It is never unwise to wear a nice short skirt and some boots, even if it is two hundred degrees outside. The men at Julian’s remember me from last year, and the year before that, and are still surprised to see me again, and are glad I didn’t wear what I wore last time I stumbled in to purchase ties and look out of place.
The new store is more corporate-looking. There are built-in shelves for cufflinks and crystal bowls for shoelaces stamped with the Julian’s trademark logo. There are shiny cherry floors and velveteen dressing room curtains. The palazzos and french-cuffs are ugly but expensive, in keeping with the current styles. There is too much taffeta and I’m sweating too much to pick out anything worthwhile so I just get a gift certificate and have it read, “To: Bat. From: Bat.”
It worries me that I’ve wandered into this store with no idea what kind of clothes you want nowadays, with your new job and your new life. At the same time I’m thrilled that I’m still expected to get you a birthday present. This means we’re still friends.
A woman enters the store and eyes me up and down. She is short and fat, and has tribal tattoos and spiky butch hair. She smiles at me as if to say, “Yeah, I don’t belong here either.” I just want to shake her. Her girlfriend is in the men’s section fondling the cargo pants. I turn away and sweat somewhere else, next to the display of metallic silver jeans and matching socks.
This cannot represent the divide between us, surely, but I secretly know it does. Why do the Julian’s men chuckle when I look interested in their clothes?
I’m proud of you. You got a couple more advanced degrees and your own desk and a stark-white company-issued coffee cup with your entire name on it and a hot Russian girlfriend and a million things to accomplish. You’re never not in designer jeans and your hair is always impeccable, and the ladies at your office whisper about how excellent it would be if they were all forty years younger with a whippersnapper like you at their disposal. You never smell weird, and I’m sure you still look great in a sarong.
It’s hard not to wonder what things would be like now, with my gallimaufry of tiny, tiny projects that amount to nothing not personal, this life with my cortege of fruit flies and precious metalhead boyfriend and pack-a-day habit and the dirty hipster dudes in touring bands that splay themselves on my floor a few times a month. Our lives grow further apart every day, but our bond hasn’t seemed to change.
By this time we’ve both figured out exactly what jokes to make, and which Craigslist postings to forward to each other, and exactly when it is okay to touch and not touch. Our brains are still shaped the same and still appreciate the same things, but our lives look completely different.
Nothing in my life is the same color as you.
But this is why I love us. There is a part of me that matches designer clothes stores and fast typing and information gathering, and a part of you that matches smoky bars with uneven pool tables and metal piss troughs. You’re privy to some secret and I am too, like the fingerbowl scene in The Bell Jar.
I grasp for stories I can tell you about the things that happen to me while you’re in your office, but they all seem inappropriate, like I’m showing off about my “wild and crazy life,” one where boys dump the bullets from pistol barrels onto my chest and one where I drive five hours to Asheville on a moment’s notice just because there’s a coffeeshop there that makes a perfect cappuccino. There is nothing really to show off about. I can’t even play pool well when you’re around, much less tell you stories about canoeing out to a remote location in Duke Forest on an illegal harvesting mission.
I know you know when someone is setting bait for you, when you recognize in people’s speech patterns when what they’re saying is really a thinly veiled attempt at bragging. It terrifies me to think you might categorize my stories as part of this universal defense mechanism that so many people employ in order to not seem empty and boring.
I would still bring you to a deserted island (as long as we had access to Craigslist and could occupy our solitude with other people’s dreams), and I’m still most calm and comfortable when you’re beating my ass in pool, and gumbusting is still the most hysterical thing I’ve ever witnessed.
This picture was taken on May 2nd of 2006, the day TOOL’s 10,000 Days was released. We were on a pilgrimage to Schoolkid’s Music. We wanted to be the first ones to buy the CD. We thought this was the funniest sign we’d ever seen. We made some dude take our picture. Then we went to Julian’s and stood in front of the window display where you drooled over the ties. I got you two for your birthday that year.
Schoolkid’s closed down a few months ago. You don’t really wear those jeans anymore. My number of tattoos has doubled. You shaved the goatee and bought a bunch of Julian’s button-downs. I don’t smile like that anymore. Those pink fuzzy slippers? I think I left those at your house, at the Quonset Hut, like, a year and a half ago. I think maybe you threw away that hoodie. But that Buffalo Bill bag? That’s at my feet right now, as I type this. It has a bunch of holes in it, all closed up with band pins and pieces of ripped T-shirt.
I’m trying to grow up, Bat. I applied for a flancy job today, researching the forensic implications of natural disasters. I don’t know what that means, exactly, but I want to do it. I sent the dude my resume and I got a response within minutes. He said I don’t have the right background. Surprise. But he also said I was interesting, intriguing, and he was going to call me anyway. So that’s exciting. But I don’t know what to do now. I only know how to be interesting on paper.
I really gotta go before this gets out of hand. I’m finished saying things, anyway. I’m not jealous of you, Bat. I just wish I was good at life like you.
You’re doing a real good job.