A one-sided friendship ended in regret …and death.
I used to have a friend that I met back in middle school. We didn’t really talk much but were in the same classroom and had the same teachers for the last two years. Eventually we started sort of talking, but we were always a little shy around each other so we didn’t talk much until we got after we graduated from high school and reconnected on Twitter.
Some of the memories that I had of her were me getting dropped off at her house to play outside in her pool. For lunch one time, her mom asked me what I liked from McDonald’s, so I said my usual “a cheeseburger, plain please” line (as I had said dozens of times with my own mom).
Alice gave me a weird look and asked what that was, so I told her it was a regular cheeseburger but with only the beef and cheese. I remember she took off running back after her mom and then came back outside to come talk to me again.
This particular situation got weird, and I remember it clearly because when her mom came back, Alice asked for her food and started crying silently after she found out that her mom had gotten her a regular cheeseburger instead of a plain one, just like mine. I told her she could have mine, but she insisted that that wasn’t the point.
I kind of understood it at the time, but I still thought it was an overreaction at least for my 12-year-old self.
But anyway, now, after high school, she seemed different. She had changed.
A once timid, socially-awkward girl had turned into a loud young woman who was not afraid to voice her political opinions on social media. Her photos on Instagram were always of her cat, her clothes, and of her at her father’s print shop. We don’t live in a big city, so things got a bit uncomfortable when she mentioned that we should hang out just like that, out of the blue.
I said that we should. Normally a planned meetup falls through when you say this, and honestly, I was hoping for it, so I didn’t expect her to reply or anything.
But she did.
She sent a message with a time and a place to meet, a sandwich shop across the street from my college. I opened the message and sort of forgot about it, when I got another message that said ok nevermind.
I told her that I wouldn’t be able to make it at that time, since I had midterm exams, I think I said.
She said that we could meet some other time, and that’s where I thought our conversations would end. But when the notifications from Twitter started showing up more and more often, I started getting a strange sense about her. She asked for my phone number, which I gave to her after thinking of the trouble it would cause if I wouldn’t give it up. I should’ve thought about the trouble it would cause to do it instead.
Soon, she went from messaging me at all hours of the day, to trying to schedule a phone call. This went on for days until she simply started calling me.
Her phone calls would start with a “hey, are you busy?” to which I would say that I was, but she would start saying that she wanted to tell me something really quick. She started trying to make really deep conversations with me, letting me into the crush she had on some guy that was ignoring her. I swear that I barely commented or even answered her questions, but she would keep going.
In the weeks that followed, I started ignoring her phone calls and she would simply start texting me those really long essay-style texts. I had a character limit, so I would end up getting text messages split into 6 or more messages, sometimes out of order. Through the messages I found out that the guy she had a crush on lived in New York. We lived in New Mexico. He was a banker who had a lot of money but was much older than her. At least that’s what she told me.
Her stories went on about her purpose in life, her embarrassing moments that weren’t even embarrassing. She would tell me a situation and then ask me what I thought about it. I would reply in short messages long after she would text me. I wondered what this girl did all day.
From what she told me, she worked with her dad at the shop and planned on going back to school the following year, but that’s all I knew about it.
She sent me a picture one afternoon of the menu of the sandwich shop I used to go to with the message “lunch? On me?”
I was literally on my way out of my biology class in my community college and on my way to the shop across the street when I saw the message and it crossed my mind that maybe she would tone it down with me after finally hanging out.
She was wearing a pink dress, pink shoes, and a yellow hat. I’m not kidding. An actual hat with a flower on it, like one of those old-school pictures of women having a picnic at the park.
She literally yelled my name out when I got near. She then ran to me, hugged me, and asked me what I wanted. The lady from the shop already knew me very well, so she knew that I always got a ham and cheddar sandwich.
I hadn’t even set my backpack down before she started telling me about her day. She started asking for advice on random things. The girl really needed someone to talk to, and it made me uncomfortable.
She made it a thing to text me on Mondays and Wednesdays after my biology class, I guess then she knew I was free and about to have lunch. I did my best to avoid her, but every once in a while, she would catch me while I was walking and I would be forced talk to her.
“Still like plain cheeseburgers?” she cheerfully asked me one time.
“Yes,” I shot back.
Her expression changed, probably from the tone I used.
Still, her messages wouldn’t stop. She made it a habit to text me late into the night starting with “good morning” and then send the rest of her messages, knowing that hers would be the first texts I’d see when I woke up. The vibration sound of my phone bothered me. I would see her messages with one eye open and see the first line or so, before dozing off again.
I know I’m making her seem like a monster, but she really wasn’t. She was nice and really did seem like a genuinely nice person. In retrospect, I regret not seeing the signals that Alice needed help.
Alice was always alone.
It was a Wednesday, I remember clearly. I had just gotten out of a quiz in my biology class, expecting to see Alice on the bench, waving at me by the streetlight, when I noticed a small crowd of people gathered around the crosswalk as I made my way toward the sandwich shop.
A woman was screaming. Sirens approaching. The loud gasping and murmurs of a crowd. A blue car with the driver’s side door wide open. The pool of blood over the white paint on the black asphalt.
After all these years, the memory that haunts me the most is the stained McDonald’s paper bag by Alice’s lifeless hand.