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Contemporary Sad Drama

This story contains sensitive content

This story contains strong language and references to substance abuse.

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April 23rd, 3:34AM 

@carmel23: 


“Don’t you remember?” The reporters always ask me, looking at me like I’m some psycho. “You’re so lucky, you got to know Apple.” 


They’re trying to get a rise out of me, I know. They want me to recount our whole sob story and release some juicy new detail to put on the cover of their magazine. So I don’t give it to them. I say “I know,” and let my eyes go shiny, because yes, I am lucky that I got to know Apple. And the tears are real. And they leave, disappointed, only to come back three days later. 


But you know what? I’m sick of these assholes. So here’s what I really want to say: “No, I’m not lucky. She ruined my life.” That was the thing about Apple: she was a fucking goddamn self-centered bitch. 


There was just something about Apple that drew you in, even before she spoke. She could wear her dad’s oversized T-shirt and unbrushed hair and you’d think she was a supermodel starting a new grunge era. She was born with a postmodern era body and thick black hair and these crazy blue eyes. Why do we all love blue eyes? I’ve never figured it out. But it was Apple’s voice that sent you straight to heaven. Think of the perfect opposite of Marilyn Monroe’s stage voice. Low, raspy, sexy. Normally, you don’t think about people having a nice voice unless they’re singing. But you knew immediately when Apple spoke that it was the most beautiful voice in the world. When she actually did sing, it was like electricity. That was Apple’s superpower. She drew you in. 


I’ll always remember the first time I met Apple. No matter what. I was standing with my back to a brick wall and was wiping blood from my nose. I was always getting into fights before I met Apple. I’m not sure why. My first therapist clearly thought it was because of some childhood trauma. But my family was good when I was a child. I was just angry at everything. 


Anyway, so I’d just punched this girl in the gut and the shoulder. She’d gone for my face and throat. Which is a real break in schoolyard fight etiquette, by the way. I dodged the throat punch, but she got my nose. She was spooked by the blood and that was the end of that. 


And that’s when Apple showed up in all her preteen glory and held up a travel-sized package of tissues. She didn’t say anything, just blinked those blue eyes and held out the tissues. I took the package and dabbed at the blood. 


One of the teachers came running, yelling at the crowd of girls to break it up. She grabbed the girl I was fighting and I and yanked us to the principal’s office. It wasn’t my first time there, obviously, but I had the distinct feeling it would be my last. 


I found Apple at afternoon homeroom when I snuck out of class that day. She was sitting by herself in the library, and I saw most of the girls in her class glancing at her and whispering, hushing themselves when the teacher walked past. I could see why they were talking about her — even at the tender age of eleven, we all knew style and class when we saw it. She made her school uniform look like a stylish choice. I had a feeling she was wearing mascara and a little blush. The wall on the phone rang, and the second the teacher turned her back, I tightened my grip on my bag and sprinted to her. I dove into the seat across the table and pulled out homework and pens to make it look like I was exactly where I was supposed to be. Apple looked at me like I was an alien. Girls around the room tried to stifle their gasps, looking at us, then looking to see if the teacher had noticed, then looking back at us, 


I pulled the package of tissues (sans two) and slid it across the table. Apple’s eyelashes were so long and dark as she watched it that it did something to my chest. For a second, I felt an overwhelming urge to crawl across the table and kiss her. I mean, really, I was eleven and straight. Yet somehow, Apple’s eyelashes did that to me. But I was a kid and also a well-mannered lady when I wasn’t fighting other students or sneaking out of class, and quickly forgot about it. 


“Thanks,” I whispered.


“Hi?” she said as a question. And that was it. One whispered word, and I was head over heels in love with this girl, just like everyone else. 


I sometimes wonder if Apple was faking it when she first moved to California. The shyness, the hiding behind her bangs, the whispered “hi?” like she didn’t know how to talk to people. Because come on, if you’re reading this, you know Apple. You’ve watched her interviews on late-night talk shows and her speeches at the Grammys. That wasn’t a stage act. That girl really could command people like a puppeteer with all that charisma and charm and self-confidence. The world is Apple’s, the rest of us just live in it. 


Apple came to my house the day after we met. She sat on the floor of my bedroom and she told me she had just moved from New York with her parents and two brothers. Her dad had gotten into an argument with one of the guys at his firm, so their family got shipped to California. 


You know, it’s funny. That guy became one of Apple’s lawyers. I wonder if he’ll be one of the lawyers coming after me if I’m stupid enough to post this when it’s done. Anyway, if he and Apple’s dad had never fought, I would never have met Apple and I wouldn’t be writing this post. Maybe Apple would never even have become a singer. So, basically, Mr. Jonathan Alger, J.D., go fuck yourself. Put that in your cease and desist. 


Back to the story. After that, Apple and I were a thing. And I guess we were the “it” girls of the school, too. We were the ones always surrounded by others at the lunch table, even if we never spoke a word to these other girls. Seriously, by the time we were fifteen, senior girls were moving out of the way to give us room in front of the mirror. When I told the girl I’d fought when we were little that I liked her perfume, I started smelling Marc Jacobs’ Daisy everywhere. When one girl in our posse told Apple that she loved her lip gloss and Apple gave her the tube, you could taste the bloodlust in the air. I think that girl must have put a layer of gloss on her lips every hour, and every other girl looked like they wanted to rip her heart out. Apple laughed when I cut my hair short and dyed it blonde and within a week nearly every other girl in school besides Apple was sporting butter blonde hair. 


So here’s one for the tabloids: Apple was a queen by age sixteen. 


Over time, I could see the change in Apple. By the time we were learning geometry, you couldn’t have paid her to say “hi” like a question. She was just too damn self-assured. “Bubbly” would describe her, I suppose. Me, on the other hand — I was never the social butterfly Apple was. Apple would talk to everyone, and I would talk to Apple. 


So, yeah, let’s just say I remember a lot. 


This isn’t the stuff you guys want to know. You want to know what the people from the magazines want to know. You want to know if Apple ever made out with Sami Romero. You want to know if Apple ever had sex with any of the Weyer Brothers. You definitely want to know if Apple was her real name. If nothing else, the one major thing you were hoping to learn when you clicked on this was if Apple and I were an item, because we lived together. 


I’ll answer the last one for you.


I loved Apple. I assume she loved me back. But there are a lot of different types of love. I can hear the columnists running to their keyboards at that one. I’ll even throw them another bone— Apple once kissed me right on these famously red lips.  


BUT. 


Apple and I lived together because we were always together. We just didn’t know how to operate without the other. We never asked the other, “hey, do you want to go shopping?” If one of us was putting on their shoes to go somewhere, the other would put on their shoes to go somewhere. We always booked two dinner reservations. When one of us stood up to leave, the other grabbed her coat. Apple was my life, plain and simple. I didn’t love her romantically, how could I? She was perfect from the day we met. If we’d tried to be anything other than that, everything would be ruined. 


And don’t give me any of that ‘Apple never dated a guy, and so she had to be gay, so you two had to be screwing’ bullshit. Let’s make one thing clear: you don’t get to assume SHIT about my best friend or her sexuality. You didn’t get to do it when she was alive and you sure as fuck don’t get to do it now. 


For the record, Apple did date guys. Quite a few, actually. But how many guys are out there that can impress a girl who went to an elite all-girls high school? Even a lot of A-list actors can’t compare with that kind of beauty. (I liked that French-American boy, though. The one with curly hair. He was smart, too. He came to a party at our house once, and we talked about the Ship of Theseus for two hours. I would have dated him if I was into dating. I put in a good word for him with Apple. They went on a couple of dates. I painted a picture of him.)


But that isn’t what MATTERS. That’s what I’m trying to tell you. That’s why I’m writing this, I think. The assholes at the magazines and news reporters want to know stuff like who Apple had a crush on, or when she started taking the drugs, or when I knew when the drugs had gone beyond recreational and were causing a problem, but IT DOESN’T MATTER. 


Look, Apple was perfect. But she also sucked. That’s why she never kept dating someone for longer than a few days.


I think maybe it was our fault that Apple turned out the way she did. First it was me and her parents, then it was us and our classmates and our teachers and then it was the world. We always said the world was Apple’s, we just lived in it. It was a lie designed to create a self-centered monster, and we perpetuated it. 


There are these mantras that they tell loved ones of addicts to repeat. They call them the “Three Cs of Al-Anon.” One: “I didn’t cause it.” Two: “I can’t control it.” Three: “I can’t cure it.” No one really believes the mantras, especially the first one. We all want to take responsibility for the diseases in the people we care about. I always — or sometimes — find myself wondering if there was something different I could have done that would have changed it all. 


And other times, I wish Apple could come back from the grave just so I could give her one hell of a punch. I don’t mean in the arm or something. I mean right in her stupid, perfect cheekbone. Or maybe her nose. I hope I’d break it, and she’d get blood all over that stupid wool carpet in the living room. ($26 a square foot. Jesus. We could have bought some poor family a house for that much. But no, we needed a fucking wool carpet because that’s what rich people have. I spilled wine on it once when Apple and I were arguing, and that was the first time in my life I ever thought about how much any of this shit around me is worth. The stain is still there, I’m looking at it now. It kinda looks like a smiley face.) But then my wish would run out and Apple would be dead again and I’d feel worse than before. 


That’s the thing about addicts— you can’t blame yourself because it’s not your fault, you can’t blame them because it’s a disease, but you have to blame them because it is absolutely their fucking fault that they decided to do drugs, knowing full well what it would do and that they are hurting the people around them. 




I know everyone wants to make me out to be the hanger-on. Carmen Layla, millionaire mooch. And it’s true in a way. When I applied for a job at the magazine, I was absolutely going to get a job. A master’s and bachelor’s degree done in five years, my father’s last name, and some brand-new Chanel heels. But then Apple’s plans for the day got canceled, so she came along, and I could have asked to become co-CEO of the company in that interview and gotten the job with a $4000 sign-on bonus. Because an in with THE Apple? At a fashion and pop culture magazine? Priceless. I haven’t worked there in two years and my articles are still getting employees bonuses at Christmas. After that picture blew up — the one where Apple and I are at a basketball game and she’s whispering in my ear, and I’m staring blankly ahead — views on my posts went up 6000%. Because people were Googling me. So yeah, I guess the Caramel in Caramel Apple (yeah, I know the shipping name you guys gave us, and also, the people we went to high school with gave us the same name, so you’re really not creative) benefitted in being around Apple.


But Apple took from me, too. I stayed by her, no matter what. I missed days with my family to be next to her on tour. I skipped work to be by her as she tried to sober up before a concert. I spent nights curled up next to her in a hospital bed even though my grandmother was dying. I let her yell at me when she was frustrated with songwriting, or her dancers, or her photographer, or her makeup artist, and never yelled back that it was HER fault that all this shit was going wrong. 


I ripped my own heart out with my bare hands to give it to her, knowing she would betray me. 





There was this one night after Apple came out of rehab that we were together in Apple’s bed. It was one of those quiet nights near the end that I always loved, in that I-just-pulled-a-thorn-out-my-hand-and-it-hurts-so-good way. Apple was supposed to be in rehab for two more months, but she walked right out of there and into my arms. This was a time when I should have done something differently. The second she appeared, I should have pushed her into my car and driven her, kicking and screaming, right back to rehab. But I didn’t. Instead, I helped her out of her hospital clothes and turned on the shower for her. I sat on the bathroom floor and she let the water run over her, and suddenly I couldn't do anything other than curl up and cry. And then I could hear Apple crying over the sound of the water, and we stayed like that for hours. 


When we were in bed and the lights were out, Apple took my hand and spun my ring around my finger. “Why do you put up with me?” she asked. 


You’ll hate me for this. You’ll hate me for all of this. 


I promise that I wanted to say something. I should have said something. But I didn’t know what to say, so I just leaned in and kissed her ear. 


And then she was gone. 


That’s what I remember. 


July 30, 2022 02:06

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