“Jules, you’re doing that thing again, where you’re laughing at everything.” Everything is funny, and Sara joins Julie on the floor as they embark on a 1:30 am delirium ride, which is certainly not out of the ordinary for these two. Brian, Cody, and Josh peer at their friends in hysterics on the navy rug, and as if on cue, Cody rolls his eyes. He’s sarcastic and a little cold, but even though his edges are rough, he’s still soft, and it doesn’t affect the plain and simple truth that he wouldn’t want to be anywhere else than right there in that moment. With all of them.
The girls would bring the movies, the guys would supply bags of pretzels and Utz potato chips, and Brian’s basement apartment within a small, white house became their official ground to congregate. During unbearably cold winter nights, time spent together increased. The space was their safe haven, their place to go, their place to be.
Sometimes, they all compiled onto the comfy couch, watching ridiculous comedies with shitty dialogue, and Sara would subtly cuddle up close to Josh, wondering if he knew how she felt, while hoping it wouldn’t matter. He did. And it didn’t. And sometimes, they played a series of Scrabble games when they felt like altering the pace. Best out of 3, best out of five. And so on and so forth.
On a superficial level, Scrabble was played on a never-ending continuum, because Julie likes words, Cody’s fiercely competitive, Sara and Josh enjoy the banter in-between turns, and Brian savors the company. But in actuality, the rounds didn’t cease because nobody wanted the night to fall apart.
Nobody wanted to say goodbye. Saying goodbye meant that they had to head back to their own homes to face whatever it was they were going though; loss, difficulties with an over-demanding major, or the restlessness and anxiety that comes with the territory of being 20 years old.
This group was, in fact, a scrabble board; all their personalities, characteristics, and intricacies infused together, creating a strong dynamic, making history.
When Julie was back at her house, she’d listen to Vanessa Carlton talk to her though the IPod speakers. It’s alright, and it’s nice not to be so alone. But I hold onto your secrets, in white houses.
Over the years, tiny fractures seeped into their friendships, giving way to even bigger holes that weaved a web so tangled that it wasn’t so easy to recall those effortless nights in the small, white house. Boyfriends and girlfriends came and went, priorities shifted, confessions were uttered, truths were spoken, hearts were broken, and the fivesome wasn’t the same fivesome.
The scrabble tiles began to scatter. Individually, certain friends remained intertwined; Sara and Julie, Brian and Josh. Cody ventured in and out of the picture, but made sure to make himself scarce, lost.
They’re all brought together again, not by personal choice, but because a mutual friend is hosting one of those big graduation party extravaganzas for completing her grueling master’s program.
They hug one another as if meeting for the first time – an awkward trepidation fills the air. They forgot how to be with each other. They no longer know how to be with each other. Josh looks at Sara while she scrambles for a drink, but instantly averts his gaze, not wanting her to notice. He’s not interested in seeking a dialogue; he’s not interested in talking about what happened.
Loud and quiet ruptures permeated through the group, leaving bitter sweetness in its wake. They’ll hold that chapter of needed friendship close to them, knowing it was significant, even if those reasons cannot be pinpointed or articulated. And yet, there’s awareness that certain changes make sense.
As they sit together on a blanket in the freshly cut grass, uncomfortably holding paper plates filled with greasy appetizers and cheese and crackers, sentences formulate and chatter escalates. It’s nothing of substance, it’s nothing that’s real, but they’re still together. For that entire afternoon, they’re a different version, but still a version nonetheless, of who they were five years ago.
But I hold onto your secrets, in white houses. What I gave is yours to keep, in white houses.