“Dear Missy” by Lonna Whiting
We had no business driving around town at 3 a.m. after that party, let alone any business
popping your convertible top down in the absolute dregs of subzero winter just to get some
all-night Taco Bell. But Green Day on the CD player just hit differently that night. It might have
been the beers. It might have been the ditch weed. It was probably both.
Do you remember the way we laughed in the face of that shattering windchill slapping our
cheeks until we felt almost sober? Almost legit to drive home? It was as though we’d co-created
a queendom — our chariot, your Chrysler LeBaron.
It’s been a while since we talked. 25 years or so. Dates got foggy for me after my mom got sick
and I started marking time with dementia symptoms, long goodbyes and grief. My own memory
isn’t always reliable, either. But some things a person never forgets.
Like when I seduced your boyfriend and months later confessed to you in front of all our friends
during a blurry-faced 3 a.m. round of poker.
“Missy, we fooled around,” I said. You went pale all over, and your boyfriend said to me, “You
bitch! I love her!” And another friend escorted me to the door. “It’s best that you leave.”
I remember not feeling the need to apologize. Then I got in my car and shook and cried,
because I knew I’d lost you, my sister, this time for good and that in an instant you’d recoiled
from me forever because I’d committed the cardinal sin of friendship, “do not covet thy friend’s
boyfriend,” and the worst part was I didn’t feel that bad about it until much, much later in life
when I understood more about why I did it. Which I’ll explain, if not simply for my records.
I thought it was so heroic of you when you forgave me a couple years later and we started
hanging out again, you, me and your new boyfriend Steve, a nice, decent guy who didn’t make
me the least bit randy like your other guy did.
When Steve proposed, you said yes, and I was shocked when you asked me to be a bridesmaid!
I felt as though our friendship had returned to its rightful place in the queendom of our
sisterhood. Well, until you kicked me out of the bridal party a week before the ceremony
because I think it was your revenge on me.
When I returned my bridesmaid dress to your mom, it was my walk of shame I remember most,
me handing the silk lavender garment to your mom, saying, “I hope it fits the gal who’s
replacing me up there.”
I vowed to never speak to you again. I’m terrible at keeping promises to myself, but this is one
I’ve succeeded in holding onto.
The last time I saw you, we were 25. We’d both been invited to a mutual friend’s baby shower
and you were there with your new baby boy, and I didn’t know how to say hello, so I didn’t say
anything at all. Didn’t look at you. I dropped my gift off and left. Afraid you didn’t want me
there. Afraid of making it awkward. But worst of all, afraid that you’d be nice.
So, how are you anyway?
I bet you go by Melissa now.
I heard you moved to Florida.
What has your life been like?
Did you take the LSAT? Did you go to law school?
Did you keep playing soccer?
Do you still have your stunning waistline?
Are you coloring your hair blonde and straightening it in front of a tiny mirror that’s far too
small to contain your delightfully toothy grin when you’ve just cracked a joke?
Are you happy with Steve?
How are your kids?
Is your older brother still into bodybuilding and eating tuna out of the can?
Are your parents still alive?
Did you take up golfing?
Are you still obsessed with Seinfeld and Lucky Charms cereal?
What kind of car do you drive now?
Have you started to feel middle-aged yet?
What music do you like these days?
Can you still make people laugh so hard they almost lose continence?
Can you still sleep 13 hours straight?
Do you still drink gas station cappuccino?
Are you working out? Eating well? Taking care of yourself?
Are you happy with your life?
Do you have any regrets?
Do you feel sad about us sometimes?
Do you even think about me?
When my mom first got sick, I really wanted to reach out to you.
I wanted us to rent a pile of movies, pile on a bag of snacks, some warm blankets and laugh and
cry together, litter the floor with candy wrappers and popcorn, and you could say, “We got tits”
instead of “We got this,” and I’d feel better, even if I didn’t believe you.
If you think about it, we really did go through a lot together for the relatively short amount of
time our friendship survived. First, it was your father’s affair, circa 1996. Then, it was my own
father’s affair a few months later.
Your mother forgave your father and he stayed. My mother forgave my father and he left
anyway. Which explains a lot about how I could have done such a thing to you, making out with
your boyfriend, not that much later.
Some updates on me. My mom is still alive, living her final days in a warm, quiet room. She is
very close to leaving her body. Any day now, hospice says. I think you’d want to know that. After
all, you called her your second mom.
I didn’t have children, but my brother does (two: a boy who looks just like him and a girl who
looks just like me). I still bite my hangnails when I’m nervous or bored. I met a professor named
Kevin and fell in love. I stayed in our hometown to be with him. We’ve been together 19 years. I
got my MFA in creative writing. I became a writer just like you said I would.
I quit smoking and joined the Y, and took up step aerobics, then indoor cycling, then outdoor
running, then yoga. I quit drinking.
I need you to know that I’m very afraid I’ll end up with dementia, like my mom, and then I won’t
remember how we used to jump off the speedboat into the cold summer water and float in the
deep end with life jackets clipped to our chests, back when we didn’t know that we were each
other’s life jackets, at least for a time. Floating the deepest parts together, kicking our feet
towards shore, eventually reaching dry ground. Eventually unclipping our lifejackets, dropping
them to the sand and stepping into adulthood, only separate from each other.
Can I ask you something? Would you be my friend again? Because I have to be honest, that’s
not what I want. The weird thing is that I don’t lose sleep over us, yet there you are, always on
my heart like a glowing green light pulsing across time.
Your best friend,
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Lonna Whiting Artist Statement:
I am a professional and creative writer who seeks to unveil certain truths about our collective experience on Earth using relatability, humor, levity and truth.
Writing is the only thing I know how to do, and it’s the hardest thing I do every day. I am able to express ideas and thoughts to help others explore their own ideas and thoughts, and that is deeply satisfying to me.