Three of the people I’m closest to live in three different cities, in three different states. All three of them have cats and tattoos — things that I don’t have. Maybe someday I’ll have one or both of those things. I keep thinking about getting a tattoo. Something little on my wrist, a note-to-self, a mantra. But here’s the problem: I wake up every day wanting something different. Wendy Xu writes, "Well, the trouble with my desire is that I approach it infinitely,” and that’s it exactly. The words that comfort me today will likely provide comfort to me tomorrow, too, but what if it’s not the exact brand that I need? In my mind “forever” triggers fear, the feeling of being trapped. What if there are words that will do a better job tomorrow but the ones that I decided to ink on my wrist yesterday won’t rub away the under hot tap water? That is, assuming that the hot water in my apartment is working whenever I find myself scrubbing, Softsoap pumping, loofah in hand.
My three friends that live in three different cities love their tattoos. No one regrets anything. It’s all just ink on skin on bodies that they know won’t be here long. To me, everything has always felt so final. A few weeks ago, my sister saw “pause” and “go” tattoos somewhere and we agreed that they felt so true to us. I am pause. She is go. But when I told my friend who lives in the first city, the one closest to home, she interpreted it so that I would get go and my sister would get pause — reminders from one another. She should remember to pause, I should remember to go. And now I am back at the beginning of my indecision. I’m not sure which interpretation I can live with forever . I like them both too much. And so, I find myself once more in the vortex of my own infinite desire.
This friend with the idea that my sister declared “profound” has a white Siamese cat who is prettier than most living creatures I know. I thought that this friend had four tattoos, but when I ask and she tells me that she has five, I somehow feel wronged. The tattoo I didn’t know about is a little crescent moon behind her right ear. She tells me that she got it when we weren’t talking, a time I refer to as our “dark period.” I tell her that I hate that any life was lived during that time and she says, “ well if it's any solace, I loved you all the way through, and missed you every day.” I receive this message at work and my heart threatens to fall out, onto the floor, but then there is just a pinch that is magnified by the realization that I get to see this friend tomorrow for the first time in almost two years.
The friend that lives in the city that is second furthest in distance from home, and whose cat is the youngest, got her two tattoos at once, on a whim. Since high school, I see her once a year, if that. She makes me laugh and tells me about every delicious meal she has in detail and calls me out when I am being bitchy or stubborn or unfair. When we were seventeen and still living in the same neighborhood, we’d bake cookies on Friday nights and drive circles around our sleepy town in the dark. One of her tattoos is a wave, the other, a lotus flower outlined by the words “be kind.” And she is — no matter how much she hates your hair or thinks you fucked up, she’s kind. Honest, but kind.
The friend that lives furthest away has two cats and two tattoos. One of them she got with her best childhood friend; the other reads, “to live this life is lucky,” a sentiment that she reminds me of each day. Her friendship feels like sunshine and a warm blanket and always having a reason to be grateful. To be her friend is lucky. To have the capacity to love and be loved by any of, if not all of these humans is lucky.
When I wrote that the third friend lives furthest away, I realized that she actually lives closest to where I am now, to this new home of mine. And to be fair, it really is starting to feel like home. Still, my people feel far away. The distance is something we might be able to solve if we weren’t so damn broke and so damn busy. This is part of what I resent most about being an adult — that so little of my time is actually mine . On days when it gets really bad, my denial over this newfound “adulthood” that I have stumbled into, days that I call my “I want to be eight years old again” days, they send me love via every available medium. We gchat and text and Facetime and call and write letters and emails and still, I feel their absences so physically. Will I ever acclimate to this apartness? To sharing in each others lives through screens and muffled calls on lunch breaks and Instagram tags? I tell myself not to worry about this because I have the rest of my life, my own forever, to learn how to make it feel okay.
There are these three friends. They live in three different cities, in three different states. They all have tattoos and cats. I don’t feel trapped or fearful. Forever feels okay.