It is mid-morning right now and I’m on the train to New York. It’s been less than a week since I last said goodbye to you, but it did not feel like a proper goodbye. Perhaps it never will. I am writing this because I feel restless—it’s so quiet without you. I had not realized how much of my life I shared with you until I couldn’t anymore. There are so many words…yet not enough to know how to speak to you. It’s rather foolish, don’t you think? I’ve never been more anxious attempting to speak to you than I am now when I know you cannot possibly respond to me. Maybe it’s because anything I say now will remain with me, without a laugh or even a nod from you. I imagine you sitting here with me, on our way to begin again—a new life elsewhere. You were always so determined, even back in college. I like to believe that I’ve learned to be a little bit more determined, a little less frightened, because of you.
I think I understand your reservations about my marrying Joe now. I suppose, beyond everything, you were afraid that things would change. I kept telling you it wouldn’t but…I suppose you were right. It would have changed. And now I know what it feels like to be uncertain because I cannot count on my best friend to be beside me as I walk through life.
I wish you had given me timeThere are so many things I wish I could have told you, talked through with you, reassured you of. I’ll try to write it all down here. Perhaps when we meet again, I’ll get to read it to you.
Emily Dickinson was right. I scarcely know where to begin, but love is always a safe place. And I do love you, Martha. Oh, how I love you. The past months have been dreadfully confusing and overwhelming. I don’t think I could have survived it with anyone else but you. I only wish I had been able to give you the same strength. We never needed to be like anyone else to be able to brave through any storm. We only needed to be us.
Don’t you remember the first time we met? We both sat at the back of the room in Professor Lightman’s American Literature class. I was still quite flustered from running from my chemistry professor and you asked me if I was alright. It was the first week of class and Professor Lightman caught us talking, and she made you recite the poem that we had been tasked to read beforehand. I opened my book to the correct page, and you only looked at the title before you grinned, stood up, and began reciting it from memory. I remember being amazed by you; I knew I could not have done that. You always loved poetry, and, as luck would have it, you loved Emily Dickinson even more. Truly, nothing bonds two people more than shared trouble.
And we’ve had our share of trouble, haven’t we, Martha? Nothing could have broken us or made me think any less of you. For eleven years, you were always the first person I’d tell when anything happened. And look at me now, attempting to speak to you, to transcend this life to the next, just to tell you that I’ve just lost my best friend.
And I don’t know how to Oh, Martha, please forgive my tears. I just keep on thinking that if anyone could console me over a loss, it would have been you. You would have known exactly what to do. Maybe you’d cook Coq au Vin for me because you knew it’s my favorite. I remember when you went out to buy a cookbook just to make that for me the first time Joe and I had a fight and I had been too upset to remember to eat dinner. I think I might have taken for granted how well you cared for me. Martha, why’d you go?
I think I’ve lost my words again, Martha. If you were in front of me, you’d know exactly what I meant without my having to say too much. Oh, this is far too difficult! Damn you, Martha. Damn you for leaving. Damn you for promising to talk about going away in the morning. Damn you for not sitting here with me, fulfilling your promise. Oh, God help me! Look what you’ve made me do—I’m a silly woman crying alone on a train. You did not even let me hold you that last day. You said you couldn’t bear to be touched by me, but could you not have given your dear best friend a farewell hug at least? Everyone who mocked and ridiculed us be damned! It’s their fault, Martha, isn’t it? They confused you and they took you away from me. Nothing was ever supposed to be able to take us away from each other. Not marriage, not slander, not anything. Don’t you remember when we first dreamed of our school? How we turned that old house into the school we had sketched on the back of my chemistry notebook? How we cleaned the entire house, painted it ourselves even if it was terribly un-ladylike? We were so proud of ourselves we even treated ourselves to an entire bottle of wine! You had been quite drunk, and you started dancing by yourself in the middle of the foyer, and I laughed so much that night it hurt. And I was so sure that there would be so many more moments, if not entire nights, like that with you. We were bringing our dream to life! We were supposed to be a pair of old women who could barely hear each other as we rocked on our chairs someday. You were going to be the godmother of my first child, and the next probably. I would not have trusted my child with anyone else more. Marriage and children…it’s funny how far away from that I am now.
What am I going to do with my life now, Martha? Joe came back, you know? But I couldn’t. I couldn’t be sure again if he was there because he believed me or because he knew I’d need someone with you gone. I can’t be with anyone right now. I wish you were here. I refuse to strike that off the page. I truly wish you were here. Didn’t I tell you I wanted you to come with me? So, why did you go, Martha?
You can’t just tell someone you love them like that and leave, it’s not right!
Did you know it physically hurts when you lose someone? It really does. Maybe that’s where they got the idea of heartbreak. My chest hurts every time I remember you’re gone. It hurts whenever I’m reminded that I will never hear your voice again. Martha, how could you leave me alone with all these questions? I have so many questions. So many questions I’m uncertain of asking. Do I dare, Martha? Do I dare ask them? Will they even matter?
We were not guilty, Martha. We weren’t. We never thought of each other that way—not in some sinful perverted way. Never! I love you, Martha. And I will always forgive you before you even ask. But Martha…there is nothing to forgive with this. I am only sorry you felt you had to go. Oh, I’m sorry
I did not know how to I don’t know how to talk about this, Martha. I tried…I tried showing you everything was alright. I was asking you to take a chance at life with me. A fresh start somewhere else. In the city maybe. I hope we had gotten the chance to talk about it. We can be teachers in the city. Or maybe secretaries if we really needed to. We would have to live in a really small room. We might not be able to afford even a boarding house, not in New York. But we’d be able to do it. Because it’s you and I, Martha. We could do anything.
Martha, I heard what you said. I’m not…trying to brush it aside but…I don’t know how to speak about it. We never had the chance to speak about it.
Words fail me, Martha. I think I’m only an hour or so away from New York, now. I’m quite frightened of the big city. I haven’t found a job yet, you know? I simply couldn’t bear to live in the school anymore. I’m afraid I’m not entirely sure where Aunt Lily is either. I gave her as much money as I could but between the money I needed for my first few days in New York and all the money we spent on lawyers, it was not all that much. I think you’ll be better equipped to look after her from where you are now though. Oh, but Martha, don’t push yourself too hard even in the next life. You truly did your best to take care of her here. You always do your best in things, it’s one of the qualities I admire most about you. And someone like you, Martha. Oh, you could never love anyone dirtily. Especially not me…
Do I dare, Martha? Wouldn’t you visit me in a dream and tell me?
You’ve always been a sweet girl. And I’ve accepted your friendship and love, time and time again. I accepted your care and I have cared for you back. I have given you my friendship and my love too. And Martha, I can never think of your love for me as dirty. That would be impossible. An oxymoron. The only unnatural thing.
Martha, Martha, Martha…
Oh, how I love you, Martha. And how I miss you. How much I would rather traverse this new life with you.
How I wish you could tell me why I feel this way.
Martha. My dearest dearest friend. Please know that I love you too. Not in the way they said. Never in that awful way they said. But perhaps…perhaps in the way we always did for one another. Perhaps in our way. And I await the day we meet again. In heaven, or wherever they send such troubled souls as ours. Whatever realm I forfeit, Lord