She wasn't taking any medication.
We sat on my room's floor and ate Chinese food, me leaning against my bed and her against the wall, wedged between my low black bookshelf and the door. I told her everything that'd happened in the heartland; the hard conversations with my grandmother, how I'd learned I could fit in after all if only I had the guts for it. She responded not only with sentences of her own but with these practiced, soothing hums and nods of agreement which seemed to almost be pulsing out the beat to my Momentous Concerto of Feelings.
Now when I remember Olive I remember her this way, on Christmas night, eating Chinese food on the floor with me and nodding. She's huddled up in her hoodie , limbs tucked close, her fingers burrowed inside her sleeves; her wide, flat face cockeyed and listening and eyes blinking behind her expensive glasses. It was a meek, tender posture that made her seem -- because she was a lot bigger than me -- like this warm glowing soft sulking animal. She sat like a person who wanted to fold right into herself through some tiny trapdoor in her gut. She sat like a person who wanted to be smaller and who spent her life actively destroying possibilities or roads that could lead her where she wanted to go, or turn her into what she wanted to be. So in lieu of all that, she deferred, she shrunk, she huddled, she hid, she compacted, she shied.
And I loved her so much that night, as I had since August of 2007 and as I would until late February, 2009. Not a really long time period in the grand scheme of things but long enough.
Things happen quickly here.
We all did, at one point or another, didn't we? We all loved her so much if even for a minute.
I met Olive because of the internet. We never would've crossed paths otherwise. She's the only local friend I can say this about with certainty.
She's also the only person I've ever given up on; fully, completely, forever.
So she's only a lot of things.
She was, at the time, one of only a few queer girl friends I'd had that I'd never kissed.
That might seem meaningless, but I'm a trashwhore, just keep that in mind. And I don't have a lot of friends.
Christmas was a cold, sad night; but when she left I felt somehow buoyed because she'd been here and we'd talked for so long; knowing that we'd made it through this year and the one before it in one piece. Thinking of her warm, sad body and her hums and nods, her blind psychotic nods of agreement, her unconscious pervasive manipulation and the time that winter when she'd cried on the couch while I held her hand and didn't let go when it got sweaty.
Alex was talking when we were on the couch and I remember thinking I wanted to burrow into Olive's shoulder and maybe hibernate there, but instead i held her hand while she cried, and then squeezed it when she cried harder.
On February 26th of this 2009 I was at work when she called. I didn't answer. We'd been emailing about some L Word dresses the Showtime girls had asked for help identifying but I didn't want to talk because I was at work and I didn't talk about my work to her.
Olive was a very helpful person.
I do think she wanted to help.
I listened to her voicemail; cool as a cucumber, to the End of olive: "I wanted to call you so that you would hear it from me first, that I messed up, I made up a person and emailed Robin as this person to offer Robin a job, this woman I used to babysit for, and I don't know why I did that, or why I do those things but I fucked up and I'm sorry, obviously I'm still really fucked up and wish I could know why i do these things, and, I love you ..."
I sat on the chair listening to her voice-mail and feeling the blood in my body sort of evaporate into this space of pure, white noise.
"Are you okay," Dylan asked, seeing my blank cold face.
"Yeah," I said. "My friend - Olive, you know --- the one who like fucked me over for my apartment --"
"Oh," that pity look women give each other, women like us who have pity to spare, and to hold, and to deflect and internalize, "You're still talking to her ?"
See, I hadn't heard it from Olive first, because Alex, Carly, Robin and I had already figured it out. But it was the first lie we'd caught her in where no-one got hurt, nothing serious was lost (besides a few hours of detective work, but really I was a seasoned pro at that point), and she didn't leave anyone homeless, jobless, awaiting a Paypal transfer or requesting time off work and waiting for a car to an airport to a flight that didn't exist on a vacation that didn't exist.
So there was no mess or logistical nightmare to remedy and therefore I continued emailing with her for the next 20 minutes or so, almost enjoying one of a few moments ever where I was the one who knew something she didn't know, something catastrophic and mean, before she finally emailed back that she doesn't think Bette ever wore that red dress and that I really need to check my voicemail.
So I emailed her back and told her never to talk to me again.
I mean that's not what I said exactly.
This is what I said, exactly: You should call Alex. I have a lot of feelings but I don't have the time to go through them all right now. Mostly I'm just completely baffled because this comes out of nowhere and was completely unnecessary. If you could still get back to me with info about the dresses I would appreciate it. I'll write you more when I have time.
I get defensive when I try to tell this story. See; the quickest way to lose your mind is to try to fit a crazy person's behavior into your reality. It doesn't fit, so you have to make room. So you fit that information in the only part that has eternal vacancy; imagination. By then, too late, as I said: you've already lost it. You're nothing.
"September is a time of change."
I've been thinking about September 2008, when I was expecting August to light firecrackers for September and instead it stuffed two sticks of dynamite into my ears, plugged my mouth with a banana and dropped me off the roof of 172 West 124th street and I fell to the street ignited by the speed of the past twelve months of my life sucking skyward. I fell onto the street where, coincidentally, at that time, I 'joked' I might soon be living.
In July '08 my roommates told me someone would be taking my place September 1st. This new roommate would, I knew, enjoy Pictionary and invisible-dust-dusting more than I did. I felt like a dystopian punk stepdaughter in that apartment. I skulked punkily into my room and announced this development to my friends via email.
I briefly considered my options, thought it would be a good time to leave the city, wondered how I could get an apartment without strong finances on paper or a real 'job' or money for a security deposit and decided my best course of action was to get a place far away, like the last stop on the Q train to Whereversville, and write in a hermitage, accepting biweekly visitors when I was in the mood for it.
Then Olive came over to get me for the basketball game and she sat on my bed and suggested we get a place together.
But what will your Mom do, I asked.
She knows I have to go eventually, she responded. I mean she'll freak out, but it will be fine. Good. It's what I need to do.
Are you surrrreeeee, I said. I made my words extra long so that she'd know I meant it.
Yes, weirdo, haven't I been saying this forever, she said.
Who will clean up all the newspapers, I asked.
I'll go visit, she said. It's not that far. I already drive here almost every day.
Then we laughed a little bit, both thinking about how when we first met her; she'd told us she lived in a $1.5 million dollar apartment by the water in Hoboken when she'd actually lived in a condo with her Mom in a town an hour away the opposite direction, and how Stef had said she'd always wondered why Olive took the wrong highway to Hoboken after dropping Stef off. Well, that's what I was thinking about.
She was on my bed.
I was standing by my black dresser, leaving my computer cave. I looked at the wall with a neutral facial expression. I looked at her face, blinking. I thought: Who could lie to me about this? Why lie to me about this? Like it's just stupid, only a total fucking psycho would do this and not mean it ... she's my friend right and I love her. She told us in April she would never lie again, she hasn't lied since ...
[or so we thought]
Weirdo, she insisted.
But I'm really annoying, I said. Like to live with.
I know, she said. I like how you live. We're always fine together.
Then I did it -- that thing you do in your brain when you close your eyes and leap quickly, like a sneaky spy, from doubt to faith, leaving reason gutted in the canal. I'm serious that's what it is like exactly, that's not an analogy.
No. I didn't leap then.
It was after the basketball game when we were having dinner with Carly and Alex at Better Burger and Carly asked where I was going to live and i said Brooklyn or Queens and Olive said, "we're going to live together," and I said something about not being able to afford anything fancy and she said she would work it out which was her secret code phrase for "I'm going to fuck you up really bad for no reason," and I bit into my organic cheeseburger and chewed it and swallowed.
There were only about 24 hours between me learning I had to move and Olive volunteering to get a place together. So I didn't really have time to consider or begin any other plans. I do regret that.
All I can say is that it's hard to imagine someone who loves you would do anything so ridiculous for no reason, which is why you have to be careful who you love.
And who loves you.
We decided to start looking in August for a September move-in date. She talked to her "finance guys" and gave me a budget way over mine. I said I couldn't do more than $800 a month, TOPS. She wanted something fancier -- for her lease application she'd put "$15,000" as her monthly trust fund payout, which she claimed was being tightly controlled, thus her inability to spend it on things other than rent, like the window on her car that'd been broken since we met. We settled on a budget that would leave her paying twice what I paid, but it was what she wanted. I was ready to start looking!
Then she got mono.
So I looked for apartments without her.
Our first broker was clingy & awkward, a fully-grown man with geeky apologetics and an unseemly pubescent self-presentation. Olive & I began referring to him as "Milton," after the Office Space character who threatened to burn down the building if anyone moved his stapler or his desk one more time. I texted her everything I saw as I saw it.
Olive would often tell me she was going to take a nap and then not take a nap. She had twitter. I knew.
I made videos of the apartments to show to Haviland & Olive and I made Milton talk crazy for her, and though he found a place I was good with somehow Olive didn't dig it. Ultimately Milton made me so uncomfortable and was so incompetent that we decided to go with another firm. Olive didn't like Milton's offerings and nudged the price upwards for when I first met up with John on Riverside, in the upper 80's, on a block I'd always loved.
My proximity to the area of my childhood dreams vaulted my emotional resources into spheres of mental incapacity and total fantasy-play. John was a roly-poly white-bearded freshman real estate agent with a family and an academic resumè.
"Olive has mono," I'd told John on our first day of trekking around Upper West Side two-bedrooms.
"Well, I hope she gives you a big thank you for this," John said, jovially, sweat dripping down his innocent professional face. "You're a good friend."
"Oh, she feels so guilty," I insisted. "Trust me." I would've added that I was taking time off work to do this, but I didn't, because I already felt indebted to Olive because she'd agreed to pay more rent.
We finally decided on our place on Friday, less than a week before move-in.
"It's not like a thousand dollars more, it's just a hundred dollars more," She said. "I mean, that's like one less Free City t-shirt a month or something it's not a big deal." Of course not, of course it wasn't, like Monopoly money.
"That's like ten less t-shirts and a credit card finance charge a month for me," I joked to John because he'd overheard the conversation.
"She's a good friend," he said, and I believed him. I stood in the apartment we had picked, on the top floor of a brutal sixth-floor walkup , looking at the high ceilings and imagining her and I in it; she who'd always let me be who I am, who was a calm force when I unfurled my worst, ugliest, meanest parcels, she stood there like a fucking TREE, and how magical our lives would be when we had windows this big and a view so lovely. From there we would see everything, things we wanted to walk on, nothing we wanted to jump into, flaccid as rot.
Alex came to meet John and see the apartment we'd chosen and then the three of us shared an awkward beer outside a shitty Mexican restaurant (I had a Coke) to go over the details and call Olive to ensure that her "financial guys" would send everything in on Monday and for me to give John a check for the application fee.
Milton kept calling, stubborn about losing us as clients, telling us the apartment I'd liked was still available.
I sent Olive a few emails about how excited I was about the future. Her mono dragged on.
Within weeks of when we first met in August 07, she'd seen my apartment and said "we need to get you out of here." She talked constantly about wanting to move me elsewhere, like I was a plant who needed more sunshine. But I liked being a plant, like the sad flowers in anti-depressant commercials. I liked something small and magical being able to fix me.
This place was going to change everything.
If Olive could change, and Olive had changed, anything was possible.
After we'd decided on the place I'd lied in my bed and dreamed, wondering how I'd gotten so lucky and thinking how I could parlay this into Excitant (the original idea, before Autostraddle 2.0 was born) b/c I'd have HQ right there, could assemble a staff, start looking for financing, finally live the dream.
It would be safe; I could enjoy the city free of the constant street hecklers so aggressive that I'd avoided leaving the apartment at all costs for the last year or so. Nearby art museums, gyms, libraries, the park, grocery .. I could walk to the grocery store, screw freshdirect & their fees! I'd do my own laundry & save money/back pain.
Haviland could come stay comfortably.
We'd have a deck party.
I'd keep working and save money and be able to start my own business that winter without stressing over the day-to-days. All of this and no skin whatsoever off my best friend's back, and it had been her idea! I imagined being able to do things for people like Olive once did for all of us, and how she enabled me to do it for people too. I could even work in my new neighborhood if I wanted to, waitressing or something; there was nothing uptown that hired people like me.
A strange thing happens in New York to girls who let their brains get redeveloped into rows of tree-lined streets.
Reader, things like that don't just happen to people! Life is not a fairy tale. Life is not even a YA Novel. Life is not a story. Life is what happens and stories are what happened. This is a story. This is a real story where in the end no one gets what they want and everyone is tired.
You should never assess life's possibilities by the stories anyone tells.
The Monday of the week I had to move -- the last week of August -- she wrote me in the morning, about ten minutes before our "financial papers" were due to the broker's office.
I read the first line of her email and my blood turned to chlorine, and I knew the rest, and I knew nothing in it would be true, but it'd be up to me to figure out which parts provided me clues for what might happen next.
There were parts that were untrue, but printing & refuting them would be more for my own ego than for the benefit of the story. I'll just give you the first paragraph and ask you to trust me about the rest, that you don't really want to see it:
Unfortunately it was Milton who had the unlucky opportunity of emailing me only hours after Olive had emailed me to say she "couldn't" do it, an email cloaked -- as her apologies for bailing out on giant things she herself had proposed often were -- in blank, repetitive apologies, important words somehow phrased as coldly as plainly as possible. It was a broken record and we hated that fucking record.
I returned Milton's plea to allow him to show us more apartments with the brief, hard-as-a-hammer: Unfortunately Olive is no longer with us. Please stop emailing me, this is painful enough as is.
That's one of the ugly things I did that I wished I could take back right after revealing that I'd done that, like I had crossed some invisible line by treating my best friend like she was dead. What are you so concerned about, I wanted to ask when my friends said that was a terrible thing to say. My karma? Because one hundred times zero is still zero.
Blog Time Travel - What I Wrote/ What I Meant
August 24th, 2008: "hello commenters! it is me, tinkerbell. unfortunately riese is having a rough night, so i'll be stepping in for her and providing comment responses. please forgive me, i was born in 2008. Luckily I have a good memory of all things that happened before that time in the world."
Translation: Riese is sobbing and throwing things. She is yelling things she'll never remember saying. Her friends and her girlfriend are trying so hard to stay above water, they are angels, practically, and when her friends leave and she is finally alone she just wants to cry silently at the window, eat cigarettes, tear sheets in half and slice her thigh wide open with a dull kitchen knife. She wants to listen to Handel and pound her chest until her heart falls out of it. She wants to write emails and unwrite them. So many possible words to throw up on anyone with a mouth open for poetry.
I posted again on August 26th, trying to sound alive, and even dropping a factoid no-one ever noticed I'd said, back then.
August 28th, 2008: I don't know where I'm going, I don't know what I'm doing. The first stop is a storage unit. The next stop is a couch, I guess, and then another couch. It's cool, I like sleeping on couches. I am so sad right now I'm sorry I can't do this. This typing thing, the exclamation points. Waa. I am lucky to have so many good friends though they are such beautiful souls, we all need to meditate together on the balcony by the waves wink wink.
Translation: Motherfucker, I don't got nowhere to live, and it's your fault. You're not helping me move, like you totally would even if we weren't living together. You're not helping me find a place. You're not even being nice to me, or giving me money for the storage I need to get 'cause you fucked me up. I will fuck your shit up, you fucking motherfucker.
You're lucky I have so many good friends who have helped me get on my feet and packed for me and stopped me from chasing you down with a SuperSoaker and doing some serious damage, also, they cleaned up your mess. You owe them an apology too -- Alex is your friend, you are doing this to her too. Thank God for her and for everyone. You'll never have friends this good. Oh wait. You did.
Sep-01-08: "I don't know if you've ever had this experience, but sometimes when I trust someone else with gravity it's like my heart looks at me and is like, "really?" and then before I can answer it goes, it flutters away like the happiest bird of all time. It goes before I answer, like it has wings I'd never noticed before, I'd just thought "what nice shoulder blades you have."
Translation: You let me depend. Fuck you.
Sep-12-08: the first rule of autowin club is / don't talk about bliss or / you'll knock it right over.
Translation: You promised me things I didn't want. You gave me bliss when I would've settled for a a"will to live." You can't just do that to a person. I mean it you can't just do that to someone, you can't dangle bliss before them, then turn it into a knife and disappear. You just can't do that to people. See, they'll never trust again.
Sep-20-08: video - sacred & on fire with the same force that made the stars
Translation: We're always changing, it doesn't bother me to say.
Haviland: "And there were things that seemed off, but just -- why? Why would she do that?"
Me: "It's just out of the realm of what humans actually like --DO."
Haviland: "Like it was always her idea, her plan --"
Me: "And why?"
Haviland: "No reason. There was never any reason."
It turned out her asshattery during the move-out period was just her buying some time, because she couldn't afford to help out. She couldn't move a box, and she wasn't sick, and maybe even hadn't ever been. She was unable to do what anyone who backs out of a roommate situation last minute for their own reasons should do, especially if you'd been the one in charge of the actual "moving" part to begin with.
My other best friends were doing all those things, yet the best friend who'd put me in the situation was at home on her couch, sitting on her trust fund.
Truth was she was broke. Why did she ask for us to live together? Why did she ask me to waste five weeks making that plan happen? Why didn't she at least come clean when bailing out?
Why? Because she's crazy. That's the beginning and the heart-numbing end of it.
The story goes on before this, and after. I mean stories that still blow our minds when we re-tell them. Just one person, who we honestly loved and enjoyed to have in our lives, what that did to our lives, and how we fought to keep her, or what we thought was her.
All I want is for the scars to heal and, knowing that they never will, want to go forward free of them, somehow, and wondering, still, now, as I write this, if I will ever be that person I used to be in February of 2007 (if I want to be) before anything ever happened, wondering if that person was always meant to be this person
Yes. Yes right now is the only possibility that exists
This is not a story