Ashley’s birthday was on April 20th, the same day as Hitler’s and Columbine and obviously four-twenty, which you observed like a national holiday. Her mother’s name was Marilyn and her family lived on Marilyn Place. Ashley was a really beautiful poet, you said. This was in the late ’90s and she loved Ani DiFranco. Sometimes you’d see her in the hallways and she’d be writing song lyrics on the white rubber of her Converse. You were crazy about her. You took Valium together and passed out on the blacktop of your driveway. Her dad had died the year before and the world was fuzzy through her grief. She pawed at you messily. I’m right here, you wanted to tell her.
You and Maggie shared a room in your college co-op where there were communal meals and a hammock strung up inside the common room, and someone was always baking loaves of bread in the middle of the night. You thought you spent all your time together but somehow it wasn’t enough. One Saturday night, Maggie wanted to stay in and watch Breathless. You texted her in the afternoon, told her your friends had spiked your lunch with shrooms. You said you were pissed but decided to roll with it. The next day she confronted your friends and they laughed, told her the entire thing was your idea. Sometimes she reminded you of that Dylan line, I gave her my heart but she wanted my soul.
On your seventeenth birthday, Haley gave you a blow job in the stairwell of her parents’ building on 97th and Amsterdam. You met in AP History and she had the biggest tits you’d ever seen. You joked that you wanted to tattoo each of her breasts; one would say Colin’s and the other would say Property. You both applied early to Brown and she got in, but you ended up at Oberlin. During Thanksgiving break, you told her you applied to transfer and she said, I’m sorry but please, please, please don’t.
Amy’s favorite candies were Reese’s Pieces and on Valentine’s Day you bought a bunch of king-sized bags and emptied them all out into her single, extra-long dorm bed. It was supposed to be romantic and playful but she was annoyed for weeks, finding pieces of crushed candy stuck to her sheets.
Sally’s dad was a real piece of shit. He left when she was four and popped up periodically, sending change of address cards when he moved from New Jersey to Florida to Colorado. Once, when he visited New York, you all went out for dinner at a Chinese restaurant in midtown. Each time Sally started to serve herself some lo mein or chicken and cashews, he’d swing the Lazy Susan back around his way.
Mona was your rock. She was in graduate school for global public health and once, when she went to Turkey for a few weeks, you got drunk and fucked a coworker in the bathroom at a bar in South Williamsburg. You were depressed, you said. You’d recently graduated from an MFA program and were writing copy for a tech catalog. You didn’t even come, could barely stay hard, and you weren’t planning to tell her but when you picked her up at the airport it just spilled out. Wow, she said, I didn’t think you were the kind of guy who couldn’t handle being with a smart, ambitious woman. That one really stuck with you.
You met Thea during your first year of architecture school and she propelled you out of your upper middle class suburban existence, took you to your first Jews for Palestine meeting at the student center. At Thanksgiving, you watched in awe as she went toe to toe with your Uncle Jerry, contesting stats about the occupation. You married on a frigid day in February at City Hall. She wore a blue dress and winter boots. Three years later she left you; said she grew out of the relationship, and maybe she didn’t even believe in the institution of marriage at all. You tell me she’s still one of your closest friends.
We go to a bar in Park Slope with gleaming wooden floors and shuffleboard in the back. We drink Old Fashioneds and you tell me you really want to make our relationship work, you just need to take things slowly.
The next morning, we lie in bed watching a video of a deer in Montana eating a cupcake. A text arrives on your screen. It’s from Susan cell and says, “thank you, love!!! Sixty-five is feeling great so far.” Then comes a picture of Susan, who is smiling and holding two tiny Maltese up to the camera. You say Susan is your mother-in-law. Former, I whisper. Right, you say, swiping the picture up and away.