my phone rings the other day and when i pick up nicolette says
‘hey girl, whats good?
she’s forever doing that shit. tryin’ to stretch a too light question across a chasm of
uncomfortability, as if the answer could be a noun, or simple
but being up west here i haven’t heard a proper colloquialism in so long I have to set down my
resentments on the kitchen counter like a stack of unopened bills. sometimes i wonder if she
finds these conflicts as exhausting as i do, how for the past few months we’ve been fighting
with silence over her unpaid phone bill from opposite corners of the country. the nights i just
wanted to call her i never almost did, because it wasn’t ever about money. placida says silence
gives you more insight than any kind of talk. communication is all we’ve ever been working to
perfect and drinking to escape, slouched up in the kingdom hall with brains bent to the word
for understanding. it was me and nic against the world, and real talk was our smallest unit of
measurement in best friendship.
nicolette says ‘what it do?’
and i know she hears me smile when i say ‘you know, whats good with you?’
she tells me about work and the usual suspects, the adjustment to her new position as manager
at the restaurant. hiring new girls for the summer is a trip. she wants me to think things aren’t
like they used to be. maybe they aren’t.
“i just dont understand. what did I do you? I invite you in for a interview, call you back, and you
tell me you don’t want a job?!”
her voice is raspy from the closing shift, but she’s wide awake. she leans into her d’s, shortens
her a’s, and closes in.
nicolette says we’ve got different fighting styles. that when it goes down between us i stab
alliteratively with unflinching ethos and the memory of an elephant. nicolette says we are like a
black and white cookie. and i just know how she does too -memorizes vulnerabilities and sets in
with delicate, insidious anger that appeals only sweeter emotions. together we built a sense of
humor in our friendship. made up of restless confessions, 211 steel reserve, and racist and self
mocking impressions. today she’s called to tickle me to death.
and so I’m laughing hard from a place that hurts to miss home, that has me revisiting the space i
put between us. i should have fucking sent her to voicemail.
nicolette says “and these chicks is like ‘mmm well, I may have some photoshoots during the
summer so I just want to keep my schedule open, you know?’
i’m still laughing, but retreat a little further into my head, looking for an anchor. some days we
can go a hundred memories before i see the surface of reality again.
“mhm. trippin’ is bliss” i say
nicolette says “remember ‘so when do i start?”
kinda. i’m almost gone now.
a few summers ago we spent a few weeks stomping around the east village looking for
foodservice jobs. nic knew a boy jon prada, a casually sartorial Filipino boy with a tiny waist
who always carried his mother’s black birkin. he did some infamous sous chef work in a few
dope downtown spots and gave us the in on some host openings. we’d show up three drinks and
fifteen minutes to lunch in our best goodwill and consignment, with the name of a manager
or bartender to speak to. more often than not, no such person was ever around. we’d drop a
resume with a nonplussed day host, and wouldn’t leave without leaning across the podium
to ask “So. When do I start?” invariably the answer was never. it didn’t matter. the question
asserted the prickly love, rum stained loyalty, stubborn respect and fear we’d managed to
confide in our friendship up until this point at the Lenox Lounge, or dangling feet off nic’s fire
escape while eating cheese sandwiches from the corner store. it was finally and after all, a
readiness to surrender ourselves to discipline. each bitch hostess was another ten minutes
spared of the suns reflection against the glittering pavement, of our blinding immaturity and
suffocating anonymity. each “no” was another chance to get it right, to rep ourselves, just as
we’d toasted on my grandmothers floor the evening before. we’d re-adjust our matted pin curls,
whoever had a dollar would buy the next coffee, and we’d keep going ‘till we were too hungry
and had to go back uptown.
that summer was invaluable desperation, it was nyquil with a spoonful of ice cream at noon,
it was leave the house with nothing but your keys and ID, it was why i’m glad i left, and by the
time i finish thinking all this, nicolette says
‘hell-ooo? mami! is you even listening to me?? i call you up free long distance to tell you i finally
pay a phone bill and you don’ even listen to me? ok. ok. whateva. i get it”