More of what I remember about her. I don’t remember her name at all, isn’t it strange how memory works? Just a few consonants and a vowel or two – gone. Forgotten. I do remember the color of her scarves and how her mascara was just a tiny bit clumped, so that when she rubbed her eyes little pieces of mascara dust broke away from her lashes and fell onto her cheeks. But I don’t remember her name.
I emulated her, but not in her presence. On days that we didn’t have class together, I would drape my one scarf (red with white flowers, a gift from my sister’s first trip to France) around my neck. The burst of color against my usual low cut and tight black shirts drew attention, something I normally avoided. Trying her image on was like sleepwalking, and men looked at me more, talked to me more in line for coffee in the mornings. When we had class together on Tuesday evenings, I didn’t wear the scarf. I was afraid she’d recognize my blatant fascination, and would think me bland, immature, maybe even think I was in love with her. I was 21, not 12, after all.
She always wanted one of my cigarettes; she didn’t buy them herself, only dipping her long, pale, thin fingers into other people’s packs and depleting their resources. We opted not to smoke in the lunchroom as most of the other girls did. You could still smoke inside places then, even around the toxic bottles of acrylic top coat and noxious hair bleach. She often spoke of her fiancée, praising his talents and his traits in her throaty trilling voice (such a deep, melodic voice from such a tiny girl!). He was some sort of junior reporter for NPR, and left her alone in their minimalistic and clean apartment, which I never saw in person, all details imagined. I did know that it was in the fashionable gaslight district of town, a neighborhood just slightly ahead of the hip curve. Sometimes I tried to envision what their home looked like, were their rooms spare but tasteful, with white lanterns illuminating the amber floors? On the walls were there enlarged black and white prints of photos of his on-assignment treks to Cambodia, Brazil, Johannesburg? Did she artfully pile kilim pillows from Turkey on an overstuffed red sofa? Or was it borderline collegiate like the one I shared with my fiancée: fairy lights tacked along the perimeter of the ceiling, overflowing vintage ashtrays, mis-matched and broken furniture…
When we talked, she often grew quiet, taking long pauses between sentences. Her round, purplish and heavily lashed eyes always looked a little faraway and lonely, and she crossed her legs at the ankles like my great grandmother did. We spoke of our fiancées traveling so much, our plans for the weekend where we both tried to fill absences and speed up time. We never tried to fill the void that we shared with one another though, never each other for coffee, or to go shopping. I figured she had her hands full with other beautiful, interesting people. I always silently wished that she’d ask me over, so I could sit cross legged on her smooth and clean floors that probably smelled of vinegar and lemon oil instead of cat and smoke and stale spilled coffee like mine.