Written for Jonathan Bradley Welch’s amazing A Very Special Episode show! Theme: BFF’s!
I met my best friend, as so many of us do, the first week of college. She was looking for someone on my Hall, in Bruce Hall, which was the dorm where all the art students lived, because it had art studios on the top floor and also because it was the cheapest. It didn’t have air conditioning and it was supposed to be haunted. I don’t know if it was haunted, but a kid did die elevator surfing, where you get into an elevator shaft and ride on an elevator until someone takes it to the top floor and you fucking die. Instead of getting a haunted elevator, we got the elevator closed the rest of the year and everybody had to take the fucking stairs. Don’t pity him. Pity me.
Melissa walked past my door, which was open because there was no a/c, and I went out and said, hi, it’s nice to meet another goth. She said, what’s a goth? And I shook my head and said, it’s us. It’s what we are.
Sidebar: this story is before your Edward Scissorhands and your Hot Topic and your mainstreaming of goth, before the Craft, before the 2000’s when everyone was wearing vinyl pants and talking about how they partied like a rockstar. Mel was from a small town in Texas called Palestine, which had the same population as my high school. Word of goth had not gotten there yet, and she may have believed she was the only person who read tarot and listened to sad music for hours. She was not.
Mel had long black hair and little round silver glasses and dark lipstick and many layers of black lace on, and in general looked like someone who maybe someday would get a Sylvia Plath tattoo. I had short red hair and a nose ring and looked like someone who might have prepared a monologue from Sylvia Plath’s the Bell Jar for an audition for a film called Teen Witch, because she did not understand auditions. That is something that I did do, and they managed to make the film without me.
I asked her, what do you think you are? What do your high school friends call you? And she shrugged and said, spooky kid. We started hanging out right away. Our main hobbies were: taking acid and seeing the Rocky Horror Picture Show, then coming home and watching Singin’ in the Rain, getting dressed up and taking dramatic portraits of each other in the stairwells at school, drinking terrible dorm coffee with ice cream bars melted into them, drinking Bailey’s irish cream, and wondering why we were getting fat.
We were inseparable, we dated briefly until we remembered we were probably primarily straight, we went to New Orleans for spring break and hung out in front of Anne Rice’s house, we went to goth clubs, we sat in the back of rooms and complained together, and in general we had fun.
Our friendship wasn’t perfect. One time, when Tank Girl came out, based on a comic book series I liked a lot, I shaved my head into a skinhead girl Chelsea haircut and wore tutus and combat boots a lot, and felt like I was really working an edgy look. She took a photograph of me from the back that when we got developed- developed, kids- it demonstrated that my head was a bad one for shaving. My head is long and H.R. Geiger-like in the back, and there is a shelf. I asked her why she hadn’t told me my head was bad and she shrugged and said she figured it was too late.
One time she wouldn’t stop puking, and I took her to the emergency room and waited with her for ten hours.
One time, she was my confidant and best friend and support system and she understood me, and that was all the time.
One time, we drove to Oklahoma city in the middle of the night because we wanted a box of boo-berry cereal, which was not available in Texas, and we ate it in the dorm cafeteria as the sun came up and it wasn’t very good.
We were a really good match. I was a little too tall and she was a little bit short. I was an emotionally needy extrovert who met everyone and remembered no-one and she was sometimes shy, but she could remember everyone we’d met and told me.
After college, I moved to Portland, OR to date a boy I’d met in Dallas. She followed soon after and we took back up together, doing exciting things like going to a goth club owned by the Russian mob, drinking lots and dancing to Britpop and in general complaining that things weren’t the same as they had been in Dallas, Texas. What they were was much better.
I got married to a guy and I think she liked him okay. She asked for a key to my house, and she would give me the key to her house, for emergencies but also so she could come over whenever, like we had always done. I said I don’t think I can do that anymore, it’s as much his house as it is mine, and also sometimes we’re having sex in it. She was maybe hurt but said it was OK.
I became aware that she had found another girl to hang out with named Caroline. Caroline was also a little too tall and wore high heels all the time and I thought she was loud, even though I am also sometimes loud.
We still liked each other. We still saw each other. But Caroline was usually there too. It was stupid to complain that I was jealous. Why should I be jealous? I was jealous.
Our friendship wasn’t really over until she and my husband had a disagreement about plans that they’d made. I expected her to pick us up for a DJ gig and she didn’t, but she showed up hours later, drunk and with Caroline, talking in circles about how fun and fucked up their evening had been. I told her I was pretty done with not being able to depend on her, and she was furious.
It was her word against his, and I felt like I had to side with my husband. It was a small thing. Looking back, it didn’t matter, but everyone was very angry.
Two years later, my marriage ended, because he was sleeping with another friend of mine, which I didn’t like very much. That friend was surprised that I didn’t like her anymore, which no matter how many times it happens, always surprises me.
I went to Melissa’s wedding, to a tall blonde Swede, within the month of my divorce, because I loved her and it was important. It was a beautiful wedding in an art library, with favors made from antique books and a cake in the shape of a gilded beehive. I sat with our friends and cried a little harder than everyone else, because I wasn’t just happy for her, I was also sorry for myself. She had fallen out with Caroline over something.
We are still facebook friends. We leave each other likes and comments. I am happy to be to see her happy. She is happily married and so is my ex-husband. But I still miss my very best friend.