Hugs & Kisses

 

Article: Personal Narrative

Institution: Gotham Writers Workshop

Release Date: September 2014

 

 

I’m standing on Great Jones Street about to enter a gallery I only half want to be at. It’s been some time since my last outing and I’m not really in the mood to catch up. I walk in; giving hugs and kisses to familiar faces, some whose names I can’t even remember. Reaching the back, I see it’s filled with my best group of friends. Here I get to give out more colorful hugs and kisses, much like the paintings on the walls, large and drawn out.  But next I know we’re three glasses of wine in and adult friends have turned into children bickering. And I’m the inspiring muse of it all.

 

In a world where people are so loosely connected, it’s fortunate to have at least one good friend.  Somehow I have ended up in a complicated group chat of 11. Waking up to 100 plus messages about idle gossip and nightlife happenings on the daily. It’s true that’s a guilty pleasure of mine. But recently I started to crave more for myself. A few years ago I lost my motivation to try at my passions and gained a new crew in substitute. People who loved and distracted me, but never pushed me to grow up.

 

Out of respect for the event I leave the dispute for a cigarette. I prepare to greet fellow smokers with a smile, because here everyone plays pretend. Another reason I haven’t been up for “The Scene” lately. Dodging the small talk, I make my way on to Bond Street. I find a lonely staircase waiting for my company. It’s my favorite type of side-street, one that provides a small amount of privacy in such a crowded city.

 

“A real friend meets her friends for dinner regularly!”

 

“Are you fucking kidding me?”

 

A haze of merlot swims around my head when I think of the ridiculousness. A real friend does what? I guess we all have different expectations from this term. I have always believed that relationships, of all kinds, are sort of like seasons. Not everyone needs to play a role in every part of you to be significant. Sitting silently my mind begins to drift back to a time with more innocent hugs and kisses. A dollhouse kind of friendship;

 

Erica was my best friend in Kindergarten. At the start of second grade she moved from a few blocks away in Brooklyn uptown to the Bronx, a place I couldn’t visit then. So we became pen pals and wrote to each other like diaries until we were allowed to take the train at 16. We never hung out again after that. I’ve only seen her become a mother through Facebook. But whenever I think of my childhood and my little girl dreams, I see her 5year old face and feel nothing but love.

 

Somewhere along my thoughts I started walking south towards my way home. I find myself on Jersey St off Lafayette; a small, dead end block. Tears are falling now so here’s the perfect place to cry into my Newport. I don’t know why I’m sad yet. I’ve gotten use to friends coming and going, with optimism most times.  Now I enjoy my independence and trust my path alone. Yet, here I was, sad over a murdered friendship.

 

Why was I letting this get to me?

 

In High School I became best friends with Oba, my co-manager of the Boys Varsity Basketball team. Together we went on to join the Drama Club and School Activities Committee. We got our first part-time jobs at the same place. Our first act of rebellion was getting our nipples pierced at 17. Yup, we let some fat guy touch our premature boobies. We applied to the same colleges too but didn’t get into the same ones. So eventually we grew apart. It was strange at first but moving on becomes inevitable. No matter what, those teenage memories will always be ours to share. I’d never let growth in life change that love.

 

Suddenly I feel pretty pathetic on this creepy street; long jacket laid over the ground, wet mascara squinting my eyes. So I walk again. I decide to curl up on a bench in a park on Mulberry and Spring St. The tears won’t fall anymore but I can still feel them tingling in my nose. Thinking of the acceptance we all crave. The emotional peer pressure. I feel so much disappointment when it comes to being a “good friend”.

 

They just don’t all last.

 

Once, I ran my own arts and culture website with my former best friend, Alysia. I learned about mixing business and pleasure the hard way. She failed me and I failed her by year three (five of the friendship). I woke up one day after an argument to find she had made an announcement that our magazine was discontinued. This once kindred-spirit suddenly turned into the fucking devil and I felt like a damn fool. Months of lawyer crap later we settled the business terms and became cordial. That experience was rough but taught me so much; what I can accomplish and what I can overcome. Can’t see myself regretting that friendship, no matter the outcome. We’re in good vibes now and genuinely happy to see each other doing well. And that feels very grown up.

 

Thankfully I’ve learned some things about real friends; they allow you to grow without restriction; they forgive the flaws, support the strengths and love you, up close or far away.  I’m proud of my newly selfish endeavors and the few people I have who support that. My journey through Soho has helped me realize my journey inward. I can see wonderful moments coming through the clouds.


Now finally feels like a good time to go home. I walk towards the train off Bowery and feel grateful towards the city. It hugged and kissed me today. Suddenly a raindrop falls on my unsuspecting face. Slowly it begins to pour and normally I would be mad but I’m not.

 

The wind feels like another kiss and the rain another hug.

Leslieann Elle Santiago

Stylist | Writer | Curator