An Unsent Letter
Ellis Yang, 12
That morning in the city, two weeks before you left, I walked down the avenue as I do now. No sudden alteration great enough to be recognized transpired, for outwardly it was only a brief two weeks. For me, however, it could NOT be more different. My eyes gaze from down to up — from freshly cemented roads to twisted shrubberies to ostentatious Victorian-style houses behind the sidewalks. I follow across the first avenue, past the barbed wire fence, until I sight the rusty 49 on the condo’s face where you had lived.
I am thinking of you, old friend, Miriam, as I walk down this avenue today. I am reminiscing about you.
“I can’t take it.” Your voice breaks up. “The other girls, the boys too, they’re all so — so — I don’t know. Whenever I do anything they all gang up on me — when someone else does they’re half blind. Don’t you think I’m not intimidating enough? Is it a ‘me’ problem?”
I shake my head. If I could talk, I’d ask, “Ya who finna gave you that idea. Ain’t no girl deserves to fall victim to this madness. Ain’t nobody. Ain't nobody these days knows you better than I. When I say you’re fine, them words are fortified by experience.” But I hold my tongue.
“Girlie, you're fine. Them broads can tail whatever browbeater they want. Better trust me when I say you ain’t a pushover,” I say.
“But nobody else thinks that.”
“Sharon asked me to hang out with her last Saturday. At my house. You can think what happened next. That morning Ma yanked me awake and we plowed through all the disgust in all the space — and then she never showed up. Nope. We sat on our couches, for what, an hour? And she never came.”
I fold my arms. “Oh… that sucks. Really.”
“Guess what — it gets worse. Sharon — oh god, I hate that girl so much — she posted this goddamn — what was it, they went to the beach, she and the girls? Look at them all, eating pizza and playing volleyball. Look at all of those jerks at the goddamn place —”
“Woah there —”
“— Look at her. Ditching me over a goddamn stale pizza. She could have just told me! Goddammit! That shrew! I can’t believe we’re friends.”
I place a hand on her shoulder and sigh. “Then find new ones. She finna hang out with the popular kids — fine, if you’re so sure, ditch her. Don’t cut ties with her, just drift apart, you and her. Hate interacting with her — just don’t. No need to go all out.”
“Alright…” you say. I reckon that’s a good enough answer.
Over the next few weeks it gets worse. In PE, you say, Miss Hart asks y'all to pair up into twos. Of course you turn to Sharon — what other kid is there to stick with? But no — she’s already waving her racket next to Maggie. You slump away, wiping away your worthless tears in the ladies’ room.
Ya say that during lunch Sharon saves a seat for Maggie and her gang as invisible currents tug y’all away. Her texts, too, come in slower — then stop altogether. Girl ghosted you completely. Ya say that some kind of dynamic between y’all has shifted — not dramatically, though, as if they could only be particularized in the subconscious… They occur gradually, too implicitly to measure, but you are certain. You are unsure of why — and so am I, but you are sure of it, nonetheless.
Today as I walk down Willow Avenue I remember your twinkling eyes — and beneath them your earnest smile — beneath that your sorrow. The diverse yet interconnected world we occupy is a beautiful one, and my time over at your place has helped me appreciate it. Yet as I gaze at the street, I swear it is not the same without you. I wish you had stayed somewhere nearby or switched to some closer school. Nonetheless, I am grateful that you trusted me enough to confide in me.
This story was originally submitted as part of Flash Contest #43, May 2022: Write a story where somebody betrays their best friend for a slice of slightly stale pizza.