In Which We Used To Pinpoint Our Sadness

telephone twelve

The First Full Year


1. Everything I know about drunk dialing I learnt from my father. Of course, the booze is always an excuse.

Once you’ve got it into your head that you are going to call someone then you will. You feel playground emotions: happy, mad, sad, bad, lonely, are overwhelmed by them. Giddy, you pick up your phone. A surge of useless adrenaline when you dial. The beats that your heart skipped when the person answered are now throbbing in your head. Your head is a banging drum. You speak and only listen to respond. What you’re saying matters little, that you’re talking, that the person you are talking to is entertaining this conversation with a drunk you, that’s important. If you’ve done it right and drunk just enough the talking is a blur. Words out of your mouth faster than thoughts. What even are thoughts anymore? Just speak. How do these conversations ever end? You never remember. Regret in the morning.

2. The last time my father called me, slurring but peppy was to catch me up on his day. My father the doctor, the doctor who lives in a small bachelor’s flat in Libreville, Gabon. He lives in the centre of the city alone. But he is thinking of moving to Moanda, now that he is 60. He is thinking of moving to where he has more friends and some family, a cousin maybe. He doesn’t need the fast pace of capital city life anymore, he doesn’t need the big airport. Last time my father called me about a week after his fourth fiancee broke up with him was to tell me he had a brain tumour.

3. A list of the illnesses my father has called to tell me he is afflicted with:




presumed heart attack, as in darling I’m calling you now to tell you I am unwell. Your father is sick. His heart is pumping heavy. I can hear the blood in my head. It hurts when I breathe. Listen *and he breathes deeply, exaggerated, strangled* At which point I begin to panic and shout at him. Why is he calling me? He needs to call his doctor. Or an ambulance. I am going to hang up, I say, I am loud and elaborately slow you’re going to call someone to take you to the hospital.

4. I haven’t seen my father since I was three years old. Which is to say I don’t ever in all my life remember seeing him with the eyes in my head. To me he is a voice over the telephone. An idea of a person. A presence felt as an absence. A square of air where a man should be.

5. My favourite family story is the one of how my parents met, in 70s London, on a foursome date gone askew. Good only slightly lapsed Catholic girls that my Mum and her friend (and fellow Modern Languages student) Sylvie were they’d never first date alone, they’d always bring each other. My father asked Sylvie out and respecting her arrangement would invite his friend Didier, for even numbers. The four of them met at some tourist trap restaurant in West London, had drinks and sat down for dinner. By which time Sylvie had demoted my father from conquest to fourth wheel, realised she fancied Didier more. Didier and Sylvie flirted insanely, intensely and are still married with 2 children today. My parents chatted politely, fell in immediate like and all consuming love over the course of the following year. My grandparents begged mum, to the point of almost disowning her, not to drop out of university, to wait to get married. She ignored them. My father was in the process of becoming a doctor, she was going to be a doctor’s wife who could learn many languages at home, while looking after their four children. They had it all planned out like so many 22-year olds do.

A small wedding, maybe 40 people, at mum’s stepdad’s house in Port-Gentil and they moved back to London very shortly after. Within a year my mother was pregnant with her first son and two more after that with me. My father qualified. Something happened. I probably won’t ever know what exactly – his pride, her annoyance, his wandering eye, her hurt. Mother pregnant again in 1984, another boy. But father left before he was born, did not meet him until 2008, when he was taller than him and thin like he used to be and still somehow his exact likenesses. The lesson that my mother drilled into all of us so solemnly that it felt like our family’s pledge: never get married in your twenties.

telephone japan

6. My first full year not in my twenties I got married.

7. Things I’m sure love isn’t:

a feeling





8. When you grow up without father a heavy myth engulfs you. There is this gross familiar idea of daddy issues, which is a wariness of your needs. The fear that they are bigger than those of others. Can any man love you enough? Will he be crushed by what you lack? You yourself are constantly checking to see if the hurt is showing. Jutting out like a broken hip bone, revealing itself embarrassingly like spinach between your teeth. You worry that your dadlessness will be used to pinpoint all your sadness. That it is the cause for everything that is wrong with you.

I wonder if my romantic history would be the same. So full of silly strife, of messy longing. I have stalked boys. Been infatuated too many times. Let them cheat on or with me. Shimmed up drainpipes into their bedrooms. Done everything they’ve asked me to, even when that’s meant nothing that felt good. I collected their moods and eventually always took revenge whether it was offered or I had to hunt it down. Found a way to cut the sleeves of all shirts, thrown a lot of records at walls. I’ve been hung up on too many feelings, belly full off useless pride. For a time the saddest most sentimental sort, bad at letting go, even of the worst fucking stuff. And always tired. Eyes either sore from crying. Or itching from the need to cry.

I only know for sure that when you grow up without your father it is possible to fantasize him out of all proportion. The first lies I ever told were all about my dad. He was an astronaut, then he was the one who put the pictures in children’s books, then he was busy and I saw him yesterday and he’d be back soon. And now what?

9. Things I’m sure love is:


10. One long afternoon-evening home alone, two-thirds of a bottle of medium sweet merlot down. I don’t know why I dialed my father’s number. 11 digits. What did I want to say to him? Maybe I was sick now? No, I was angry. I had a story to tell. The click that connects an international call, then ring ring, ring ring.

The giddiness, the banging in my head.

Ring ring, ring ring.
Ring ring, ring ring.
Ring ring, ring ring.
Ring ring, ring ring.

11. He did not pick up.

Sara Bivigou is a contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in London.

Sara Bivigou


In Which Josephine Baker Endures An Overlong Childhood

So Far


Before he permanently disappeared from her life, Josephine Baker’s white father did her one favor. He paid for her mother Carrie to receive six weeks of treatment in a white hospital in St. Louis. Josephine Baker’s given name, Freda, was German and so, probably, was her father. Three letters on her birth certificate testified to his identity, letters she would not see until the document had to be procured when she left the United States: edw.

When she was five, Josephine Baker’s mother was finally ready to take her and her brother Richard into her own home. They called their mother’s new husband Papa. The poorest neighborhoods in St. Louis were composed largely of Russian Jews, Italians or blacks. Josephine and Richard slept with Carrie’s two other children on one mattress, riddled with bedbugs. For food they raided the trash of a local outdoor market. Oddjobs occasionally made them a dime. With her brother, she tossed coal to the rest of the kids from freight cars.

As Josephine got older, babysitting was a safer way to make money. Sometimes she would be screamed at by black housekeepers for kissing their white babies. Weekends brought the ghetto alive with massive street parties. Josephine told a redheaded street urchin that she considered him romantically. He responded, “You’re a nigger!” and dashed off.

She found consolation in animals, once picking up a snake she found and bringing it into the house, where it was quickly stepped on. Later, she was very close to a pet pig. At seven, her mother sent her away to work in a white family’s house.

with her daughter and Golda Meir

Her new mistress beat her ferociously, and then woke her up at 5 a.m. to start work the next day. She did not last long in service, and was sent back. Her next employment was nearly as brief: she screamed when the man of the house tried to fuck her at night. Her mother only asked her, “How could you ruin such a wonderful chance?”

Josephine Baker’s first experience of school was at the segregated institution sometimes called Dumas, often referred to as Colored School No. 1. Richard and Josephine had to pass by white schools to get there, and would be heckled with various slurs on their way. Meanwhile, Josephine’s mother’s drinking had gotten out of control, and she criticized her daughter for the girl’s lighter skin color whenever she could. The girl’s only relief from this life was the local black theater, named after Booker Washington. Her friends there would cover for her when she ditched school.

A local family of musicians offered to take Josephine in for a time, and her mother instantly agreed. The matriarch of the Jones family was a virtuoso on trumpet, and the Jones children played instruments as well. She was relieved to be out of the company of her natural family, which was further ripped apart by her mother’s frequent infidelity, but she was still dreadfully poor. “When I think about the troubled days,” she wrote in her autobiography, “I feel like crying: it is so far.”

Many whites in St. Louis were convinced of their racial superiority; they harassed black woman and men in the streets without fear of reprisal. Riots broke out frequently, killing as many as seventy people of color. Many blacks were driven from their homes into Josephine’s neighborhood. The year 1917 accounted for 38 lynchings in St. Louis.

By the time Josephine was 13, her mother decided it was best to simply marry her off. Her new husband Willie Wells was nearing thirty, and he had a job as a steelworker. Their furnished room cost $1.50 per week. This marriage lasted a better part of a year before Josephine cut Wells’ head open with a beer bottle. Her next job was that of a waitress at the Old Chaffeur’s Club. She performed at the Booker Washington when she was allowed.

This job let her leave St. Louis on a tour, and she could not have been happier to be gone. In Memphis every hotel had bedbugs and the traveling blacks weren’t welcome anyplace decent. The “theaters” Josephine played in usually served other masters: one was a blacksmith’s shop, another a salon. New Orleans excited her more, and Philadelphia the most. She could not follow the cast to New York, since you had to be sixteen to perform there. So she stayed behind in Philadelphia and married a light-skinned dancer named Billy Baker.

After Josephine was old enough to hit Broadway, she made her way to Boston, too, where local families would take in chorus girls. Critics noticed Josephine’s act even in the background. “One of the chorus girls is without question the most limber lady of whatever hue the stage has yet disclosed,” wrote one admirer. In racially divided Chicago the production had to advertise that it did not want. blacks to attend.

Instead of returning to St. Louis, Josephine went to Atlantic City for the summer, where she hit the stage at the ominously named Plantation Cafe. Atlantic City was also deeply segregated, and hotels had signs that read “NO DOGS, NO JEWS.” That no blacks were permitted to enter was implied.

Josephine Baker was living in Harlem when she was discovered by a rich American woman named Caroline Reagan. Mrs. Reagan had an amorphous gender identity – Gertrude Stein said of her that she was “neither fish nor flesh nor fowl.” Lacking any appreciable identity, she looked to black culture to provide one for her. This plan entailed bringing African-Americans to Paris, where they would entertain the French with their very different type of show. Mrs. Reagan offered Josephine $150 a week and was turned down, but $250 sealed it.

In order to get her new black friends to Paris, Mrs. Reagan used all the connections her diplomat husband possessed. Josephine had never been divorced, but that is not what her passport said. She was terrified the amorphous circumstances of her marital past would prevent her from setting sail on the massive Berengaria.

Josephine’s farewell happened at Club Bamville on 129th Street. She was deeply ambivalent about leaving the only country she had ever known. “I can only recall one single day of fear in my life,” she wrote. “One day, which lasted only one hour, maybe one minute… it was over between America and me.” Caroline Reagan described the scene of the Berengaria‘s departure: “A quarter of Harlem was on the docks.”

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

In Which There Are A Variety Of Simple Ways To Fly

Hard to Say is This Recording’s weekly advice column. It will appear every Wednesday until the Earth perishes in a fiery blaze, or until North West turns 40. Get no-nonsense answers to all of your most pressing questions by writing to


At the company I work for, new employees are brought into the flow in groups. My group had a lot of people around the same age and we all bonded and became friends quickly. (My company allows relationships in the workforce as long as they two people aren’t in the same section.) In those early months I became close to Becca and we started to go out. After around a year, we decided to break up.

Recently Becca has started dating another employee who I work closely with. I have tried not to let this bother me but I think my true feelings are starting to show. In the end, it seems difficult to see her every day and I feel that I have not really gotten over the relationship even though I pretend otherwise. Do you have solutions to this issue?

Craig A.


Dear Craig,

The idea of someone we were with being with someone else is always a traumatic situation. When Becca’s new relationship turns into a steaming pile of garbage, you will perhaps be somewhat reassured, but the pain will never fully go away. That fact that Becca is moving on in front of you is what John Ashbery termed a blessing in disguise.

Moving on is difficult, but until you have accomplished that long term goal, there are some things you can do to alleviate this present pain. Conventional wisdom would have it that the less you know about the situation the better, but considering your circumstances, that is never going to be possible. Take things in the entirely opposite direction: be incredibly supportive of your co-worker’s relationship and try to establish a friendship with Becca, if possible. This will take the edge off until the pain eventually just fades away.


Lately I find that I am really quick to anger. When passengers were very slow to disembark a recent plane I was on, I felt myself wanting to lash out at them. This is balanced against a deep desire not to enter into open conflict with others, especially strangers I do not know.

I’m starting to think that there must be something wrong with me, to be made so angry but such routine and common frustrations.

Jackie R.


Dear Jackie,

Such anger feels like the fancy of a negative moment, but it is in reality a product of prolonged frustration, bubbling to the surface. If you travel a lot, you can see how people let off their frustrations in various ways. Recently, I watched a man who missed his flight throw a temper tantrum by stomping and crying in front of the flight agent. A security guard covertly approached from the rear, sensing that a further breakdown was perhaps in the making. Eventually the guy settled down – his feelings were completely out of his system, and he had moved on to the next way he made other people’s lives as unhappy as his own.

I am not saying you should throw a tantrum, but it is important to let people know if they have annoyed you in a specific way. You might as well start becoming the kind of person who frequently tells other people how the world should be, and it is better that you make this change in the company of people who you will never see again in your life rather than your close friends and relatives.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.

In Which He Returned From Heaven To Reclaim His Fortune

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Think Tank


Iron Fist
creator Scott Buck

vlcsnap-00020.pngDanny Rand (Finn Jones) is a small man who does not wear shoes. He lives at the edge of Central Park where men cruise for other men, and drug addicts can occasionally find the private time to shoot up. One such fellow Danny Rand meets offers a sandwich he has fished out of the trash of a local deli, and Danny Rand eats it, with reservations. Later, he finds his salami benefactor deceased by way of a drug overdose. He leaves the body where it lays.

The three men and one woman who form the defenders have an intense love of New York. What do they like about it, exactly? Compared to the massive sprawl of Los Angeles that serves as the home of the people who produce these weird love letters to the Big Apple, Manhattan is only a reflection. Crime proliferates. Meals are had in massive, open-air restaurants totally unlike anything found in New York. Asians of unspecified origin dominate the local criminal milieu; they employ children in their drug distribution networks and plot something indeterminate for a place that can never be their home.

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Rand is the presumed deceased heir to a massive company, suggestive of the actual RAND Corporation, which is engaged in the sort of research that it is better not to openly acknowledge. This sort of scientific research has deep impact across sociological and technological fields, merging them together amorphously while never stepping into the public eye. Despite having zero experience running any kind of business, Danny Rand returns from fifteen years living in a monastery in Heaven and hires a lawyer right away.

We know this attorney Jeri Hogarth (Carrie Anne-Moss) from Iron Fist‘s sister series Jessica Jones, where she is a well known piece of shit. Oddly, she is Danny Rand’s guardian angel. Even though every other person in Danny Rand’s life refuses to believe that he is who he says, she is convinced in thirty seconds. She tells him that he needs to lay low while they negotiate with the previous heirs to the Rand fortune, Ward (Tom Pelphrey) and Joy (Jessica Stroup).

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Danny Rand’s only friend is Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick), although she is repulsed by his general odor and lack of footwear. As soon as he can, he defeats her in a martial arts battle, because without establishing his physical superiority, a man can never be friendly with a woman. In her free time, Wing runs a dojo where she educated the local youth in hand-to-hand combat. For some reason this is more important to their lives than, I don’t know, studying.

Danny’s father’s best friend Harold (David Wenham) is secretly running Rand Co. from a magnificent penthouse apartment. “Hire someone talented and pay them twice what they’re worth,” Harold explains to his son. “They’ll always be loyal.” Iron Fist is full of these Hollywood bon-mots. Whereas Luke Cage was a tribute to Harlem and Jessica Jones was more about downtown, Iron Fist is all about New York as Hollywood. Sensing this basic displacement, critics have savaged Iron Fist.

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Why do so many people hate Iron Fist? At first I wasn’t really sure, since nothing about it is particularly worse or better than anything else on Netflix. After entering into deep meditation, I concluded it is more a general fatigue of watching so many shows with a similar theme. Each of these people has only Rosario Dawson, portraying herself, to turn to in their time of need. They all fight against the exact same foe with the exception of Krysten Ritter, who battled against David Tennant because he committed the sinister crime of telling her what to do. At some point these Marvel shows start to become a lot more trouble than they are generally worth. Personally, I love a man who does not feel the need to wear shoes.

Ethan Peterson is the reviews editor of This Recording.

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In Which Brie Larson Triumphs On The Merits

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Tom H. Kong


Kong: Skull Island
dir. Jordan Vogt-Roberts
118 minutes

Screen Shot 2017-03-20 at 9.45.22 AMKing Kong had a gentler side. He wanted to be with a woman in order to satisfy his emotional and sexual needs. This is deemed too reductive and animalistic. Now we need a new reason for Kong to protect a woman, in Kong: Skull Island a photographer named Mason Weaver (Brie Larson). This new reason is as follows: Kong respects her.

You see, one afternoon he comes upon Brie Larson, wearing the sort of top that is so crudely described, after the 1970s era events of Kong: Skull Island, as a wife beater. He sees this tiny woman attempting to lift the wing of a plane off of an oversized moose. She can’t move it an inch, so he does it for her.

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Later, his faith in this incredibly strong photographer is rewarded during his fight with a massive lizard. At a distance longer than a football field Ms. Weaver strikes the beast in the head with a flare gun. This magical shot indicates she has a future in the Olympics, and in fact the 1976 iteration of those events was held in Quebec. I hope Mason Weaver made it there.

Her other love interest is a human being named James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston). Hiddleston’s upper torso is even more impressive than Larson’s. The two project their chests outwards constantly in a subtle mockery of apes. At one point Hiddleston is patrolling an ape graveyard where the bones of Kong’s family are scattered. It is not his custom to bury the dead. Hiddleston’s chest area protrudes far out as he slices tiny pterodactyls out of the air.

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Kong: Skull Island is kind of going for a Jurassic Park-type vibe, but the film struggles to be either scary or funny. A platoon of soldiers exiting South Vietnam is enlisted on a scientific mission. The film’s most exciting sequence occurs very early on as Kong swats about ten helicopters out of the sky. Helos prove to be a very poor choice for the island, since Kong barely notices human beings when they are not in the air firing bullets at his face.

In the island’s interior, we meet a fighter pilot (John C. Reilly) who crashed on Skull Island’s beach during the last war. Coming across the comic aspect of this extremely serious film is a relief to everyone involved, although we quickly notice that Hiddleston has zero interest in any of the people around him. Some of the hot jokes Reilly is given include wondering if the Cubs have won the world series yet, and the names he has given to the local fauna and flora. He lives with an ancient, silent civilization who, along with Kong, have kept him from harm.

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The depiction of these native people, suggesting that in one thousand years they haven’t developed a spoken or written language of any kind, is distressing. Reilly aludes to the possibility that the group has a primitive form of telepathy, or maybe he is just saying that they can only understand each other through body language. This is even less advanced than dolphins.

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Samuel L. Jackson is given the thankless, pseudo-satirical role of a commander who never wanted to leave Vietnam. He hates Kong and plots to destroy him, eventually managing to burn the monkey quite seriously with napalm. As Kong writhes from his wounds, it is hard to feel too bad for him, given that all he really does is mope around the island and kill foes. What kind of life is that, even?

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Mr. Jackson is murdered by Kong’s fist before he can achieve his goals. We never get to know anyone else half so well – I think Hiddleston has like six lines in the entire movie. Now that Kong is just a pathetically whiny beast, the entire theme of the original has been overwritten. The replacement for this allegory of man as beast is that Kong is only a man after all. It is almost impressive in a way that Vogt-Roberts (The Kings of Summer) is even able to construct a film this insubstantial, this devoid of plot or character. It is like eating a marshmallow the size of a human head.

Ethan Peterson is the reviews editor of This Recording.

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In Which We Make A Point To Say Goodbye


Goodbye for Keeps


The night I met Brittney, I left the bar and updated my facebook status from my phone on the walk home, a two-beer buzz tingling in my fingertips as I typed. “This just got interesting.”

A mutual friend introduced Brittney and I intentionally, knowing there was a chaos we could give each other that she herself did not possess. Within months, it was impossible for either of us to show up alone to a friend’s house, a bar, or even Whole Foods, where we spent the bulk of our paychecks searching for hangover remedies on Sunday mornings, without being asked about our other half.

We had each lost a close friend to an unexpected and far-too-early cause of death the year before moving to Portland. We came from families broken in one way or another. We’d left ex-boyfriends in California and though we mentioned it like we missed them, as if we’d left something good behind, we both knew that the relationships had been over long before we left the state. We could sense these similarities in our pasts before ever talking about them, the way the pound puppies at a dog park seem drawn to each other over the full-breeds, their histories somehow recognizable in each other’s pheromones, or maybe in their eyes.

Our friendship wasn’t just circumstantial. Our personalities are opposite in many ways, which made us well-suited to be friends. Brittney is a social butterfly with a penchant for dramatics; I am drawn to adventure but soft-spoken and sometimes too even-keeled, in need of someone like her to coax me out of my shell.

A few months into our friendship, I was arriving to a baby shower and Brittney’s name showed up on my phone. When I answered, I was greeted by the non-response of someone trying to steady their breath before speaking. I could tell she was trying to stop crying, but she couldn’t; the second she opened her mouth there was a floodgate of breath into the receiver. She gasped for air, barely getting a few words out at a time before collapsing into heavy sobs. Unable to decipher what had happened on the phone, I ditched the baby shower and showed up at her house 20 minutes later with her Whole Foods favorites: coconut water and mushroom barley soup and a cranberry tuna wrap. In the beginning, I was happy to abandon preexisting plans for her, flattered to be her chosen source of comfort. I felt important.


I could sometimes pinpoint the triggers of Brittney’s anxiety attacks, and sometimes they would catch us both off guard. Her first attack, that afternoon, had been sparked by a pocket dial from her ex-boyfriend, whose muffled footsteps and background voices somehow sounded like two people having sex. Certain environments were surefire causes, certain hours of the early morning. At parties, we would often sneak away to the bathroom or a vacant bedroom, where I would talk her down. Sometimes we would lie flat on the floor and count cracks in the ceiling until it passed.

On the other hand, when I closed off, occasionally withdrawing into my apartment for a week with no explanation, she’d show up at my house with burned CDs and bags packed for both of us for an overnight escape from the city. Our first Valentine’s Day together, on the anniversary of my friend Alex’s passing, she drove me to Astoria and we hopped from one beach to another, making our way up the coast until I found one that felt right. We stripped down to our underwear and ran the few hundred yards from the car, across snow-speckled sand, to where low tide had drawn out the water. Our Portland winter bodies were pale and tense and taut as we dove under the frigid waves, wordlessly, soundlessly, too cold to do more than gasp.

After, an SUV approached over the sand as we made our way back to Brittney’s car. A laughing woman rolled down her window.

“I saw you two from across the beach and said to myself, ‘those girls either lost a bet, or they’re drunk.’ I came over to see which it is.”

“Neither!” I struggled to exhale, exhilarated, my skin on fire, and relieved that what I had thought was a lifeguard coming to scold us was this woman instead. “We just…”

“—had to,” Brittney finished for me.

I’m not dramatic enough to say that our friendship saved each other, nor callous enough to say that it simply served a purpose, but like many friendships, especially in this purgatory between youth and young adulthood, ours fell somewhere in between. We balanced each other.


Our friendship was as much a relationship with Portland as it was with each other. We explored the city in a way only possible for two people mutually experiencing a place for the first time. Whereas a born and raised Portlander, or our friend who had lived here five years before us, might guide you through their own highlight reel of the city, together we tripped and tumbled our way through our first Oregon everything.

We frequented dance clubs and then dive bars, famous breakfast restaurants and then diners, fumbling until we found the places we fit. There was the day we ate pot brownies, managed to go on a brewery tour and join in a flash mob, but then got so overwhelmed inside of Whole Foods that we had to call a taxi to take us the six blocks home. There was the night we parked in front of a party and hid in the backseat of Brittney’s car to drink champagne before going inside, but she made me laugh so hard I had to open the door to avoid choking, setting off the car alarm and blowing our cover to the confused group of party-goers on the front porch.

There were weeks we’d get healthy, trade champagne for green juice, wander the city’s farmers markets and make home cooked vegan meals. There was the night we made fresh spring rolls and I accidentally ate half a caterpillar, learning then why you would ever need to wash organic lettuce. (There was Brittney’s uninhibited laughter this night, and many others.) There was a book club, a work party, a road trip to California, a wedding. There were holidays, birthdays, bike rides, and breakups. There was the night I turned on Alex’s music and cried on the couch while she cried in the kitchen, making dinner. There were the things I won’t talk about here. Think of all the memories you have with your best friend – there are all of those things too.

As with any significant relationship, there are too many memories; I don’t know if I’m making too much of them or not enough.


For two years, for the two of us, together was a given. One of us would send the other party details or a link to a show or event, and the other would simply make a plan, buy a ticket, no questions asked. In May, Brittney sent me information about Sasquatch, a four-day music festival in the Washington Gorge, and on Memorial Day Weekend we found ourselves there. That first year at Sasquatch, we were hummingbirds, bumblebees, happy, energetic animals running from one adventure to another. Everywhere we went, my hand extended blindly behind me to where it would find hers, automatically, effortlessly, as if by muscle memory. We made our way to the front of every stage, twisting and weaving through crowds like a strand of DNA. I tried hallucinogens for the first time and found my safe place, the safest place, in her.


The last evening of the festival, Rodrigo y Gabriela were performing on the main stage, when it started to rain. The weather had been gorgeous all weekend, but in the blink of an eye it started to absolutely pour, as if the sky had been holding off an anxiety attack all weekend, and it had finally gotten the best of her. For a moment, Brittney and I tried to cover our heads with the one sweatshirt we had between us, until, realizing the futility of this, we dropped the sweatshirt and our bags, kicked off our shoes, and danced on our tiptoes around the hillside, twirling imaginary skirts to the upbeat flamenco guitar. After about 15 minutes, the rain stopped and the sun came out from the clouds long enough to paint the sky neon before settling against the west wall of the Gorge. We perched on an abandoned backpack, arms linked, teeth chattering, willing our clothes to dry before the sun dropped below the cliffs completely.

“There is nowhere—I mean that, there’s literally not one place I’d rather be right now. And no one I’d rather be with.”

I don’t remember whether she said it or I did, which has become a common problem in many of my memories of us. It felt like the first moment I’d been still in months.

There is a special bond, an intimacy that emerges only on the heaviest nights and through the harshest of hangovers. Shared vulnerability is necessary for deep friendship, and when you’re guarded, as I am, that vulnerability won’t always volunteer itself. But you can find it in an anxiety attack at four a.m., or waiting for a pregnancy test to develop in a Safeway bathroom, or on the inside of a trash can at a music festival where you throw up while your other half holds your hair out of your face and tells leering strangers to mind their own business.


Ours was a platonic intimacy I thought was reserved for sisters and the friends of my youth; one I never expected to forge anew after college. What I expected even less was that our friendship would fade, quietly, without fault or fight or falling out. Richard Siken writes, “Sometimes you get so close to someone you end up on the other side of them.” I have this image of in my head of two ghosts, moving toward each other in an attempt to embrace, but they end up falling through each other and walking away, bewildered, in opposite directions.

“If it wasn’t for you, I would have left Portland a long time ago,” Brittney confessed to me one afternoon, two years into our time together.

I didn’t see it at the time, but Brittney’s confession marks the beginning of the end of our relationship. Though it would be over a year until she moved back to Los Angeles, at that moment, I realized that she would one day leave Portland. Maybe I would pull away to prepare myself for her eventual departure. Maybe I would crumble under the pressure of feeling that depended upon. I wanted to be valuable but not that valuable, important but not explicitly necessary; the Goldilocks of codependency.

We never purposefully stopped hanging out; we just stopped purposefully hanging out. We were us until we weren’t. I moved out of our neighborhood. We bonded with new friends and started dating new men. I went to a new gym and started waking up with the sun instead of going to sleep by it. We still ran into each other at group outings and, when we did, we picked up our friendship wherever we had last seen it. But we were not the same after that day, and our relationship dissolved little by little throughout Brittney’s last year in Portland. In that final year, we didn’t take an overnight drive, didn’t spend a Sunday alone together on Brittney’s couch. Not once.


When Brittney announced her upcoming departure from Portland, I took the news almost emotionlessly. I knew my day-to-day life wouldn’t change. But in the weeks leading up to her departure, I felt my stomach drop when I drove past her house or any of our old haunts. I felt a strange sort of sick even catching a particularly pretty view of Mt. Hood. The feeling was familiar, one I’d felt in the weeks before moving away from Calistoga, Santa Cruz, Costa Rica. I consider it a kind of pre-nostalgia for a place you know you’ll be leaving. I wasn’t leaving Portland, but in the weeks before Brittney did, it felt that way.

The morning of her last day, we stood in her disheveled apartment and made small talk about how much packing she had left to do. I remembered the first time I’d been there, Halloween weekend three years before. While trying to finish my costume, I broke a Sharpie and made a giant stain across the seat of her couch. Brittney was unconcerned with the stain, but I spent the next hour, mortified, scrubbing at it frantically. I got the couch mostly clean, but I could still always find its outline when I looked for it. Her couch cushions were propped up against the wall and the stain caught my eye, faint, faded, but still there.

We had left imprints like this one all over each other and all over this city, almost unnoticeable, invisible unless you’re looking.

Our friends all made a point to say “see you later.” “This isn’t goodbye for keeps,” they said. I made a point to say goodbye, knowing that, although I’ll see Brittney again, I will never again see the person she was in this place and time. I was saying goodbye, for keeps, not only to her, but to the person I was with her, to the people we were together, and mostly, to the places Portland was with the two of us in it.

Josiane Curtis is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Portland.

Photographs by Joe Curtin.



In Which We Appear Every Wednesday In Our Hearts

Hard to Say is This Recording’s weekly advice column. It will appear every Wednesday until the Earth perishes in a fiery blaze, or until North West turns 40. Get no-nonsense answers to all of your most pressing questions by writing to


In three months, I will be getting married to a woman I truly believe is the love of my life. As we have planned the wedding, I have been gripped by the desire to tell my fiancee about a weekend I cheated on her when she was on vacation with her family.

This mistake happened about eight months in our relationship. An ex-girlfriend named Delia was in town and we slept together one night. Delia and I have talked since, but only as friends.

I hate the idea that I would be going into the rest of my life without being completely honest with the woman who will be my wife. What should I do?

Omar B.


Dear Omar,

I honestly can’t think of a worse idea, but as with all situations, I try and see the other side of things. There is the possibility you will be forgiven for your behavior, but what is the point of ruining this poor woman’s big day?

Perhaps on some level you wish to sabotage your wedding and your life. Many people believe that they do not really deserve happiness, and work to those ends in order to prevent themselves from achieving their desires. Having suffered sufficiently, you will no doubt have to attempt to gain some other woman’s trust by behaving better.

Why not just have this with the woman who already wants to be your wife? One mistake is no big deal. We have all done something we regret. Making a habit out of it is the true sin, and maybe you wanted to stray once to see that it really isn’t as much fun as it looks.


I am in a bit of a precarious situation and I’m looking for a way out. I know that I should not have done a lot of this, but I am trying to make the best of what I do have.

I developed an online relationship with a guy who I will call Terence. I think at first I just liked the attention, and then our connection grew. At the same time, I was dating, but not very seriously, a guy named Gary who lives in my small city. We were not exclusive but I never told him about Terence still neither relationship was exclusive in my eyes.

Well, Terence is moving here and I want to pursue this relationship. We have met once in real life and I think there is a strong possibility he’s the one. I wasn’t sure this would ever happen, so I did not think of how Gary would take this.

I need to get Gary out of the picture, but I know if he finds out the real story he will be very angry and try to sabotage what I have with Terence. Also, I would prefer if Terence did not know about my relationship with Gary, but I can accept I may have to tell one of them more of the truth to make this work. What is my best course of action?

Sandra R.


Dear Sandra,

I believe a similar situation occurred in a little book I like to call The Bible. As I recall, everyone died at the end of this sordid tale. We would not want this to happen to you, since you are the rare kind of person who can make two men happy without basically even trying.

Fortunately, there seems to be a variety of simple ways out here. You should tell Terence a heavily edited version of the truth, since he will most certainly find out something. Leave out the parts with penetration. After all, you did nothing really wrong here.

In order to confuse Gary as much as possible before he suddenly starts seeing you around with another men, find something you can identify in his behavior that you can use to make him ashamed of contacting you again. If he thinks you are the villain, he is probably going to want to broadcast it. You want to make him at least equally culpable in what is sure to be a difficult breakup. Wait for him to say something slightly inflammatory and then blow it up out of proportion. If he tries to apologize, advise him that your therapist told you it is best you not talk for awhile.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.