On Losing Friends and Other Stories by Peter Morgan Nadel
Part 1: In which we remember it is the Year of Sad I was writing something bland about love in my notebook when Nick came up to me, mouth ablaze with words, spewing some nonsense about French Seminars. It was also at this moment when, in a similarly terrifying fashion, Hailey and Margaret approached me with those paroxysms of excitability that previous generations assign to ours. “What’s wrong?” one asked. “Nothing.” “Peter!!!” the other cooed “What?” “Tell us. You can tell us.” “Nothing, I’m just tired, ok?” “I don’t believe…” I stopped listening at this point. The two streams of incoherence1 seemed to combine into one in the same way I like to think that Venn Diagrams do. But it was only after Nick announced, “Let’s get ‘bucks!” that their rivers of semantics became an ocean of syntax. The truth was that all three, Nick, Hailey, and Margaret, wanted Starbucks, always, regardless of the time, place or situation they were engaged in. Their sojourns to their temple were a truly religious experience, but this was my first time, and as I heard the trips reviewed highly, I felt some deeply spiritual duty to go to Starbucks with the crew. The only issue was that I needed to be back at school by 3:30 for fencing practice. I do not like fencing practice, strictly speaking, but as it happened, I was feeling very sick and felt as if I was going to vomit, so I was hoping, deep in my mind that we would crash or something so I wouldn’t have to go. Nick asked me just then why I needed to be back so quickly. He was built like a bull on two legs, with some of the broadest shoulders I had seen on any man, and to be quite honest, I suppose he was quite a lot like a bull. He actually reminds me more of an old children’s story called Ferdinand the Bull2, which tells the story of a bull who is told to be in a bullfight but refuses to hurt any soul, and instead elects to sit in the middle of the arena picking the petals off of flowers. In this way, his questions, like the one about my activities, always seemed misplaced. He was not a person who was fit for command, but for a life of transience. But he was a trendsetter. He brought trendsetting and Facebook groups to the school. He had this remarkable ability, though, for making decisions. For instance, on our trip to Starbucks, Hailey was talking about her life: “Should I get a frap or a mocha?”3 “Mocha,” Nick declared. “Mocha,” Hailey agreed. After overhearing this conversation, it occurred to me that Hailey scares me, I think, which is to say she terrifies me. She is White, but we are all white, why is she White? It is a feeling that is hard to describe, so I will.4 She told me once that I was “the bae.” Before I began interacting with Hailey on a daily basis, I did not know that “bae” was a word, but rather knew it as some sound effect associated with a sheep or lamb, not a person. If the reader is not privy to the knowledge that I am so blessed to have, a “bae” (n) is a close loved one, usually referring a boy/girlfriend, but can and often is used to refer to a good friend or acquaintance. Weak synonym: homie. Strong synonym: [None provided]5. Its existence is purely Hailey. Its concepts are so central to her being. The fact that it even exists as a word, let alone a subject of interest for many, is proof that Hailey lives. I know the moment that “bae” is no longer used as a word of common parlance, Hailey will no longer be Hailey. While driving, I recall she once told Margaret that: “I… um… love… Talyor Swift. She’s the real bae.” And Margaret responded, “But like actually though. The bae.” And I sighed a little. And Nick shouted, “BAE!” Margaret was the other member of our “dream team,” our “Starbucks Squad.” Margaret6 lived on two dimensions at once and, therefore, was most the human of us. “I am an actress,” she would say as if she believed it. Irony was her ego, in that regard. I remember on the ride to Starbucks, she just stared out the window, seeing the trees blur past, and the houses whoosh by. I think she wished for something else, but she would never admit it. I recall her once saying on the trip: “I remember in elementary school, in the North, they would ask who won the Civil War. And I would always say ‘the South!’ and it was mad awks ‘cause, everyone would yell the North. And the teacher would be like, ‘no the North, where you come from.’ And I would be like, ‘No, I come from the South, bitch.’” “That’s amazing,” Nick said half amused, half scared. “Whoa, too soon,” Hailey said sarcastically. “But it was true, though,” Margaret responded. “No it wasn’t… the North did win,” I responded a little scared myself. “No I mean I am from the South,” she blurted out laughing. We were in the middle of Starbucks now and we were getting some pretty weird looks from its other patrons. “Excuse me? Sir?... Excuse me? Sir?” I heard out of the corner of my ear and saw from the counter. The Barista7 was addressing Nick. “Nick,” I whispered and pointed at the man at the counter. “One sec, man,” he said, returning to his conversation. Miffed and still hearing the man’s ineffectual gasps to get Nick’s attention, I had to act, in some manner, so I pushed him. And he stopped talking. And he looked back. And ordered his drink. By the time we had completed our transit to the Starbucks and received our drinks it was 3:25. Not expecting it to take that long, upon reaching the car I shouted, “Fuck! Nick go! We need to go!” Nick, mellowing into his mocha, told me to “chill down.” I sat back and watched the world turn in front of me, and as we turned on to the street and saw the line of cars which stood between us and the school, I sank down into my seat, like a turtle into his shell. “Let’s play some…” Hailey muttered, fiddling with the radio. Something I had never heard came on. “Oh shit,” they all yelled coming to a station, and they began, like banshees, to scream, “The world should know,” I heard Nick say, rolling down the windows and turning up everything. The bass, up. The treble, up. The mids, up. The volume, way up. Our ramshackle music mobile rode their energy all the way back to school in under five minutes, but then, at the last light, Taylor entered the scene. If the reader is not aware, Taylor Swift has the same relationship to the 2010s as Nelson Mandela had to South Africa, some love her, and some hate her. As was quite evident from the sheer amount of noise, I was surrounded by those of the former category. We were so close to school, too. I was lucky we had not encountered it earlier. Loudness was everywhere; it filled every crevasse and every pore on every person so fortunate8 to be in the car at the time. But we finally took the big, long, bumpy hill, and we finally took the steep turn leading to the school’s entrance, where I fell into Margaret due to the centrifugal force, which I learned early that day, is purely fictitious. We finally took the potholes like they were smooth as butter. We finally had been home and gone and home again. Part 2: In which ‘Gaudemus Igitur’ is thought, and felt but not spoken My prior engagement had already begun. My mind filled with equations set in time, trying to calculate the amount of time that it would take for me to run there, walk there, crawl there, from the parking lot, from the entrance. I told Nick to drop me off at the door, and I would have to run. My heart beat in my jowls; I ran with the wind and my body bounced with the divots in the path and the curves in the road. All I could I think of was the empty paper mug in my hand, and how quickly I had drained it of its fluids. Upon entering the building, and traversing the lobby, and burning the soles of my shoes on the carpet’s friction, I… “Oh,” Hannah exclaimed. “Oh,” I replied. “Sorry… um…why are you not…?9” “There’s no fencing today. There’s a thing in there,” she explained, gesturing behind her. “Oh. Well… thanks.” I was rather excited about this, but felt like I shouldn’t express it all at once, just in case I was sad later in the day. I sprinted up the hill. My feet felt like giving up entirely. For some reason, unbeknown to me, I wanted to make it back up to Nick and Hailey and Margaret. I sprinted past the rock garden in front of the Turf, and the Ultimate Frisbee game on Evans, and the dewy, grassy hillock leading to the main building of the school, and I couldn’t run any longer. I walked the rest of the way, a diagonal, sweaty commute, until I saw Nick waving. “[Unintelligible].10” Nick shouted “What?” “You left your notebook in the car.” “Shit, did you read it?” “No, that wou… [unintelligible].” “Did Hailey and Margery read it?” “No,” handing it to me. “Thanks man. Where you going?” “I got ultimate, so…” “Oh I ran past them, they started already.” “Come on, I need to go the DSL. My shit’s there,” he said laughing. The DSL11 was set up to be a place for students to hang out between classes and during free periods. It is now, though, much different, serving as a bath of germs and dirt, and a meeting place, or social club for seniors and all those acceptable to seniors.12 “Sure, my bag’s down there,” I responded. We skittled down the stairs and turned around the linoleum curves, and eventually, after a minute or two, we got to the DSL, which, surprisingly, was barren and dark. It looked a little ridiculous with no sweaty boys or touchy girls or hungry students, as if it had been designed for these groups of people. Upon finding his things on one of the puffy cushions, Nick vanished. Quite honestly, I have no idea where went. I felt a little bad about that whole Starbucks affair, though, ending so anti-climatically. Regardless, as I sat after Nick left, about to get up and leave, I felt like I should write a little. The ribbing on the small blue thing held a pen, and I unsheathed it to begin my fight against the thin paper. But just as my first slashes hit the pages, there was a growling everywhere, it seemed. This was nothing new for me. 13 I ran, and I ran, and I ran to the nearest bathroom stall, which was not too far away but seemed like miles because of the tightness of the various turns, which caused me even further discomfort. Upon reaching the toilet, which was behind, not one, not two, but three consecutive, and wholly useless doors, I kneeled and began to pray.14 “Oh god, not now… [Heavy breathing]… Anything but this now… It was just… why… Oh why. Oh why…” It was at this moment that the vile fluids first began to leave my system. This was not an entirely new experience for me. For quite some time I had to excuse myself from tables or events to relieve my gastrointestinal distresses, and as it was excruciatingly painful, I had developed a mistrust of my own biological system. I reminded myself of some dying animal or an emptying water hose. It was at this moment that I began to think about the ramifications of accidentally missing some sort of miscommunicated fencing practice, which would be held in some other location than where it usually was. Hannah had said that she was going to talk with the coach who was just in the other room. My stomach growled now not just with bodily discontent but with emotional unhappiness, too. I thought that it had stopped as I began only coughing after a while, so I went to ease myself into one of the comforting chairs, so distinctive to the DSL. I had gotten halfway between the bathroom and my destination, when out of the corner of my eye I saw an unexpected movement. It was a girl I fancied and her twin.15 “Of course,” I muttered. “What brings you here?” I asked, actually quite as surprised as they were there, for on many occasions they had protested my going there as it was a disgusting rat hole with no redeeming qualities.16 “Have you seen Al?” one of them said. “No.” “He said he would be here,” the other one said. “Well… I can’t do anything about that,” I said sitting down. They followed. “Ugh,” one of them said using her phone to call this Al. The one I fancied17 gravitated close to where I was sitting and, recognizing that my disposition was not normal, I tried to escape her nonexistent grasp. “He says he’s coming! He got caught up with something.” “You want to come?” “Of course…” I said reluctantly. Part 3: In which Peter learns to cry like God does “Ok, guys… I can explain,” Al declared, coming down the stairs. “I got caught up with my advisor, and I told him I was interested in musical theater, y’know for college…” I stopped listening at this point. My head pulsated at a rather constant rhythm, which unfortunately lined up very well with Al’s monologue, causing his rather banal information to turn into spikes, which stabbed my soft brain with each hard consonant. You see, I was still in a rather large amount of pain from my earlier experiences, and this new introduction did not help. “It’s ok, come on let’s go,” the one I fancied said, rather brashly. “Yeah, sure, where?” someone said. I had closed my eyes. “Tomatillo?” she responded. “Sure,” I said meekly. “What’s up with him?” “I’ll explain… Let’s just go.” When we were well out of possible earshot of anyone who might care, I calmly began, “I’m not a man of the greatest constitution.” There was a pause, and a laugh. And then the one I fancied laughed. “Well it’s true. I can’t eat anything at this point. It’s a hard life. A struggle, to say the least.”
 “Do you not want Mexican then?” “No, it’s fine, I might just not have anything.18 I’m not that hungry.” “How are you? Ok?” the one I fancied said. “Yeah, I’m fine.” “This is going on my Twitter…” Al said exasperated. It began to drizzle, and I loved it because I really like watching the little drops dissolve into my woolen sweaters. They were all conversing, and I was talking too. “He’s cool,” my mouth said. “Oh my god! Can we not!”19 my mouth exclaimed. “This is insane,” my mouth commented. But I just strolled, watching the rain soil the scratchy fabric. We arrived; It poured; The food tasted full and round. It rained, and rained. “Let me just…” She put her head on my shoulder. It was raining when we started back to school.20
1At least for me, god only knows what it all meant to them
2Written by Munro Leaf and illustrated by Robert Lawson, and published in 1936. It was later developed into a short animated film produced by the Disney Corporation in 1938.
4The Reader should keep in mind that this is just one of many faces and colors of Hailey, and in fact is not a completely disagreeable personage. 5The word lacks any formal definition in either the O.E.D. or Webster’s Eleventh, although I am told it stands for something.
6We also called her Margery, but this nickname will not be explained in the narrative, as it serves little purpose and, I think she would hurt me.
7I have never liked this term.
8Or unfortunate.
9She never lets me finish my sentences.
10A usual state for Nick.
11Standing for Day Student Lounge. This name and its history is too convoluted for this narrative, although a full description of any institution in that school has yet to be written. 12Dieck, 2014.
13Reader, the coming passages may become grotesque, or altogether unreadable due to this grotesqueness, but I pray you do read these as they will elucidate the position that I was in at the time, and contribute to my actions afterwards.
14It should be remembered that I only pray in situations of great pain, which is to say when in circumstances of extreme and unjust pressure. It was evident to me, though, that prayer was warranted in these times of sickness, as I seemed to deserve none of it, only having done my duty as a human, metabolize. 15To say “fancied” is to not call a rose a rose, which is what I seek to do. I adore her, in every capacity, but cannot, through lack of moral or physical auspices act on any feeling whatsoever. 1609/27/14
17See [15]
18And I said this next part without any irony.
19A common yell of passive aggressive anger in my life
20I don’t thing I have ever spoken so little, and felt so bad about it.