By Erynn Gutierrez
In this fictionalized letter to a lost friend, the author reflects on what happened to one middle school friendship. By exploring her memories, she realizes that not all relationships are forever.
September 16, 2020
There’s a fork that’s been sitting in my tape dispenser since lunch. Today I had leftover
beans, peas, yellow rice, and chicken from last night’s Dominican dinner. (Scratch beans, it was actually peas.)
There are three books on my desk: Love is a Mix Tape by Rob Sheffield, The Course of Love by Alain de Botton, and Intimations by Zadie Smith. Intimations is the first book for AP Literature. It was written during the early pandemic, don’t know if it’s any good.
My clothes have been sitting on my bed for 5 hours — including those Camp Ruby sweatpants you know and love. (They still have that stain from your lasagna on it, if you were wondering.)
Here’s a story I know you’ll appreciate: You know as well as I do just how mad my mom gets when I don’t put my dishes away. In March, my lunch plate would sit on the table until 7 p.m. when I would finally put it in the sink. I could almost hear my mom yelling at me all those years ago on our FaceTime calls, when we’d eat dinner and talk for hours about the latest episode of Girl Meets World and cringey memes and how our moms nitpicked over our grades and boys and potential Manhattan trips and boys and our dream life … and boys.
There’s a tea plate with cookie crumbs on it next to me: those prepackaged Trader Joe’s chocolate chip cookies, the ones from that 8th grade sleepover (HA!). But of course, I overbaked them. They taste like
disgu charred chocolate rocks. Nothing at all like those gooey, crunchy ones we used to bake at midnight. I washed them down with oat milk. I’m kinda going vegan now. Emphasis on kinda. My parents make fun of me for it, but are you surprised?
Speaking of, a One Direction meme came up on my Instagram feed the other night. Something about Zayn, Liam, Louis, Niall, and Harry all being spotted on the same street on separate occasions. One Direction into 5 Different directions. Classic joke, really. But it’s true. To be quite frank, seeing it made me a little
sad emotional mad. How is it that such a tight-knit band could fall out of their swing? There was never anything wrong with their friendship. Or at least I thought so. Is there an extent to which our a friendship can last? Is there a hidden expiration date somewhere? How do you bury so many years of memories? How do you go from spending years and years days and days and days together only for it to go away like it never happened?
I found the middle school autograph book at the back of my shelf the other night. I hadn’t seen it in years; not since the last day of eighth grade. I opened it right to Gabe’s page, which read: “Been a cool 3 years, Rynn! KIT!!” (CLASSIC!!) And as I turned each page, I was slapped in the face with even more KITs. KIT KIT KIT KITIKTITKITKIKTKI — they wouldn’t stop. We never needed to say something as boring and artificial as “keep in touch” because we were … us. Riley and Maya from Girl Meets World. We were gonna peruse the streets of Manhattan after school and bump into One Direction on their way to their concert and become best friends with them, too. We were gonna stay on FaceTime for more than 5 hours at a time and keep laughing about memes and eat more Trader Joe’s cookies. We were gonna take on the world together.
I don’t know how I felt after seeing your face in English class last week. I was wondering: did you ever get to dye your hair bright blue? And did you ever get to finish Gilmore Girls?? Sometimes I still think back to that time in the caf. in 6th grade when we were studying for our Spanish test and comparing our lunches and yelling at the top of our lungs as we shouted out the conjugations of comer. “Como, comes, come, comemos, comen!” And as we yelled, when you knocked over your lasagna onto my pants. No sweat, though, because we laughed till our abs couldn’t take it anymore.
This piece is heavily influenced by the journal entries I write at the end of the day. I complete my entries with the elbow free-write method, where I write continuously without stopping. This writing method allows me to let my thoughts out, forcing me to not overthink things and stay in the moment with my thoughts and feelings.
This is a fiction piece; it’s based on a handful of friends from middle school who I had lost touch with going into high school. I don’t look at the relationships I had in contempt — it’s more that those relationships were what held me up during that period of adolescence. While writing, I stayed true to the intention of narrating from a distance, through the added perspective of my current self who has moved on from this loss, instead of throwing full emotional weight into the story.
Turning these journal entries into letters wasn’t that complicated. I was in the mindset that when I’m writing an actual letter, I free-write it. There aren’t any outlines for journal writing or letter writing: just you and your mind. My favorite part of this process was staying in this mindset: I obviously have mistakes when I’m hand-writing, and I wanted to add a bit more personality and more voice through intentional cross-outs. Showing the vulnerability of, “I want to say this, but is it okay for me to?” Showing boundaries and deciding whether or not to step over them. It’s not perfect, and it’s not overly edited.
The signoff ends the piece with a lingering feeling of loss and change. “Yours” versus “your friend” keeps the distance: It’s not too formal, but it’s not “with love.” It admits the realities and limits of the relationship, and it’s an imperfect way to define this closure.
Erynn Gutierrez is a high school senior who studies vocal music. She volunteers with The Go Project, a nonprofit organization that provides supplementary education to children in underserved schools. She will be attending Tufts University in the fall of 2021.