I wish there were a mailbox or inbox or cell phone or a wall to scrawl this letter on where you might receive it. I wonder if I speak the words into the Bronx River, might they return to you? I mentioned you today, and in that minute of acknowledging you, I remembered and remembered and remembered.
Lauren, I have spent hours wondering how we might feel about each other today. Taking stabs at what you might have been like as a woman in her late 20s, back in the city after years in Southern California, forever changed by the sunshine, smog, and Pacific Ocean. I have daydreamed lives for you: you driving up the coast, you in love, you serving dinners made from years of observing your mom, you working long hours with clear vision and a desire for change, you vacationing in the winters to somewhere you can tan or sail or swim. In all my dreams of you, we're always in the Bronx. You on the 6th floor on Loring Place, the same apartment where I bet your parents still live. You're listening to salsa, your hair is down, and you're always smiling. In my dreams of you, you wear a white top, your nose is pierced, and you're a late twenties version of your teenage self. And for some reason, in my dreams you are not infinitely happy. That is not to say that you're unhappy, you're just so tangibly human. You have flaws and judgments and disappointments. You are digging for your sense of self, finding history and culture in moments alone. You are like me and markedly different. You are all curls and perfect teeth. You are poetry and oil paints. You are the new Latin@ middle class, with an elite education and close to 6 figures, and you are so very serious. See, in my memories of you, you are smart and silly and young. And in my dreams of you, you are smart and serious and woman.
You make me feel a bit inadequate, a bit selfish, even. Selfish for uprooting myself, losing myself in love and art and music and daydreams. Selfish for not wanting children or marriage or even connection to family. Selfish for abandoning our kinship and wrapping myself in this world that's not you: a Queer, Brooklyn, perpetually leaning toward single and ridiculously independent world. A reality impenetrable by you, and your reality impenetrable by me. I really believe that, that I left you behind in growing into an identity so different from yours. And this is the point where I come to terms with my internalized homophobia and transphobia: the ways in which I was unable to be me with you toward the end. The phone conversations where you didn't understand what I wanted from my relationships, or my gender, or my body. You thought I was taking it for granted, and that has stuck with me. Almost nine years since those conversations: where you noted my privilege in this body (ephemeral as it has proven to be). Where you reminded me of the places where my dissatisfaction felt like choice. And what could I say then? I didn't have the knowledge I have now. I didn't have the language, the ferocity, the fierce desire to let anyone in, to be vulnerable in both of our confusion with me.
I have stopped resenting you for not understanding me. I have stopped resenting myself for not fitting into what you knew or what I should have been. I wanted us to always be kin. I wanted us to always be similar, to always understand each other and show up for each other, and just get it. And we didn't. So this is where my wondering takes me to places that make me uneasy. Would we have grown so different and closed off in our understandings of each other to have by now lost contact? Would we be strangers in this new decade? Smiling and hugging briefly over coffee one day, quietly gawking at each other's facebook profiles in judgment and not seeing each other again for another decade? Would I still be stuck in my limited view of you as a straight girl who would not accept me or understand me? As a Christian who would pray that I be saved? As the sister who did what the rest of my family did, and love only their memory of the girl I used to be and not the gender I embody or the adult I've become? Would you resent me for being so far from you through your illness? For being so scared of losing you and so scared of both of our fragility to really spend time and tears through that fight.
Or would we be something else altogether? Would we be in love with the people we've become? Would we share stories, walks in the park, lines of our poetry, jokes about where we came from, sarcasm and self-deprecating humor? Would we meet up each time we were in the neighborhood seeing our aging parents, go shopping on Fordham Road, take the bus to Co-op city to watch movies like when we were kids? Would we become each other's biggest allies? Would we be able to move beyond the places where we are just so different, and love each other unconditionally? Still talk on the phone for hours, giggle and cry and warn each other's boyfriends to be careful with our hearts because we love hard, and protect each other harder? Would we be there with ice cream and rom coms, cliches of our generation, to get through broken hearts, long days at work, and the constant harsh reality of the state of the world? Would we have learned about each other? Would we have been able to see each other, and choose each other, like we did, that first day we met, on that school bus on a hot summer morning, busing out of our hood and slowly approaching what would become the beginning of our coming of age.
Sometimes, when I regress, and find myself in the angst of being 15 and pissed off, I think of days when you and I would come home to my parents' apartment. Shut the door to my bedroom, play loud music and giggle, and you would ask me questions about boys and pretend you didn't know that I was Queer or that I had started actively pursuing my addictions. We were wrapped in hip hop, the NYC poetry scene, chatter in science classes, Julia De Burgos, and the places where our race, class and gender overlap set us apart. You were my heart, the girl I would fight fiercely for, the person whom I felt safest with, most protected by. You were my family, the mirror of my quiet sadness, the one who understood why I ached so deep, why I longed to love so hard.
I have been missing you, wondering about you, and hoping, with all that composes me and all that drives me, that we get some closure.
I love you dearly.