So, have I ever told you my secret shame?
And no, it’s not watching Teen Mom like you. Go ahead and try to deny it. I know you don’t have to sit there with your sister, man. She’s old enough to watch TV by herself.
No, actually, it’s far worse, and I’m a little embarrassed to tell you. But I think negative feelings should be released. Just once, right?
You see, there’s a girl at school. You know the kind. Cheerleader, popular, gets everything she wants… I hate to admit this, especially to you, but a long time ago I wanted to be her.
Part of me still does.
You would absolutely hate her. She’s everything we can’t stand. Mean, cavalier, superficial… The kind who doesn’t have a thought stay in her head too long or else she needs a nap, right? I’ve always been fascinated with her, though.
And don’t roll your eyes at me. I can feel it.
It’s just that…given all of her detestable attributes, she’s never alone. You know?
I kind of envy that. Okay, I really envy that.
It feels like shit to be alone. To be in a place full of people and feel like they don’t want you there. To feel like you’re at a party you weren’t invited to. No one even knows your name. No one wants to. No one cares.
Are they laughing at you? Talking about you? Are they sneering at you like their perfect world would be so much better if you weren’t there, messing up their view?
Are they just wishing you’d get the hint already and leave?
I feel like that a lot.
I know it’s pathetic to want a place among other people, and I know you’ll say it’s better to stand alone and be right than stand in a crowd and be wrong, but... I still feel that need all the time. Do you ever feel it?
I wonder if the cheerleader feels it. When the music stops and everyone goes home? When the day is gone and she doesn’t have anyone to entertain herself with? When she removes her makeup, taking off her brave face for the day, do the demons she keeps buried start playing with her when there’s no one else to play with?
I guess not. Narcissists don’t have insecurities, right?
Must be nice.
My phone buzzes from the center console of my truck, and I look away from Ryen’s letter to see another text roll in.
Dammit. I’m so late.
The guys are no doubt wondering where the hell I am, and it’s still a twenty-minute drive to the warehouse. Why can’t I be the invisible bass player no one cares about?
I stare at her words again, running over the sentence in my head. When she removes her make-up, taking off her brave face for the day…
That line really hit me the first time I read this letter a couple years ago. And the hundred times since then. How can she say so little and yet so much?
I go back and finish the last part, already knowing how the letter ends but loving her attitude and the way she makes me smile.
Okay, sorry. I just had a Facebook break, so I feel better now. Not sure when I turned into such an idiot, but I’m glad you put up with it.
So just to set the record straight from our last argument, Kylo Ren is NOT a baby. You understand? He’s young, impulsive, and he’s related to Anakin and Luke Skywalker. Of course he whines! How is this a surprise? And he’ll redeem himself. I’ll bet you on it. Name your price.
Alright, I gotta go. But yes, to answer your question, that lyric you sent me last time sounds great. Go with it, and I can’t wait to read the whole song.
Good night. Good work. Sleep well.
I’ll most likely stop writing you in the morning,
I laugh at her Princess Bride movie reference. She’s been saying that for seven years. The first year, we were required to write each other as part of a fifth grade project, pairing students in her class with students in mine.
But after the school year ended, we didn’t stop. Even though we live less than thirty miles away from each other and have Facebook now, we continue to communicate this way because it keeps it special.
And I do not watch Teen Mom. My sixteen-year-old sister watches it, and I got sucked in. Once. I’m not sure why I told Ryen. I know better than to give her ammo to tease me, dammit.
I fold the letter back up, the worn creases of the black paper threatening to tear if I unfold and read it even one more time. A lot has changed in our letters over the years. The things we talk about, the subjects we bicker over, her handwriting… Writing that has gone from the big, unpolished penmanship of a girl who has just learned cursive, to the sure, confident strokes of a woman who knows who she is.
But the paper never changes. Not even the silver ink she uses. Seeing her black envelopes in the pile of mail on the kitchen counter always gives me a nice shot of adrenaline.
Slipping the paper into my glove box, among a few other of my favorites of Ryen’s letters, I take my pen, hovering it over the notepad that sits on my lap.
“Spread on your bravery, line the eyes and the lips,” I say under my breath as I write on the paper, “glue up the cracks and paint over the rips.”
I stop and think as I pull my bottom lip in between my teeth, grazing the piercing there. “A little here,” I mumble, the lyrics turning in my head, “to cover the bags under your eyes, and some pink on your cheeks to spread the lies.”
I quickly jot down the words, my chicken scratch barely visible inside the dark car.
I hear my phone beep again, and I falter. “Alright,” I growl, willing the damn texts to stop. Can’t my bandmates host a party without me for five minutes?
I put the pen to paper again, trying to finish my thought, but I stop, searching my brain. What the hell was next? A little here to cover the bags under your eyes…
I squeeze my eyes shut, repeating the line over and over again, trying to remember the rest.
I let out a breath. Shit, it’s gone.
I cap the pen, tossing that and the notepad onto the passenger seat of my Raptor.
I think about her last sentence. Name my price, huh?
Well, how about a phone call then, Ryen? Let me hear your voice for the first time?
But no. Ryen likes to keep our friendship status quo. It works, after all. Why risk losing it by changing it?
And she’s right, I guess. What if I hear her voice and her letters become less special? I get to imagine her personality through her words. That would change if I heard her tone.