by Michael Abraham
She used to roll up to my house late at night, in her green pickup truck, smoking a Parliament out the window and blasting The Strokes. I was seventeen. I would climb in, and we would drive through my neighborhood much too fast, her weak, amber headlights illuminating only the nearest spot of road. We would talk about the day, about our friends at Catholic school, about whatever. It wasn’t so much about the talking. Even then, at that early time in our friendship, it was about the being together, often the being together in silence. We grew up outside of Seattle, and so there were woods aplenty, and we would pull off on some country highway, and she would take out her straight-tube bong, and we would rip it while Julian Casablancas crooned, Some people think they’re always right. Others are quiet and uptight. Others, they seem so very nice-nice-nice, oh! Inside they might feel sad and wrong, oh, no! We liked that song, probably because inside we felt so sad and so wrong, so unfit as subjects in the world we inhabited. Two misfit kids in a green pickup truck in the dead of night. Then, she would start the truck back up, and we would drive listlessly through the dark vigil of the trees on either side of the road, winding this way and that, singing along or lapsing into thought. I would stare out the window and watch the shadows roll by, and I would feel, for a moment, impossible and effervescent. I fell in love with her on these long, circuitous drives through the night. I came to believe very strongly in her, in the vibrancy of her presence, in some curious and ineffable extra that she had to her which other people did not have. She was imposing, even then, as she is now—but gentle inside, just.
For my birthday that year, she gave me a copy of Crush, Richard Siken’s first book of poetry. Years later, I would meet Siken at a signing in New York, and I would ask him to do something a bit odd, which was to sign the book, not on the title page, but under a poem called “Unfinished Duet.” He would ask why, and I would respond, “A dear friend gave me this book when I was seventeen, and I read ‘Unfinished Duet,’ and now I study poetry at NYU,” which was an entirely true genealogy. Siken smiled knowingly, and he wrote, beneath the poem, “I [illegible] like this [illegible] little poem. I couldn’t finish it so I wrote a whole ‘nother book. RS.” This was probably a gentle nudge to get me to buy the book for which the signing was being held, but I was a college student and broke, so I left with my newly signed copy of Crush and did not buy War of the Foxes until a long time after. Read more »