We met at college orientation barbecues and in the hallways of our dorms. We embraced our friendships with abandon. We belonged to one another, and so did our tank tops and nail polish and dark sides. We graduated and took unpaid internships. We felt paralyzed on the brink of infinite possibilities, but life insisted we make choices. We refilled salsa bowls and water glasses. We made out with bad boys in the back of minivan cabs. We realized that we had to ask to receive.
We moved to new states. We stayed longer than we liked in extended-stay hotels, steeling our resolve by choosing not to look at the stained carpet too closely. We bought bright orange earplugs from the hardware store and kept them in a paper cup on the nightstand. We did not know where we were going, but we wanted more.
We told ourselves that the best was yet to come. We learned how to rattle off the ingredients in a Tom Collins. We didn’t smoke, but carried cigarettes in our purses to give out when asked. We grew herbs in bright ceramic pots on the stoops of our aging apartments. We ran half-marathons. We rented a cabin and drank bottles of pinot noir, spilling secrets from our pillows in the sleeping loft. We met one another’s boyfriends and hoped some of them wouldn’t turn into fiancés.
We practiced empathy. We started buying grass-fed meat. We went to therapy. We ate more vegetables. We felt ourselves becoming unknowable to our parents, and we liked it. We bought vibrators as birthday presents. We didn’t always respond to text messages. We waited until our parents called us. We shopped on Amazon late into the night. We apologized for situations beyond our control.
We grew older, and we knew this. We wrote online dating profiles. We learned about insurance billing and bridge specifications. We stayed at Hiltons across the country. We worked from home. We bought black pumps with lower heels and had them stretched at the cobbler to avoid getting bunions.
We took pre-natal vitamins. We spent money we didn’t have on organic strawberries and free-range eggs. We had our hearts broken. We drank cheap wine on the couch while binge-watching Netflix. We bitched about our roommates. We got a dog and failed to vacuum the living room as often as our mothers would have liked.
We found our Nuva-ring on the bedroom floor. We chipped in for a floral delivery when one of us sold her business and took a salaried position. We placed our cat in a new home. We cried at the movie theater. We went on too many first dates. We let him hold our hand. We drank a fifth of tequila with our siblings around the fireplace.
We played cards at family holidays, but left our parents’ house a day earlier than the year before. We submitted expense reports. We had pedicures with colleagues. We went to the ice cream shop alone on a weeknight. We learned to change a flat tire. We ignored our sex drive. We went to local plays and readings and concerts. We communicated through giddy text conversations, using too many emojis and not enough punctuation. We were okay with this because it made us feel close although we were hundreds of miles apart.
We tried to find work-life balance. We stayed at the office until 8:00 pm, eating Cool Ranch Doritos for dinner. We stopped keeping secrets. We kissed our hapless dates on the porch on a summer night. We ate an entire pot brownie by mistake and called 911, lying in the backyard vomiting and crying. We volunteered at church. We bought our coworkers burp cloths and onesies. We made fancy jello shots for our summer barbecues. We missed one another.
We felt entirely alone in the world. We earned more paid time off. We sat in airports waiting to board delayed flights. We became godmothers and aunts and second cousins. We kept our college diplomas in a manila folder at the back of our desks, although we’d have preferred them framed and hung in our home offices. We watched movies with Spanish subtitles. We wasted time reading Buzzfeed. We were told the truth about Grandpa at his wake. We manufactured risk by going to a ropes course, teetering across swaying platforms twenty feet above the ground.
We bought ridiculously expensive galoshes to wear in the city. We made apple pie for Thanksgiving. We played cribbage in the living room on Saturday afternoons. We went to the coast for a long weekend. We exercised with a personal trainer. We called to ask one another to stand in our wedding parties. We took dance lessons, then quit after three weeks. We threw a dinner plate against the kitchen wall. We filled a prescription for Xanax.
We acted out of fear, knowing it wouldn’t bring us happiness, but sprinting headlong anyway. We depended upon one another as though our lives had always been enmeshed. We googled everything: how to apply spackling paste, Claire Danes’ age, what time of day was best for working out. We met up for a concert, some of us driving three hours to reach the venue, reuniting with fierce hugs and overflowing picnic baskets. We slept on air mattresses in one another’s living rooms. We emailed the boys our aunts told us about. We bought liquid eyeliner and never used it. We withheld almost everything from our parents. We drank canned Bud Light even though we could afford microbrews. We ate frozen candy bars at our desks. We stopped reconciling our checkbooks.
We wore false eyelashes to wedding receptions. We asked for advice on Twitter and didn’t get any. We bought our dad a genuine birthday card. We found furniture on Craigslist. We stopped having sex in the shower. We designed tattoos, but never got around to making the appointment. We fell out of touch with our high school classmates. We bought too many pairs of jeans on our credit cards. We let our younger siblings comfort us.
We began to warm to the idea of settling into life. We never carried cash. We continued to wear the winter coats our mothers bought us in college. We went for Saturday morning hikes. We couldn’t sleep in as late as we wanted. We started wearing eyeshadow again. We scoured the local Goodwill store for brass candlestick holders. We bought frozen chicken breasts at Costco. We drank excessive amounts of diet soda. We left our number on a receipt at the neighborhood bar.
We decided maybe we would have children. We bought our husbands a gift certificate for ceramics classes. We weeded the backyard. We played records on Sunday morning. We ignored the college kids raising money for Greenpeace. We gave our leftovers to a homeless man. We wore an old dress on a date night. We cried into a hot bath. We tried to sound wise on the phone with a hurting friend, but mostly we just felt tired. We bought our grandmother a bouquet of fuschia flowers for her 79th birthday. We skinny-dipped in our parents’ backyard pool at sunrise. We worried about infertility before we started trying to conceive. We carried our sorrow. We brimmed with hope.
Brittany Wilmes lives and writes in Portland, Ore. This is her first published creative piece. Follow her on Twitter @bwilmes.