I am a tremendously terrible person, but I pretend to be a good one. I am such a gifted pretender that I fool myself until I do something too ugly to apologize for and forget. Repentance requires proof: a warm red bag, neatly labeled, one-seventh of my person. Donating blood is Christ-like, so donating blood obviously makes me Christ-like. I choose to bare my unblemished arm and suffer the suction of the needle in order to save up to three lives. I am very brave.
Anyway I made an appointment to atone last week because not last week, but the week before that, I ate dinner with a very good friend of mine absolutely vibrating with the anticipation of hurting her. My prey: Elle Belle O’Blossom.
Elle Belle O’Blossom had asked me to dinner three days beforehand, and I said no, then yes, and then she rescheduled to Friday, so finally — there we were. I felt strangely spider-like as I watched her enter the Jonathan Edwards dining hall. It felt like the right dining hall to do this in.
Elle said hello, apologizing effusively as she sat down opposite me at one of those smaller tables for four. She was late. (She’s always late, she always apologizes effusively.) A flurry of activity: She put down her backpack, took off her jacket and asked me how I’m doing. I sat very still with a loose gaze — like I couldn’t be bothered to focus — and I said in the most coldly cordial of tones: “I’m doing well, thanks.” I was ruthless.
Elle Belle O’Blossom had no idea what she was in for. She’s a much better person than I. It’s the hair that gives it away — it’s energetic and blonde, bouncy with tight curls, often held together with a rubber band worn thin from the strain of having to hold all that goodness. (I am very jealous as my own hair is errant and full of fly-aways, as if it is trying very hard to flee my person.) Elle looks like a folk singer or forest nymph. Or maybe like a Renaissance painting of a forest nymph: shy and benevolent surprise framed between two ferns. In the background, a misty river or a wall of dark green. It invites curious visitors to ask, “Who is she?” “What is she doing?” or “What does she want?”
What does Elle want? I asked her last year. I told her I wanted to be good friends, close friends, and she agreed. We’ve since broken up. It’s all very sad; yes, of course I’ll miss the lyricality of her voice, her charming smile and quiet narcissism. But it had to happen. I still miss her.
A very large part of my last year here has been about saying goodbye to good friends. I wish it wasn’t, but I don’t know how to make it stop.
I still wanted to hurt her, and I think I did. It was delicious to talk knowing that she knew that our friendship left me scraped up. Yum.
I was on my second cup of tea when Elle asked why I was acting distant. I readied myself for the second act. I replied that I didn’t know how to be friends with her; Elle isn’t dependable, and I’m not flexible. Then I started crying and then she started crying and then I started sobbing — small hiccups I struggled to swallow. It was literally 6:30 p.m. in the Jonathan Edwards dining hall. I made eye contact with at least 10 people with the most intense tear tracks on my cheeks.
I wanted to leave, so I told her I needed to pee, that it was an emergency. We walked out of the dining hall together, and I didn’t know how to leave. I asked Elle where she was going, gave her a hug and walked home quickly. It is very frustrating to lose a friend.
Earlier this year, I lost another good friend. I think that at some point she decided she didn’t want to be friends with me anymore, so she kind of just checked out. I’m glad she did what she needed, but it was very confusing. Friends have been dropping around me like flies this year, and their corpses gather round my feet, staring up with dead gazes, refusing to answer me: What did I do wrong? We knew each other! I know her mother’s name and her mother’s mother’s name! We’ve had like a million brunches together!
Romantic relationships are supposed to go, but I never, ever thought friends left the same way. I really thought we would be friends forever. I feel like a child admitting that.
Last Wednesday morning, I biked to the Joseph Slifka Center for Jewish Life at Yale to give blood. Minutes later, I was lying down on a makeshift mattress and letting a woman named Paula pierce my innocent arm-skin with a needle the size of a fork prong. Seconds after that, I let her wiggle the needle around in my arm-flesh, probing for a vein that will not just blow up from the trauma of penetration. It hurt a lot. I am 100 percent sure she did it wrong.
As the bag fills up, I start to cry (but very silently so Paula won’t be frightened). Tears leak out and pool in my ears. I feel like maybe I’m drowning, and my arm pangs like it’s been hit too hard. I’m careful not to move it. I don’t want the needle to break and be carried by the current of my blood into my heart. That would be a terrible way to die.
I stare at the red ceiling of the big room on the second floor of Slifka and think about how funny Elle would find Paula and her translucent, papery skin and how she balances two eyeglasses on her nose and peers through the bottoms of her eyes to see the insertion site. I want to tell her how Paula poked me three times and gave me a hematoma, but I never once asked for a nurse with more lively eye muscles. It’s not just Elle.
I miss a lot of people. I am very brave.
Editors Note: For the purposes of this article, names have been changed.
Agnes Enkhtamir | firstname.lastname@example.org .