Roxy is gone, and I don’t know what to do except write.
We got set up on a blind date, if you can believe that. I was 16, still very much in the closet — even to myself, really. We got Thai food, and I felt awkward because I knew things were never going to work on a romantic level, so I was kind of a dick to her. She probably should have written me off as an asshole, but she didn’t. I think she recognized a kindred spirit, something I soon picked up on as well. As weird as it was to imagine dating her, it was even weirder to think of her not being in my life.
High school was not easy for either of us. The more we talked, the more we realized we liked each other more than almost anyone else we actually went to school with. At one point, we were spending so much time together that I look back now and have to remind myself we attended different schools. Because she was there when I needed her: She got it, and she got that nobody else did. And while we weren’t the only people in each other’s lives, sometimes it felt that way — like we were two outcasts against the world. I had never read Perks of Being a Wallflower, because that was the kind of book we’d make fun of, but I knew what it was about and secretly related. Being a freak sucks, and then you find another freak to spend your time with. And fuck everyone else.
We had two main anxieties: being single and being overweight. We couldn’t fix each other, but just sharing our insecurities made it all a little easier. I keep saying that I don’t know what I would have done without her, because it’s unfathomable. She was my therapist before I had a therapist. We actually argued a lot, probably because we had so much in common, but also because there was so much pain shared between us. I remember nights we spent driving aimlessly, screaming along to Something Corporate, which we knew was ridiculous but helped us forget the things that actually made us hurt.
Our favorite movie was Ghost World, because of course it was. We quoted it endlessly, and that summer before college, when we spent nearly every day together, it took on a new weight. I worried that we’d drift apart: She was staying in Los Angeles, and I was going off to Berkeley. And while we rarely, for whatever reason, acknowledged how much we meant to one another, I know the thought of separation scared the shit out of us. I bought two dolls, Enid and Rebecca, and I gave her Rebecca and kept Enid for myself — I guess because she was blonde, or because I’m selfish and always liked Enid better — and said something corny about how we’d always be connected. We hated being corny. We hardly ever even hugged.
And I think about that and wish I’d told her that I loved her more often than I did. But I also have to believe she knew.
Distance made keeping in touch hard sometimes. We were two anxious people who often got caught up in our heads. When she eventually transferred to Berkeley, it felt too good to be true: We’d finally be at the same school. She was already a part of my college experience, with her phone calls and visits, but I’m so glad we got to really have those two years together. And I’m grateful that she got to know all the friends I’d made in college — so many of them a little bit awkward or different — because they were our kind of people. On the surface, we probably seemed cooler than we were at 16, but we’d still admit to one another that we never really felt comfortable in our own skin.
When I think about college, it’s honestly a bit of a blur, and no, that has nothing to do with drinking. But I’m glad I can remember plenty of moments with Roxy, because that’s what I want to hold on to now. I remember going to dinner at a Persian restaurant — it was my first time, even though she had dubbed me an honorary Persian years before — and watching in awe as she ate raw onion. And then sitting on her bed and watching her play Animal Crossing and laughing, because that’s a ridiculous game, but also I was very stoned. I remember the night after my 20th birthday party, two weeks after getting dumped by my ex, when she came over and watched Phat Girlz with Melody and me. There’s a lot of pathos in that film. You’d be surprised.
Of course I remember the dark times, too. There were so many tears over boys who didn’t like us and — perhaps more to the point — over not liking ourselves enough. But we both let go of that adolescent angst, so there’s no real reason to revisit it. I’m just glad I didn’t go through it alone.
Besides, that’s not who Roxy was over the past few years. I was so proud to see her blossom (and again, so regretful that I never told her more often, so please, please tell your loved ones how you feel) into the brilliant, gorgeous, confident woman I can’t believe we’ve lost. She found the courage to love herself, and the results were incredible. I saw a Roxy that neither of us could have imagined at 16. She was vibrant and powerful, unique in a way that didn’t mean standing off to the side. It’s no surprise that her boyfriend Alex fell in love with her, because how could anyone not fall in love with her?
Since I found out that Roxy passed away this morning, I have gone back and forth between feeling numb and sobbing, which I think is normal. I don’t really know — I’ve never lost someone so close before. I want to feel everything, but I also don’t want to feel at all, because even acknowledging that she’s gone is unbearable. More than anything, I wish she were here, sitting next to me on the couch. I’m thinking back to one New Year’s Eve we spent together, watching reruns of Degrassi and not even noticing the clock had reached midnight until the DVD ended. It was kind of perfect, and I wish I could have that back.
We used to talk about Enid’s Ghost World fantasy, getting on a bus and disappearing somewhere. It was an attractive notion when we were in high school, but I promised her that if I ever did that, I’d let her know where I went. I couldn’t imagine either of us leaving the other behind. Now I feel like she finally did it and forgot to tell me. And I’m closing my eyes and thinking about sitting on that bus stop and waiting for her, because I don’t know what else to do.