Do you remember that time we dyed your hair dark brown and you cried because you looked like Maria in "West Side Story?" We were bored and broke and so we did lots of random things in our small (so small apartment.) We sat at our table and painted with watercolors, we made milkshakes in the blender from ice cream we bought at the little bodega across the street. We smoked lots and lots of cigarettes and wrote in our journals. I once built a desk from scrap wood in the living room and it turned out to be so large I couldn't fit it through the door to my bedroom. We laughed really hard. And then you helped me take out all the screws and move the parts one at a time.
We journeyed across the country together, from your childhood home in the South to the big city on the West coast. When I picked you up, your mother poured us glasses of fresh squeezed lemonade and we played Hearts in the back yard with friends you had known your whole life. The next morning, after we'd loaded all your things into my tiny, red hatchback you wrapped your arms around your mom and cried. You cried all the way out of town. I drove through the gray light of early morning and worried about you. I also admired the way your new haircut fell in waves around your face. You were probably wearing overalls over a tank top and probably I was, too. After a while you stopped crying and we listened to Dwight Yoakum and Randy Travis and sang all the songs at the top of our lungs as we drove into the heat of the summer day.
On that trip, our air conditioner gave out in Arkansas and we didn't have enough money or time to get it fixed. We rolled down the windows and stopped often for Cokes and crushed ice. We dunked our heads in the sinks of rest area bathrooms and still we were hot. So hot that on a particularly long stretch the print of your sundress bled onto the pillowcase of the pillow you kept on your seat. It was hot and sweaty and the car was filled with everything we thought we might need for our new post college life out West.
In our first apartment, we danced on the wide, empty wood floors of our living room and threw parties where we served hamburgers on English muffins, potatos mashed with cheese and salsa and your famous "Jiffy Mix" muffins. We sat around our table with friends and made Christmas cards and Valentines, paintings and collages. A friend dubbed us "the Feminist Craft Circle." It was so nice to share a glass of wine, a pair of scissors and a tube of glue with you.
In our second apartment and second city, we circled ads in the employment section of the paper and layed flat on the floor to stay cool. We spent a whole summer working our schedule around the airing of "All My Children" to see if Hope would ever, ever get out of the well. We drove to the beach and charged fried clams and Bloody Marys to our credit cards. You worked at a smoothie place and I served hamburgers to tourists and the days went by. One day you packed up your things. You missed your family and your town and your friends. You hated the noise and pollution and grind of the big city. I was so sad to lose you, but without a better plan, so I stayed behind.
Before you left, you helped me find a new apartment. You checked the locks on the doors, made sure I was on the second floor. Together, we painted my kitchen yellow and rolled a coat of turquoise paint on a very damaged wood floor. It was your idea to paint the inside of the kitchen cabinets so that every time I reached for a glass, I would find a surprise burst of periwinkle blue.
It has been a long, long time since I have heard your drawl (always more pronounced after a drink or a phone call home), a long time since we have shared a meal or twirled around the house in an impromptu dance party. I see photos of you and your children, hear little bits about your life and look with wonder at what we have become. I think you knew what you wanted long before I did, but we both seem to have figured out a way to live happily in the world.
Love and Spuds O' Rama,