“Ok, first you have to play C,” Mack says, pressing his ring finger on the lowest string. I watch intently as he strums downward, and look down to the instrument in my own hands. A worn ukulele sits in my lap, the back covered in stickers, as though to cover up something darker. I put my ring finger on the lowest string, third ‘fret’ and strum downwards, just how Mack showed me. I rub my fingers together as the strings send a vibration through my hand. I look back up to Mack happily. “Yes, just like that, Chica!” he says encouragingly. “Now, we’re gonna play G augmented.” I wrinkle my lips, and he clarifies with a laugh. “There’s a normal cord that’s called G, but for this we need a different sound, so we move one finger over, and we call it G augmented.” I nod my head in understanding, watching his fingers carefully and he plays the note on his ukelele.
I wake up suddenly, my eyes snapping open, instead of gradually like they normally do. My room feels cramped and messy, and as I look around I notice clean and dirty clothes scattered around my room, my desk piled up with papers. I sigh to myself in exasperation and grab my phone that had rested under my pillow. Seeing that the time is 12:34 AM, I sigh again, and unlock my phone with my thumb print. I scroll through notifications blindly, going through each social media feed, as was my habit. Seeing that no one had posted anything new since earlier that night, when I had done the same thing before I went to bed. I pull the blankets off of me and climb out of my bed, phone still in hand, and walk over to my desk. I pull out an old instrument that was leaning against the wall, and sit on the floor to open it up.
I pull out a worn ukulele, still covered in stickers. The instrument in my lap, and look at my phone again, and go to my liked videos in my album. I press the icon, listening intently as I set down the phone, then again pick up the ukulele. It begins with a dark screen, and loud laughter. Then light flashes, and Mack sets down the phone onto the coffee table. Video Me is already sitting on the couch, in this past place, and he starts to sit on the couch, nearly squashing her. “Hey!” Video Me laughs loudly, pushing him over to the seat next to her. In the present, I grip the ukulele’s neck in my hands, pressing it to my stomach. “Okay, okay, let's get started.” Mack picks up his ukulele, Video Me picks up hers, and I pick up mine. “1, 2, 3…” I strum in time with the video as they start to sing in a simple harmony.
You’ve got a friend in me,
An aching hole in my stomach expands.
You’ve got a friend in me,
When the road looks rough ahead, and you’re miles and miles from your nice warm bed...
As I look around my messy room again, my body folds over the ukulele, and I lay empty on the floor, my vision blurry as I watch the rest of the video. It ends with me and Mack kissing softly, then him leaning over to turn off the camera, the both of us smiling.
It has been nearly a month since my best friend died. The nights are the hardest, but also the easiest. At night, at least I can grieve. But at night, I’m grieving. In the morning, with hopefully at least a few hours of sleep, I wipe away that grief and paint on my makeup, and go into the world. At first, it was okay. Only these past few nights, it’s like my brain is remembering everything about him. Last night, I had a dream with just us laughing on the porch. In actuality, the memory is only a few moments, but in my dreams it lasts at least half the night, before I wake up.
I feel like his memory is filling up my whole life. And I loved him, of course I did. I still love him, but I feel like my brain is punishing me. I don’t know what to do.
When my alarm goes off on my phone, I jerk awake again, only this time laying on the hard ground. My head is pillowed by an old sweatshirt, and as I groggily wake up, I pick up the sweatshirt and make a shot at the laundry basket. My hair is tangled, and as I run my fingers through it, each little knot catching on the fingers, I wince. I wander around my room a few steps before I step on my phone, that is also still on the ground. Picking it up, I decide that I’m going to be productive, and I turn on some music. My favorite pop artist is turned on, and wiping away the grit from my eyes, I walk into my bathroom to get ready. Looking at myself in the mirror, I repeat the word ‘productive’ in my brain, then quickly put a brush to my ratsnest.
By the time I’m ready, I still have at least a half an hour before I have to leave to go to work, so I quickly pick up the laundry that I had duly noticed last night, also making my bed in the process. I look at the room satisfied. Though not deeply cleaned, at least it was picked up. Looking at the clock again, I decide to be early, and I run back into the bathroom to swipe on my favorite peach lip gloss, pull on my jacket and grab my phone and purse before walking out of my apartment.
His voice fills my ears as he sings the words to our favorite song, and I hum along with him. And as the years go by, our friendship will never die. You’re gonna see it's our destiny…
I love him, and I miss him.
And I will live my life with his memory.