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Wednesday April 18, 2001, 02:18

I miss the way I used to write1. I miss the things I used to say. And yes, I have spent this evening reading through my old journal entries. Old as in two years ago. Old as in when I was in college. Old as in when I was not living at home and was considering moving to San Francisco. Old as in the day I met the girl that I would end up dating several months later.

And old as in the day I lost a friend.

I had only made vague allusions to it in my journal, this particular event. Then, as now, I was not fond of mentioning names. Or events. Or anything specific that would lead people to say things like "so, I hear shit went ill last night, huh?" I would also write a lot of things in comments and leave them there for later, and I would generally separate sections with an ellipsis to indicate that there might in fact be some hidden text in there, though not always. And there might be hidden text without the little dots. That happens too sometimes.

Sometimes I would quote lyrics that I thought were particularly appropriate.

I was flipping through my journal, page by page, looking for something. I didn't actually remember how I'd mentioned it. Had I put it in the comments? Had I said it out loud? Or had I vaguely referenced it? Turns out I was pretty heavy handed about the whole thing.

I was dressed in a suit. I had just ushered a show at the main theatre on campus and I had to have dark pants and a white, button shirt. So I wore my suit pants and my dress shirt. I got home and had to go to this party. I had promised that I would go to this party. I was fairly certain that I was not going to have fun at the party, but I promised anyway. Rather than taking off my suit pants and shirt to change to go to the party I decided to put on my tie and coat and go all out.

Just for fun.

And I went to the party. And I tried to talk and have fun at the party. But I wasn't comfortable, and people kept asking about my suit ("Why are you wearing a suit?" "Why not?" or "So people would ask me why I was wearing a suit!") and when my friends paged me to see if I wanted to go get some food, I gave a resounding "Yes!"

I went out to talk to her (note, no proper names). I told her that I wanted to go get food with my friends and was that ok? At the time I did not realize what an ass I was being. And it was true. And she called me on it. And she told me that I should just go hang out with my cool friends. With the friends I actually liked hanging out with.

I disappeared for a minute, perhaps heading towards the door, perhaps towards the phone. She grabbed me. "We have to talk."

What followed was a lot of crying. And a lot of talking. And a lot of me saying stupid things like "I just can't be the kind of friend you want me to be" and her saying things like "We'll just never see each other again."

To tell the truth, I think I was ok with that at the time. Our friendship had been waning for a while2 and it was just a matter of time before something like this happened. To be honest, I just wanted to make sure she didn't hurt herself that night. And really, such an ego. To think that I could drive someone to hurt themselves. And yet, as I left the room, left her on the couch, her head buried in her hands, as I staggered down the stairs in a daze, into the living room to find our friends, to tell them to go upstairs and take care of her, I just wanted to make sure that she was going to be alright that night.

"Are you Jesse?" a voice behind me asked.

I turned. "Yes..."

"Jesse Chan-Norris?"

I nodded.

"Nice web page..."

"Thanks," I muttered, "but I really have to go."

She was wearing a silver top. Sparkly. I think she might have been cute. I don't remember.

I wandered out of the house towards campus. I didn't really know what I was doing, or even if I was having any real emotion, but I knew that I was supposed to be feeling distraught, and so I forced myself into that mindset. Which was good. Otherwise I'm afraid I would have been filled with even more emotion than I already was.

I found my way to the campus green where I circled a statue of Marcus Aurelius on horseback for hours, talking to it, trying to sort things out. A friend from freshman year wandered by (this was senior year) and asked me if I was ok. "Fine," I told her. "Just talking to the statue." "Okay," she said. Long, drawn out. She didn't believe me, but didn't know what else to tell me. She left.3

Eventually it got too cold for me to stay out any longer, talking to the statue, so I went home and posted some lyrics from A Chorus Line on my web site. The words to "One" were visible. "Nothing" was posted in the comments.

I didn't see her again after that night.4


Nine months after that night I received an email from her. I didn't respond to it. I was not in a place where I could respond. Once again returning to the fundamental problem in our relationship, I had to focus on myself before I could think about her. Some things never change.

Last week, over a year later, I finally sent her an email.

I've not heard back.

I don't know that I ever will.

1. I used to write almost exclusively in lowercase letters. That is, that I would rarely use capitals. I don't know that there was a particular order to things, but every once in a while I would used them, which means that I did not believe them to be nonexistent. It was a definite choice. I just liked the way they looked. And they were informal. Much more stream of consciousness. Punctuation was in the way to hinder the flow of words, but without capitalization those little dots and lines served no more than pauses. things flowed much better. much easier. and i felt like i could write and write and write and the words would just come out of my head into my fingers onto the screen (and i'm sure that i've used that metaphor a hundred times before but it just made so much sense to me at the time).

And then one day I decided that lowercase everything was just silly. That it meant that I didn't have respect for the reader. Respect enough to put a capital letter where it belonged. To give clues. It meant that I was relying too much on the presentation of the words and not enough on the words themselves. I don't know whether or not I buy that, but from that day forward it was the straight and narrow for me.

I can't tell if this was a triumph or a defeat for my writing.

2. We had dated for several months, some of them being over summer vacation where we did not see each other, though I sat at the very same desk at which I am sitting now and received emails from her and my heart would leap every time I checked my mail and found her name in my inbox. Then our relationship turned strange, when we returned to school, and we did not speak for a month, and then we broke up, one night, in her room, and had the most wonderful time, talking and finally being comfortable with each other again.

But over time our relationship grew strained. We had less and less to talk about and when we did talk it was not pleasant for either of us. My wanting to leave the party was the straw that broke the camel's back.

3. A month ago I ran into this friend at a bar in New York. We had started discussion this story and I found out that she had been on acid that night and spent the rest of the night worried that I was going to kill myself.

4. Actually, I saw her three more times. Twice we avoided actually getting within speaking distance of each other on the street, and the third time we ran into each other coming around a corner. I said hi. She said hi. We went off our separate directions. And then I haven't seen her since.

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