He was my first boyfriend and she is my best friend. In high school the three of us were inseparable.
We grew up in a small, Bible-thumping Texas town, part of an enclave of weirdos and outcasts. He moved from Houston where he was straight edge and volunteered with Food Not Bombs. His hair was long, curly and dirty blonde. He played bass and listened to Modest Mouse and Small Brown Bike and Lamb of God. He was one of the most legendary skateboarders in the town’s very short skateboarder history, and he also rode BMX.
She was a transplant from Ohio. Her mom had almost named her Axl Rose, but instead settled on a day of the week. Her hair was wild and red, knotted in little loops on top of her head or sweeping around her shoulders as she belly danced. She lived with three generations of her grandmothers in one house. Three. She was bubbly and strange and unapologetic. She became something like a double agent, friends with everyone, president of the Spanish Club and Art Club, member of the Honor’s Society and Student Council, but still one of us.
I don’t know what the hell I was, but they were different and fierce and inspiring, and I was in love with them both.
Fast forward to college. We all applied to the same state university and sent out no other applications. All of our snakes in one boot, all of our financial aid chaining us to the same ball. Ride or die.
In high school I had vague dreams of going to Cali for film school, but the three of us were in this shit together. When we were all accepted and due to start class in fall, she and I decided to be roommates immediately, which worked out for about a semester. Then things went downhill fast.
It started out as side-eyes, then progressed into territory marking and frustrated crying spurts. She got closer with our dorm neighbor and an invisible dagger drove itself into my heart. We ended our best friendship on the worst terms. She moved out halfway through our second semester and we basically stopped speaking for six years.
He and I didn’t last much longer and we dropped off of each other’s radars. Our high school glory days were over and it was a good thing.
Three months before I completed my MA program, I met my husband. I felt he was meant for me the moment he walked up those shitty off-campus apartment stairs and into that beer ponging birthday party. He was wearing a white button up, hair curly and black, heavy black-rimmed hipster glasses. He had just moved to Austin, where I was living at the time, and we began roaming around together vetting different restaurants, eating ridiculously large avocado tacos from Torchy’s and pumpkin pancakes from Kerbey Lane.
We would get drunk on way too much craft beer from Spec’s, have (probably annoyingly loud) sex on his third-floor apartment balcony, which was only partially hidden by a tree, and go dancing downtown at the clubs. I was super in love.
It was nothing like any relationship I’d had before. A year and a half later we had a big down-home family wedding stocked heavily with barbecue and tequila. We made out and danced cumbia until everyone had left, even my ex and former best friend… who were now dating.
“Isn’t it weird that they’re together?” my sister would ask. Not to me. It actually seemed strangely natural. We all knew so much about each other -- depressing life events, secret quirks. Maybe the universe had been propelling them down that path the whole time.
Even though the situation violated the friend code (and I don’t recommend it or expect similar reactions from anyone) it really didn’t bother me. My best friend explained to me that their relationship was one reason she hadn’t talked to me in so long.
The husband and I ended up moving back to that crotchety and quaint Texas town my friends and I had grown up in. My friends had come back too. Over time, our old hatchets got buried and we built a new friendship foundation based on similar interests, past history and necessity.
Average age in our town is old timer. We began clinging to each other for mental stability and the ability to participate in age-appropriate activities like drinking serrano-infused gin, wearing heavy eyeliner and giving old anti-feminist fogies the secret finger.
When the subject of living together first came up, she and I were both excited. My husband and I had an extra room in our house and in our current economic state it makes sense for people to help each other out when possible. I’m also fiercely loyal to my friends and family.
She and I felt like we were Lucy and Ethel fixing to shove unlimited chocolates down our bras. We had dreams of building a lush herb garden and motivating each other to work out regularly.
A week later I was pacing the house in cold sweats deciding the best way to break it off. I could foresee an apocalyptic event like our past dorm experience; slow dissolution into non-talking, silently hating each other and insane clutter habits that included art supplies, secondhand books and Frida Khalo altars. I knew we were fucked.
I finally worked up the courage to call her and come clean. “I’m nervous. I don’t think it’s going to work,” I squeaked, my stomach bunched in knots as I picked at my chipped nail polish.
“It will be fine as long as we openly communicate,” she said. Um, that’s what I was doing…
A few weeks later they showed up at our house, art supplies, secondhand books and Frida Kahlo altar supplies in tow. Five months later, we’re all still alive. Four humans and seven (yes, seven) dogs residing in one house. Don’t ask me how we do it.
My sister on the phone used to say, “This situation is so weird. Don’t you feel awkward?” No, I don’t. For some reason, these people are part of my life, have been for half of it already. They know my story and I know theirs, practically from the start. And I like it that way.
I even took their engagement photos. Because that’s what ex first boyfriends and red-headed best friends are for. Ride or die.