My Hidden Lives // Prose

110. about how Alexandra died in the snow

it is a starless winter night's tale

I learned about the discrepancies of love aged 16 from queen Alexandra, who had breasts like my mother and my father’s penchant for digressions. From the moment we met, she sat on my lap while eating sandwiches outside our high school building, and teachers passed us by, thinking,

How queer.

Sometimes she smoked. I passively engaged in this sacred act of adolescent rebellion by observing her bosom move up then down with every breath of death she inhaled, then let loose into the world.  Alexandra  taught me about the inevitability of departures, about Plato,  as well as misplaced faith in fathers. I told her I liked my dad, and she said „He’s nice enough.“

I didn’t like that she used that word, „nice“. It mirrored how she sometimes called people „kind“ as a euphemized way of saying they were stupid. I did my best to never be nice, or kind, we both dressed in the same black clothes and read the same books, we listened to experimental violins drone in my room that became a 24/7 fire-hazard zone.

She smoked a lot.

We believed in reincarnation. I told her about the time I stepped onto a vast square of a city and it felt like it could be mine. She made me scour history books to find out who I might have been. The only person to ever pin the label „artist“ onto my shabby coat. I didn’t mind.

She screamed perched atop a grave at the old cemetery,

I am fucking infinite, and so are you, babe.

I caved beneath the weight of her childlike certainty, and something from deep within me cried back to that stone angel with the beautifully sculpted breasts and hair that seemed unnervingly alive. I hollered into the crisp, piney, air: we howled like wolves for the rest of that night, and from that day on we were as tight as the laces of her corset, as thick as the thieves who could no longer get their claws into our hearts. Because we had each other to fall back on. And rock’n’roll.

Alexandra thought we should die together : our birthdays were already on the same date, she promised it was fate, we’d be thrown through the vortex of time, space and death into the same place. When I was down in the pits, she came over to read Nietzsche while I sobbed on the floor, and then when I couldn’t cry anymore, she told me I was cured. She couldn’t see, I was never as into philosophy as into her.

She said we were two faces of the same coin. To Alexandra, we weren’t worth too much apart but joined, we made up one solid Roman god. Janus. It was enticing to pretend we were divine. The last summer I spent with my best friend, I was tired of her charms. Each night I went home earlier to rest, while she stayed behind.

Rock’n’roll, babe, she told me, it’s no choice. Her insistent voice resisted change.

As estranged as we became, I still smiled at her each time we’d meet, hoped that one day she would greet me with a plan and not the usual scam of can-you-give-me-a-couple-of-bucks-please-my-wallet’s-hard-to-find. And I obliged, every single day.

„You’re so kind,“ she’d say. I’d forgotten about what it really meant for a while, I guess, but I remember it now. My feeble attempts at interventions didn’t help Alexandra and by the time I realized I didn’t know how to compete with the myth she’d built around her street-home and her pack of wolves, she was gone.

True to the contrived absurdity Alexandra lived by, the last memory I have of my first teacher is a girl snorting cocaine off a leather-bound dictionary she’d gotten from her dad, a year ago.

Drowning in snow, although it was barely June, she stood up gingerly as I made my way out of the room. I noticed I was a good inch taller than her, a fact that always used to escape me. The wolves howled as we had before, from their places on Alexandra’s bedroom floor (a couple square meters of collegiate misery). But it wasn’t like that night at the cemetery, not as primal or as innocent.

Alexandra then came up to me and hugged me really hard.

„You’re so kind, babe. And I’m really proud of you, you know? I don’t tell you so as often as I should.“

I said „I know,“ and then I wanted to add – „if I could, I’d love nothing more than to be proud of you, too.“

But she was buried so deep into that life she thought would keep her from experiencing pain, and I knew how it felt, when it rains and you can’t seem to get wet, whatever you do. So you swallow pills, like me, or exchange them for cheap thrills as Alexandra did. Our only difference was in knowing when to stop.

Our places could’ve easily been swapped. Instead of being born into a loving family, I could’ve had her life, and if I had, perhaps the knife I used to play with would’ve cut deeper than the surface, would’ve served the purpose she’d assigned to snow. And then, up we would go, as we’d promised, our mouths pressed together in that final howl, in the ultimate exchange of foul air and, yes. Rock’n’roll.

When I told Alexandra that philosophy just didn’t do it for me, I never suspected that the same was true for her. I never thought the girl who valued her brain above all other parts (except perhaps the breasts) would lose it to cocaine, or play host to a myriad of guests that didn’t even show up at her side when she was in the hospital, and when she died.

I cried inside my mother’s arms that day, but the pain just wouldn’t go away. I realized, similarities are what hurts us in the end. I could pretend now, in this text, I was kinder to Alexandra than the rest of them, I could say: I told her she would end this way.

Except I didn’t. I stood by.

Of all the words I should’ve said to her that night, I chose the only wrong one.

I said, „Goodbye.“

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