You were 19 and I was 20,
living in a one-bedroom apartment,
learning how to be inventive with top ramen.
We drank jugs of cheap wine,
chain smoked a grown up brand of cigarettes
and watched Little House on the Prairie re-runs.
My favorite were the seasons of Mary’s blindness.
We agreed it would be better to be blind than deaf,
long before I knew I was treading on Mary’s heels.
It was impossible to imagine living without the
chaotic rhythms and lilting tones of sorrow
that shaped our friendship.
You worked long days in a record store,
brought home shopping bags filled with
bootlegs and coveted early copies of new releases.
We crept around Los Angeles in your old red car,
memorizing the lyrics to Sinead’s new songs,
thinking up cool band names and
talking about affairs with older men.
You introduced me to Concrete Blonde,
got me hooked on Mary’s Danish and
spoon fed me Thelonious Monster.
You were with me in my first mosh pit,
where I was lifted out over the crowd
and lost my china doll shoes.
After seeing bands in the back rooms of
neighborhood guitar stores,
we spent hours in all night coffee shops.
You liked your coffee sweet, mine was always black.
I wrote bad song lyrics on napkins and
you created fortresses from salt shakers and creamer packets.
We made plans for the band we’d start some day.
Our life was marked by a sound track
of frenzy and shadows, a language
that brought us together,
but the blues crept up my back and
tore me away from our bastion
of skyways and melancholy.
Almost 30 years later, the record shop is gone
and you have moved across the ocean,
but the songs that conjure up our time together
will always send me reeling back to nightclub jitters.
Susan Richardson is living, writing and going blind in the belly of Hollywood. Much of her work focuses on her experiences as a partially sighted woman in a sprawling urban environment. In addition to poetry and creative nonfiction, she also writes a blog called “Stories from the Edge of Blindness”.