Tabula rasa. Blank canvas. I’m looking out of the large bay window, a coffee cup between my hands. The view is why I chose this place: looking down from a small hill, there’s an endless stream of wooden houses with the city on the background.
The weather’s just what you would expect of the area: foggy and mild. Not exactly cold, not exactly warm, I’m wrapped in a plaid shirt and a pair of jeans that were left behind. I wouldn’t buy Levi’s jeans new. My brown hair in a braid, I finish my coffee and lift up my laptop. The view outside should inspire me. Leaves turning colour, soft melancholy lingering in the air, the joy leaving with the last bits of summer.
I’m staring at the screen. Blank canvas. I can’t think of anything to write, so I light up a cigarette. I started smoking again, I think and mindlessly direct the thought at you. You’d be nagging at me right now if you saw me, I continue.
Kids outside are skipping and running, going to the school bus. I remember my childhood, wild and free, not a worry in the world. I also remember you.
We met the first day of elementary school. You were my best friend in less than a day, and we did everything together. We grew up and in high school the teachers would say we’d never make it out alive. We listened to records in your basement, smoked our first joint together. You taught me how to kiss after having done it with some dude from another class. During summers we wouldn’t work but instead we’d skateboard around, looking for trouble. We got caught for underage drinking and public peeing. We swam in the ocean in November. We attended your mom’s funeral together. The only thing we didn’t do was stay together.
After high school we went on to different universities. I moved to Toronto and you went down to University of Northern Texas to poke at dead people. I didn’t make many friends and spent my time writing. I mostly wrote to you. You replied every now and then, not too often, telling me you didn’t know how to write as funny or interesting letters. I didn’t care as long as you wrote me. I published my first independent collection of short stories and listened to jazz after school.
The first summer you visited me. It was just like before, just like we always were. You and I, forever together, forever wild and free. You were wearing a plaid skirt and a white t-shirt, I covered myself in a large grey t-shirt and hoped no one would see me. We hung out the entire summer, my rent being paid by daddy. We sat on the windowsill, smoking weed.
And then you left. I felt like an empty shell and didn’t really want to see anyone. I hardly showed up at school, and when I did, I always hung out alone. I wore big headphones and tried to make my walkman as visible as possible so people would take the hint and leave me alone. I wrote to you every week, you replied to me every other week. The ink in my pen ran out dozens of times.
After graduation you were transferred into a city that wasn’t all that safe. I was worried for you because the line of work you had chosen and the area they put you in. I kept writing and writing and never really got anything published, until one day. I came home and a letter was waiting for me. I opened it with a knife and peeked inside. The publisher had accepted my draft and wanted to publish my book! Confused and joyous, I called you. I didn’t care about the long distance fee.
There was no answer. There was no answer that day, nor the following day. I left you messages but got no answers, until your mom called me.
The funeral was in our home town. I was dressed in black, it was raining and I held a black umbrella above my head. Some cops from your district attended. I thought it was ironic considering the circumstances you died in. I couldn’t hold back tears. I couldn’t believe you weren’t there anymore.
After you died I stopped living. I got my book published but that was all I did. It didn’t sell well and I didn’t care. The publisher told me there was no deal for any other books that I might write, but I didn’t care. I had to go on welfare. My parents tried to look out for me but all they really did was make everything worse. I had lost my only friend in the entire world. The only person I ever cared about.
Months passed. Maybe years, I stopped counting. I ate beans out of a can and nothing else really. I had to move to a bad part of town and smoked weed most of my days. It wasn’t until a letter arrived that I knew something had to change. It was from you.
The letter was dated before you died. The mailman apologized for the delay, apparently the letter had gotten lost. I read it over and over again. I read every single word, every single letter, every space between the letters more than a dozen times. What I had thought only a dream was really true. You signed off the letter with three little words that made all the sense in the world.
That’s when I moved. I packed my backpack and took the milk crate with my records in it. The train took days but when it did, I knew I had to be here. Here where it all started, where we first met, where you lied in peace six feet under.
I looked at my laptop screen again and started typing. This was it. Tabula rasa. Blank canvas. New beginning.