Column: When Someone Great is Gone

Portals columnist Jasmine Zhu relives her shared musical history with an important friend who is moving away.


Portals columnist Jasmine Zhu relives her shared musical history with an important friend who is moving away.

Right now I should be packing up all of my belongings. My move-out day is looming over me, but I’m resisting for as long as I can. Procrastination is clearly my strong suit (I’m also waiting until the last possible moment to turn in my column.) I dread change, and I’m slow, even clumsy, at adapting. So the boxes stay neatly folded and untouched in a pile and all my clothes stay on their hangers for now.

What do you even say when your best friend is moving away? In retrospect, I’ve come up with things—perfect rejoinders for those momentous occasions—but by then it’s too late, and they’re long gone, in Boston or Seoul or someplace I’ve lost track of altogether, and the moment’s lost and the whole thing feels too embarrassing and forced.

I’ve lived with S. for the past three years. While you were at a show or studying for midterms, she was scheming ways to make me laugh. Even before we were roommates, she was routinely sneaking me out of my parents’ house in the middle of the night so that we could hang out. Those car rides from my sleepy suburban neighborhood to some party or other were never silent—they were filled with chatter, some very confidential secrets, and of course music to soundtrack our misadventures.

We became fast friends freshman year of college, when I was just a naïve 18-year-old half-sprung from my parents’ fierce embrace. She, far more worldly than I, gave me an introduction to clove cigarettes and French new wave. (An important rite of passage for most liberal arts coeds.) I cut my bangs straight across to mimic S. and wore a lot of striped shirts that year. I fell asleep pretending to love Jules et Jim but you know, I really did glean an appreciation for Serge and Jane. The louche and languorous lyrics—accompanied by some choice breathy moans—thoroughly scandalized me but I acted cool about it. I hoped.

Bonnie and Clyde:

Having someone there always makes the bad times feel a little better. Heartbreak isn’t so bad when you’ve got someone else around. It’s nice to wallow for a while, but S. dragged me from my shallow pool of misery just by playing this one song for me. It’s a wonderful song and I hope you can enjoy it, too.

There are too many songs and too many shows to even list, but I’ll try—weird noise shows with sketchy dudes in Detroit that had us basically crying to get picked up by more stalwartly pals, being crushed by hordes of screaming tweens front stage at a Wavves show, dancing by ourselves to the Real McCoy at our own house parties, furtive attempts at adulthood through Erik Satie compositions, tons of chillwave, tons of witchhouse, tons of ‘80s synthpop that wouldn’t feel out of place at a gay nightclub but for us served as background music while we did the dishes, too much Robert Smith, a great deal of Nicki Minaj, lip-syncing various Disturbed songs at goth night, singing “You Got It Bad” by Usher in the car which always led to lamenting his breakup with Chilli, blasting the early works of Justin Bieber (infinitely preferable to his latter works), subjecting our less amused friends to karaoke so we could perform our rendition of Blondie’s “Heart of Glass,” angsting over various crushes with reverb-laden dream-pop bands…the list goes on and on.

God, I should really be packing. Do you have any idea how hard it is to pack? I never have a clue until I actually have to do it. I’m not even sure where all this stuff came from. A lot of it is yours, S., but I don’t think you would miss this shirt anyways. (Whoops, I’m stealing it from you.)

Listen, S., don’t forget me too fast when you’re off on your fun adventures. I’ll see you around—sometimes I say this but don’t mean it—but this time I really, really mean it. I’ll see you soon, and I can’t wait for us to share new songs and build new memories together.

Much love,

— Jasmine

  • Pedram

    That was a beautiful post. Alas, I never had a chance to have a roommate as that. I’ve had roommates for a short while but I could never feel close to them enough to share my music and memories. They were far too irrelevant for me. It’s almost become a rule in my life that the people who impress me the most, or the people I care about are either remote and out of reach or are almost in the company of some other strangers who eventually block us from having a proper conversation. Maybe that was one of the reasons I started blogging: the absence of a dialogue.

    I’ve had some similar-minded people in my life. We shared some good times. But now there are only a few of them left and almost all of them live in another country. I wish I could also find someone close enough and keep him/her for a while to make those memories. I’ve had some. But the times did not last.

  • Jason

    The dynamic of having two like minded people thrust together at the same era of change in their lives is both rare and wonderful. It is also impossible to duplicate ever again…part of what makes the good times great is that they’ll never come again. More bitter than sweet.