Twenty-four hours ago, I was thriving. My senior friends and I had just closed out a Wednesday night at the Ivy Inn, belting out hits like “Wonderwall” and “I’m Yours” and “Jessie’s Girl” until we were hoarse, but not too hoarse to a cappella “Mr. Brightside” on the walk home. One of my best friends since freshman year had just turned 21. We were celebrating her, and how much she had meant to us all along, and how important we were to each other. We did it by singing and downing too many tequila shots for a Wednesday night and dancing on wooden floors that creaked with every one of our footsteps, and by bearing with the screamo−steampunk skinheads whose lyrical choices punctuated our very wholesome millennial nostalgia.
Today is a very different day; today, this friend and I disagreed about politics. This was not the first time we disagreed, but it was the first time she told me we couldn’t talk about it. I have spoken to her about everything in the past, about the dimensions of my uterus and my bruised cervix and my relationship with my mom and about the boys who broke me to pieces my sophomore year. Today, tonight, she told me that we would never agree on this, and that we shouldn’t even try.
I care about this person so much that if we disagree about politics and she tells me that we cannot talk about it, my first reaction is to push the issue until we do. I cannot stand that we are not aligned, when we agree about everything from our dependence on Nyquil to the tragedy of internalized misogyny to the exact punctuation to use when texting fuckboys. Outside of TI, we fought about politics and I thought, for the very first time, that this wouldn’t be a gap that I could fill with laughter and joke and commonalities. It seemed like a gulf, caving in between us on the TI patio. “I am craving nicotine,” she says. I let her go.
I went back into TI, agitated, upset, abandoned by the person who is so close to me that I text her before I text my mom. It is a cleaving feeling, to disagree with your friend, with the person who uses up half your tampons, who tells you to put the fucking Nutella down, who, at times, physically tears boys off of you in bed. When you disagree with this person about something other than your omelet order, it is unsettling. The world caves in. The floor feels more slippery than it did before.
Then I got hit. Hard enough that my knees buckled and my shoulder tilted in a direction it shouldn’t and before I could stand up straight, I was covered in beer. I looked around at the tall unknown men who were wrestling over me, oblivious to their stray limbs that had nearly made me fall, knocked the precarious balance that I struggled to retain.
I yelled at them, at these younger men who punched each other around my eating club like this excess testosterone would gain then something: access, credibility, respect. I yelled at them and said I was upset and that this was not okay. They apologized. And I stayed there and I wanted more than a half-hearted “sorry.” I wanted some sort of groveling concern for the shoulder that felt lurched from its socket and the ground that felt uneven and the world that wasn’t as formulaic and musical and familiar as it had been twenty-four hours before.
I stood facing them and waited for their apology to ring true, and when it didn’t, I hunted down another friend on safety and made her march me home. We talked about politics and herpes and friendship and the things that we can count on, and she sat with me in the courtyard until I stopped crying and we could talk some more about love and family and religion, and even though we disagreed about those things, I knew we could keep talking. The world stopped moving, and the ground fell into place, and my shoulder stopped throbbing.
And then the friend I’d fought with came home and told me that she loved me and I knew it, and that she was worried for me and my shoulder and what happened to my face, was that makeup I had cried off or was that a bruise blooming on my temple. “I’ll run to the UStore to get you ice,” she said, and it sounded, for a split second, like she would go to the end of the world to make it better.