To Drew: who saved me without knowing
I remember meeting you for the first time in your dorm room. The ten minute walk from mine - over the goose poop that surrounded the ponds near my dorm, under the bridge where a girl had been assaulted, past the dining hall - to your window where you tossed down your key card. I was nervous and freezing cold. My brief ventures out of my safety zone of Morgan and Andie’s dorm room or my secret study spots were usually for a stoned feast with Morgan. It was already the end of the first semester of our first year and I was looking for a new school to attend. At home I was used to my group of friends who drove around, smoked weed, found good music, talked about life, and ordered coffee. No one did that here. I hated college. I hated that I had been raped. I hated my current boyfriend and the fact he would never talk to me during the day. I hated sororities and my classes and my roommate. But then Andie asked if I’d want to help you with a photography project and I felt that relief of being included that you feel the first time you smoke weed or drink. I remember thinking that maybe I would make a new friend finally. I hated how good I felt that I was going to work on someone else’s homework but I really was excited. It wasn’t a party or a huge group of people that would leave me socially exhausted, so I bundled up and I walked to your room, nervously, wondering if I was weird and you’d hate me.
I loved you the second I walked into your room. It was a fucking mess. I did not talk much at first, I just took everything in. The makeshift curtain sectioning off the entrance from where the beds were. Your roommate’s lofted bed with a mattress underneath that I sat on the corner of. Your desk, covered in weed flakes and foil from old meals. I remember noticing that you only stocked your fridge with Fiji bottled water even though we lived in Boulder with clean mountain water. Later, I would learn you ordered it online in massive boxes. Boxes that, in the future, I would drop in the middle of campus as we walked back from the post office laughing hysterically. I also noticed how soft your life was. I mean, physically soft. The blankets on your bed, the clothes on your body, your water was soft. Now, I know, this has not changed. Your hugs are still what I would imagine hugging a polar bear might be. The gifts you’ve given me, a collection of the softest items in my closet.
You didn’t care that I wasn’t talking. I noticed that quickly. Sometimes people ask if I’m okay or try to engage me with small talk. I just like observing at first, you were fine with it. You dressed Andie and me in a mask and small weapons. Your roommate was gone and I learned he had a drawer of random weapons that we used. “What the fuck am I doing?” I remember asking myself as I stood against the makeshift curtain holding a weapon to Andie’s throat. I couldn’t tell you what your photography project was about but it was the most fun I had at college up until that point and we were done within 5 minutes. We sat down and you connected your phone to the speaker. Your music was like fresh air. Actual good music. I mean not just electronic. Real, honest to god, beats. Music that absorbs you when you’re high. I started noticing your Tame Impala posters. I couldn’t hold back. “YOU HAVE SUCH GOOD MUSIC, I LOVE TAME IMPALA.” I remember exclaiming, and then shriveled up inside myself realizing how loud I must have spoken. We talked about Tame Impala and our Odd Future phases in high school as you grabbed your bubbler from its hiding place. You strategically poured water down its orange neck. I was impressed because the opening was tiny and you did not even spill. I remember noticing for the first time that you were a serial bong hoarder, in this case a bubbler, and would smoke the whole bowl by yourself. Time would pass and I would call you out for it but I felt so at home. No one in Texas took one hit and passed. We each held onto the blunt or joint or pipe or whatever it was until we were sufficient or coughing. You always make me feel at home.
My fears of intruding dissipated with the smoke that left my lungs. I remember ignoring texts from my boyfriend because I knew I had found a better friend than he could ever be and I hardly knew you. When I left that night, I remember texting my sister who asked me how I was doing and telling her I was hanging out with my good friend Drew. I felt so dumb. You probably did not even consider me a friend, but I already loved you.
I eventually got your number from Andie so I could hang out with you without having to ask her. I remember becoming less dedicated to my transfer application essays for other schools. I could hardly remember why I hated our school so much and when I went home for Winter Break I never submitted them. I told my parents about you and how you were from Chicago and how we went on walks together. They were worried about me because I was so skinny. I didn’t eat and I was only getting skinnier, so I told them about your five pound bag of gummy bears you ordered on Amazon and how you would feed me and always try to order me food too.
Our second semester I felt so heavy and sad one night that I went to sleep at 7:00 in the evening. I hated my roommate so much at this point I couldn’t even feel bad. Waking up a couple hours later, it was dark outside and I was shaking. My heart was pounding and I thought I couldn’t breathe. I had dreamt of being at the Phi Tau party again. His body on my body, looking down at me, smiling. The pillow was in the window. It was happening again. I was trying to text my friends like in real life. But the door was only a curtain. I could hear everyone I knew just outside the thin fabric. I could see the shadows of their footsteps in the space above the floor. If only I could speak. After I awoke, I got out of bed in tears, grabbing my phone and putting on shoes to get outside. If I could just get some air. I sat on my bench by the ponds. The lights of the dorms alive around me reflected on the water and the Boulder wind blew my hair into my mouth. I curled my knees up toward my chest to rest my chin in the nook created between them, hugging my body from the cold. The geese were hunkered down on the edges of the pond, asleep. My mind started to slow down right as you texted me.
wanna blunt walk?
I stood up and walked fast to your dorm. Yes I want to do anything but sit here with my mind. I needed to see you. I looked up at the clouds above that tinted the night sky blue and wondered how you knew I needed you.
We walked for hours it felt. All the way to East Campus. Under the bridge with the cool graffiti. Along the creek. We had no idea where we were walking. Now, I know we really did walk a far way from your dorm. We almost walked to Foothills Parkway and it was freezing out. You’ve never known I was panicking before we met up that night. I had been considering ending it all. Leaving this life behind, my life behind. A fragment of the few people who knew me, deep in their synapses. Existing only in the electrical energy that would create their embellished memories of me. This was the first time you saved my life.
We talked about everything. The people we knew, if we liked them, if we didn’t like them. The fact that no one was a normal stoner here except us - they were only drug-rug skaters or liked to drink to party. You had wrapped two blunts for the walk there and the walk back. Of course we were walking aimlessly, but you were always prepared with the blunts. Oh, how I had missed blunts, I told you. We talked about my family and your sister. We talked about graffiti and how I used to tag. This was the first time you called me a city kid. I loved it.
I also told you about how I was raped. It happened within the first couple of weeks of being in Boulder and I didn’t talk about it with anyone. Morgan knew. Andie knew. My roommate knew because the police questioned her. The other people I had texted for help that day knew even though I wasn’t good friends with most of them. Still, it was a silent historical event. If it was on anyone’s minds, they redacted it from the conversation before it occurred. As present as the memory was in my mind, it seemed everyone else had forgotten. In reality, it had been talked about without me. It was hushed gossip. Of course, I did not bring it up either. What a way to bring down the mood. But we talked about it. You were the first one at school that didn’t feel weird saying they already knew. You didn’t act like it was news. “Yeah I think someone told me about it before.” You were honest. I did not go into details of course, but you knew that was why I never liked to go out. You normalized me and I cried to myself while we talked. It was dark so you had no idea but I remember how intense the difference between panicked tears and tears of relief felt. This was the first time in a long time that I felt safe. And at night time. The cold was not so torturous anymore. We got tired and walked back and I remember waking up the next day more energized than I had been in months simply from the decrease in weight on my chest that I had been living with. I even got breakfast that morning with Morgan.
That semester you became my best friend. I met your roommate and we laughed when he kicked me out of his desk chair that one time. We couldn’t stop laughing when the two of us wanted to watch A Clockwork Orange and everyone in the world decided to come into your room and tell us they did not understand it until we turned it off. I realized how great you are at drawing cartoons when I tried to help you with your art project that you procrastinated. And then I destroyed an oil painting you made when I touched it, still wet, and screamed out of horrifying guilt. You could not stop laughing. One night I told you had I left all of my belongings at the creek and you went into action, put on your big sweatshirt, rolled a blunt, and walked with me, stopping inside Benson Earth Science building to light it. Everything was still there at the creek, from the night before, untouched. We pretended to praise the 4/20 gods, but I decided you were my good luck charm.
When I started looking for a new place to live, I found a studio north of campus and scheduled a time to see it. Standing outside, the property management had forgotten about me but I had ridden the bus there and sat outside on the curb trying to reach them. “Fuck this. Just my luck,” I thought. Angry at the world. You texted me, telling me you wanted to see me before the end of the semester. You told me how much you loved me and you wanted to me to get healthy and take care of myself.
Sometimes it seems like you need to
be the skinniest person in the world
but you don’t. you need to be alive.
I sobbed. Nasty, snotty, sobbing. Outside this random apartment. Leaning my back on a light pole, watching a lawn service truck get stuck in the cul-de-sac, their trailer turning the opposite direction they needed as they backed up. I hated the apartment I viewed, it was so small it could only fit a mini-fridge, but I decided for the first time that day that I would actively try to get healthy. This was the second time you saved my life. Over the next two years, I did get healthy. And healthy no longer meant fat. And fat no longer was so scary.
Before the summer you gave me your orange bubbler. I still use it on those days I get nostalgic and think of you.
The next year, you would come over no matter how dramatic the four of us living there were. You would smoke and watch TV on the couch with me. Or lay in my bed with me. You would always order me tabbouleh and raid our fridge. You told me you were gay, finally. I was so proud because I had always known. I think I might have been the only girl that did not try to date you. You blossomed afterwards. Really blossomed. We went on drives together and to Aspen together. I have never not laughed around you. You, Logan, and me. You always gave Logan and me hugs. You said you were healing us with your hugs. You were right, too. You did heal me. You still do.
You are handsome and intelligent. So full of love, so funny. Incomparably loyal and naturally humble. You have so much to give to this world.
Thank you for saving me. I love you always.