Like You Never Left
Sept. 2nd, 2013
I’m writing this from the backseat of my parents’ car, sardined between my stuff. My Mom and Dad are driving me back to Arcadia Bay BECAUSE I GOT ACCEPTED TO BLACKWELL! I get my own room in a dorm and my parents are going back to Seattle which is kind of scary because I’ll be here without them. I’m writing this down because I need to; it’s therapeutic. As if coming back wouldn’t be hard enough, I left my freaking best friend here five years ago and never talked to her again. Shitty pity party aside, I’ve written about leaving when I was 13 back when I was- you guessed it- 13. But not like this. I’m terrified to see Chloe again. I’m also terrified I won’t. So here’s the origin story of Chloe and I. I just hope our story hasn’t ended forever.
The first time Chloe and I ever met was on the playground at our elementary school. It was my first day and I’d walked up with those steps with more than trepidation as my Mom and Dad waved from the car. I made it through the day quietly doing whatever the teachers said. Max Caulfield, part of the background. That was back before things like hardcore math and science existed. It was a beautiful time. I had one last hurdle before that emotionally draining day was over; Recess. Now, recess is a very big deal for a 6-year-old. It was also the epitome of hell for someone shy like me.
I walked out onto the cloudy playground surrounded by the swarm of my classmates. The swings were all already taken so I stood next to them, waiting my turn. To be honest, something like the monkey bars or giant slide were just a little too hardcore for me. The girl closest to me was swinging as hard as she could and I watched her swing higher and higher with awe. Her blonde hair was whipping in the wind and I thought she looks like a superhero. I hadn’t seen her in any of my classes.
She turned her head and looked at me. I’m pretty sure I blushed, caught staring and she laughed; her voice high and carefree. “Do you want a turn?” she said and started to slow down.
I nodded and prepared myself for her to laugh and tell me to get lost. It wouldn’t be the first time.
She dug her feet into the gravel and came to a jarring stop. Her cheeks flushed with exertion, she stood up and waved me over and I trudged over to her self-consciously.
She giggled again. “I’m Chloe. Sit and I’ll push you.”
A tentative smile from me and I sat down. “I’m Max.”
I felt her hands on my back. “Hold on tight, Max!” And she shoved me forward as hard as she could. I think I screamed, half-terrified; half-thrilled.
We were joined at the hip (as Joyce used to say) from then on. I felt comfortable around her, like I didn’t have to pretend. Lemme tell you that’s rare. We were always together doing something; whether it was playing explorers in the park or rockstars in her room. I’d found a genuine friend and I was so happy.
Flash forward some years and I’m 13. My parents had given me a disposable camera a year earlier and I was hooked on photography ever since, going through disposable cameras like they were nothing. And then my parents got me a Polaroid and I was in actual love. Chloe got into singing and drawing. We would draw comics together and I would take pictures of them and she would sing while I did. We were growing up and I wasn’t a fan; especially not of puberty. Chloe got there first and told me all the gnarly details. I specifically remember her saying, “It was a bloodbath!” and “My Mom uses these things called ‘tampons’. You will not believe where they go, Max!” I was terrified.
And then William died. I was there when he left to go pick up Joyce from work. I practically lived there. He left and Chloe and I went up to her room. We were lying on the clothes-strewn floor playing would-you-rather, side by side and the moment felt timeless.
Chloe’s drawings stared down at us from the walls. I stared at the ceiling, breathed in the scent of Chloe’s room (decaying leaves, laundry soap, and cigarettes from when Chloe thought it’d be a good idea to steal and try a couple her Mom’s. Ask me how well that went down.), and let the comfortableness wash over me. “Okay, go.”
“Would you rather…be a world famous photographer that everyone freaking loves or a sort of known photographer who everyone thinks is okay?” she asked.
I laughed. “Are you for cereal? I pick lesser known any day. I don’t need people fawning over me. Now, would you rather eat dirt or mud?”
She punched my shoulder with a laugh. “They’re the same thing, dope.”
I punched her back. “Actually one is liquid like and the other is, well, dirt like so pick!”
“God, you are such a nerd. I pick dirt.”
By then an hour and a half had almost gone by and Joyce and William still weren’t back and we started to panic. And then Joyce was back but with policemen and she was a wreck, sobbing that William was gone. Chloe, oh god, she crumpled to the floor and we all just held each other. William was like a second Dad to me.
Three weeks later and my parents and I go over there almost every day because things were so, so, fragile and they needed love. Chloe and Joyce were hurting so much and I didn’t know what to do or how to make it better. Chloe told me just having me there made it better. We would lie out in the backyard while the adults stayed inside. We would look at the clouds together. I always thought of William when we did that. I think Chloe did too.
Flash forward two months later and we’re moving to Seattle. I cried, I begged, I said my home is Arcadia Bay. But my Dad said he had a business opportunity which meant absolutely nothing to me, not if it meant leaving my best friend and my home. I ran crying to Chloe’s house and told her we were moving; that my parents wouldn’t listen to me. And we held each other and cried.
Chloe pulled back from me. “It’ll be okay, okay? I promise.” and the tears ran down her face harder and she hugged me tighter.
Two weeks later we moved and I never saw her again. We promised we’d call each other but…I didn’t. I couldn’t call her and pretend it was okay. I chickened out. She called me once, a few days after we settled in Seattle. I stared at the ringing phone and I swear to God I almost answered it, almost made up a lie to smooth things over…but I didn’t. I knew what Chloe and Joyce were going through and I still did nothing. It still keeps me up at night. I have nightmares. I’ve started countless letters to Chloe but they all end up in the trash.
And now I’m coming home and I am terrified and sick to my stomach. I’m excited to be going to Blackwell and on a scholarship; and seeing my hometown again. But just the thought of Chloe sends me into stomach cramps. We had to pull over so I could throw up about twenty minutes ago. We might have to again; writing this all down and seeing it like this…
There’s still a part of me though that longs to see Chloe. How she looks now and who she’s become. After all this time I still love and miss her. She was the person who knew better than I knew myself.
We’re almost there now. I’m going to try and get some sleep before we do. Goodnight journal. The next time you hear from me, I’ll be home.
Life is…messed up.