Dear M. Emory:

I pretty much remember clearly the day we met. I saw your hair first, or the lack thereof on the sides, and I wrote you off as some punk with a fake ID and a penchant for oblique social commentary with a double-fisting of PBR.

You and I saw each other on a stairwell in New Orleans once, a long time ago, and you took me by the shoulders and screamed, “DOLLAR PABST, DOLLAR PABST, HOLY SHIT IT’S DOLLAR PABST” and then you kept walking. You hated feet, and would always complain when girls wore flip flops. I live in flip flops. I will die in flip flops.

Once, when I was stranded at work, you called to say you would be bringing me a snack surprise. I thought there was no snack that could lift me out of the Drive-Thru Starbucks Funk, but I let you drive twenty minutes without a license and when you got to me, you handed me a bag full of potato chips.

It was only upon closer inspection that I realized that you’d hand-selected all the “folded chips” out of a Mega bag of Lay’s, because you knew I only really like the folded ones.

One time we went to a swanky bar and you taught me how to pronounce “Lagavulin.” It was twelve dollars a shot, and I sipped it like a child sips her father’s Coors Light, and instead of feeling naughty and grown-up, I felt rich and classy. And you didn’t even laugh at my social ineptness.

We went to a bar and played pool in a loft overlooking a metal band performing to ten or twelve people. You removed all of your clothes except your boxers, apropos of nothing. I did not blink. I beat your drunk ass in air hockey and we called it a night, and started our night over when we got home.

I once accosted your brother as he rode his bicycle down a dusty country road. Your brother always hated me. I think it’s because you were better looking than him.

You took me swimming once, and you laughed when I said I had to go home to get my bathing suit. “For what? We’re swimming at 4am,” you said, and it dawned on me that we would not be swimming at all.

You used to sneak me glances and shrugs when we were in a room full of people who were all singing songs, and we did not know the words because we do not listen to Loretta Lynn. We were alone together, like we always were.

You would always miss appointments. Disappointment. But if I’d call you out on it, you would stare at me for a hot minute, and you would kiss me softly and quickly, and leave the room abruptly. And just for the promise of this, I vowed to continue reserving tables for two at the fanciest restaurants, and I kept on scheduling hikes and rafting trips, and I waited to wash my clothes until you had enough filth built up on your uniform to merit a trip to the laundry bar.

But you never showed, and I knew that you’d eventually feel bad, and you’d eventually kiss me softly and quickly and leave the room abruptly. And I waited for it, and that always came.

You once wrote a song about me and in it you likened me to a plane crash. It upset me in the most fantastic, harrowing, coveted way. Crushes kill, and that is why we have them. Fruition is pointless. It only ruins.

You took me out one night, tricked me because I was willing and I could never say no to someone like you, and I can honestly say it is the only time I have ever found myself completely naked and kneeling in front of a beach chair, my mind getting muddled and my face getting slapped and my comfort zone getting pummeled into an unrecognizable pile of dirty talk and empty bowls, and I loved every minute of it.

You were horrified at my tendency to welcome bar brawls. I think you secretly hoped I was more of a feminist, but I could not be. I said I had never been punched in the face by a boy who was not completely justified. You had a hard time understanding this.

You pronounced “Poison Sumac” as “Poison Shoemake.” You wanted “Lea and Pepperin’s” on your steak. We could never pay the electricity bill on time.

You know I always held your hair when you were puking in trash cans. You know I always stamped and addressed and mailed your letters, and I always washed your dishes, and I always got your water in the middle of the night when you were too lazy. I remember you once wrote, “I Love You Amanda Brown” on a scrap of paper, and when you were gone, I text messaged a picture of it to you so you would remember that you didn’t always hate me. You didn’t respond to it, though I figured as much.

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Every time you were around, you talked about the smell of apples. I would just mess up your hair so the focus wouldn’t be on me. You thought I was in love with everyone but you.

You were there the night I drove to D.C. and went to a house party. I won seven straight games of Flip-Cup and then I threw a drink in some guy’s face because he dared me to. You hated me for it.

You would eventually leave me for the womb of your desk chair, where you would sit and instead of emailing me, you would dream that you were Dylan Thomas with an even more pointless death wish. This is what killed us, though I feel it can’t be entirely your fault, because I was always the one who bought the whiskey.

You’re everyone, and everywhere. You’re a combination of thousands, an anonymous throwback to general store packages unlabelled and wrapped in twine. You cared too much about the drama and the difference, and I cared too much about leaving notes in your jacket pockets and crashing the hootenannies in the parking lot where you served snacks to yuppies under a blazing August sun.

Thanks for fucking me up. It’s been real.

Love,

Mandey.

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