lived there was a sad old woman who’s husband drowned in the Erie Canal…(don’t ask, I was fascinated by the Erie Canal)
  • c) I stuck my head under the tiny waterfall of the creek that runs through your backyard (on a dare!)
  • or d) I lost my virginity in your house

I know, I know. This seems creepy and unsettling, but I promise it’s an important part of my healing process.

On some real sh–, though, I’ve found it quite therapeutic. Because ever since having cancer (yes, the cancer card! I know, you’re SHOCKED!) I’ve tried many times to remember what it felt like to not have that big black mark on my life. What it was like to be a real kid. And I think once I was well and it was time for me to go to college, I left Syracuse with the singular impression that I wouldn’t–couldn’t–ever spend more time than a summer’s vacation there ever again.

I guess I just figured it was because I had that typical, angsty, “I-HATE-MY-HOMETOWN-IT’S-SO-LAME-MAN” thing going on.

But in truth? I think it was because I was just afraid of being surrounded by history. Afraid of the memories of the “before” Jesse creeping up. The places she went, the things she did. Knowing how difficult it is sometimes to try and remember what it was like to be that girl…

Or, rather, maybe I DO remember what it was like to be that girl quite well…and what makes me sad is knowing how innocent she was, and how blindsided she would be by the darkness of the world…

Or honestly, it could’ve been the Hocus Pocus thing. IF YOU WEREN’T GONNA SHOW ME THAT MOVIE, MOM AND DAD, WHY DID YOU EVEN HAVE ME!?

Thus the road to self-discovery drones on…

Wow. I am difficult.