Back when my life was a constant repetition of school, sleep, eat, repeat, I knew a girl named Felicity. She was a quiet girl for years, but she came out of her shell in high school, and we became friends around that time. Not very close friends, not merely acquaintances; just friends.
I called her “F City” sometimes as a joke. It was her name minus a few letters, but she’d confided in me on more than one occasion that she liked to “fuck often, fuck many.” I wish those were my words and not hers, as her reputation was of being shy and sweet, certainly not a slut. So “F City” (Short for “Fuck City,” if you haven’t gotten that yet) was kind of a dual-meaning joke between us.
I personally didn’t care if she liked to sleep around. I was more interested in a relationship, and despite being a solid 8/10 in my book, she was not a monogamous type of girl. Not really what I was looking for, despite raging teenage hormones and all of that stupid bullshit.
I never outright told Felicity that, but I think she could tell, and that’s probably why she never came onto me. I’m pretty sure she would’ve, otherwise.
Toward the end of my 12th grade year, I was dating a girl named Emily, who was a much closer friend to Felicity. Emily wasn’t a typical high school gossip, but she did blab a little about Felicity to me on more than one occasion. It was through her that I found out Felicity had dropped ecstasy back in 10th grade, and it completely changed her. It was why she came out of her shell, and maybe also responsible for her other personality changes.
I wasn’t sure of the authenticity of Emily’s claim at the time – that ecstasy could change a person that much. But later I found out that ecstasy does sometimes have that effect on people. Makes me glad I’ve never messed with that stuff. Changing your whole personality? That’s scary shit, in my book.
Anyway, if you knew me, you’d probably be wondering how a person like me would be friends with a person like Felicity, and the answer to that question is actually pretty simple. My last name was Sawyer (which, incidentally, is what almost everyone called me by), and hers was Scott. Same grade, same classes, almost always alphabetical seating. She sat behind me nearly three-quarters of my high school life. And like I said, I wasn’t particularly judgmental about her lifestyle, and she didn’t give a shit that I was way more boring than her.
Being in classes together may have been the basis of our friendship, but at some point, it went beyond that. I didn’t see her often after school or on weekends, but I hung out with her and some of her friends sometimes, which is more than I can say about other people I had a bunch of classes with.
Emily and I went to different colleges, but Felicity happened to pick the same college I chose. It was about two and a half hours from Emily’s, and the distance was too much for us. We broke it off on amicable terms after a few months, and agreed to stay friends.
Felicity and I didn’t talk as much after college started. When I saw her around campus, we’d stop and chat if we had time. She’d started dying her hair different bright colors, so it seemed as though every time I saw her, she looked a little more like a stranger.
Emily had lost touch with Felicity even more than I had, so when we talked, she’d sometimes ask me how Felicity was doing. I told her about Felicity’s hair, but there was never that much to say. Felicity had always been a strange combination of perky and dark, so it was sometimes hard to tell how she was without outright asking.
At the end of our first semester, I caught up with Felicity one day at the bookstore. I was looking for a book to read for fun, and she was looking for a book for one of her classes that she’d tried really hard not to buy, but ended up needing at the very end of the class. She seemed to have lost some of her perkiness, but she still talked to me like we did in high school.
“College has been hell on my sex life.”
“Seems like the opposite of what would stereotypically happen,” I’d say.
Her workload was heavy, and I suspected from her eyes that maybe she was doing drugs again, but I didn’t say anything. Stupid of me. Fuck, man.
We agreed to have lunch sometime soon, but it never happened. Finals came and went, as did winter break spent at my parents’ house, then the new semester reared it’s costly head.
Emily texted me for the first time in a while about a month after the semester started. She’d found something funny that reminded her of me in a coffee shop we used to hang out in, and of course, she had to send me a picture of it – a sign with an Internet meme on it.
That turned into us catching up, which eventually turned into a discussion on Felicity. Apparently Felicity had texted Emily something by accident – the phrase “behind Mackey’s at 11?” – that had gotten Emily worried. Mackey’s was a seedy bar in the worst part of town.
Emily was understandably worried, but out of some strange, stupid respect for Felicity’s personal life, neither Emily not I wanted to butt in. It was a very misplaced sense of respect, based on immaturity.
I texted Felicity during my conversation with Emily just to make sure she would respond. She did, and both Emily and I were relieved.
My schedule must’ve been very different from Felicity’s that semester, because I never saw her around anymore. I texted her every couple weeks just to check up on her, and she was less conversational with me each time. I had never been a bother to her, yet, I started feeling like one, so I backed off.
Emily and I kept in touch a little better during that time. She told me she was going to be in town and wanted to visit. I gladly accepted and offered Felicity dinner – my treat – to come hang out with Emily and me.
Felicity didn’t respond.
It worried me, and it worried Emily when I told her. So I pressed Felicity harder for a response by texting her another couple of times.
Six days passed, and still nothing.
I decided to call her the day before Emily was supposed to arrive. The operator message played in my ear, telling me, “The subscriber you’ve called no longer has an active account.” This was strangely relieving, but in those days just a couple years before social media blossomed, it meant I didn’t know how to get in touch with Felicity.
Emily reached out to others that knew Felicity, but none of them could get in touch with her. What else could we do at this point but give up?
Emily’s visit brought us pretty close. We talked about high school and how unfortunate the distance between us was. I still had feelings for her, and she for me, but the situation was so counterproductive to a good, healthy relationship.
She spent the night at my apartment, and we rekindled a little of the fire we once had. I really missed her, and that night made me realize that simple fact.
Emily left town after the weekend was over, and we talked every day after that.
A week passed, then a month, then two. I yearned to see her, and eventually caved and told her so. I hadn’t wanted to seem desperate or anything, I still loved her, and I needed her to know. I asked if I could visit her, and she flat out told me she knew why I wanted to, and that she’d love it if I did.
I visited, we confirmed that we’d try to make it work despite the distance, and started dating again. I was ecstatic.
The semester passed, and Felicity was rarely brought up. I never saw her, had no way to talk to her. What was I to do? If she wanted to talk, hopefully she still had my number.
It was just after winter break of my sophomore year that I saw Felicity again. I had walked off campus after class to go to a little sushi joint just a couple blocks away, and there she was, sitting outside, smoking what was left of a cigarette.
I barely recognized her at first. Her hair was stringy and oily, as if it hadn’t been washed in weeks. Even from the distance that I was standing, I could see the dark circles under her horribly bloodshot eyes. She looked to have put on 20 or 30 pounds, yet was clearly wearing an old shirt that no longer fit her.
When she stood up, I knew for sure it was her. Strangely, it was her frown that gave it away for sure. I’d seen it many times – the thin line of her lips pressed together, then scrunched to the side as she stared at her stub of a cigarette.
“Felicity?” I called out to her.
She looked up, noticed me, then looked back down. “Hey Sawyer.”
In her own way, she was happy to see me, but at the same time I could tell that she wished I hadn’t noticed her there.
I wanted to ask how she was doing, but deep down, I already knew. The moment I saw her, I remembered all of the opportunities I had to intervene, and then all of the times I’d talked myself out of it.
“You changed your phone number?” Such a dumb thing to say. I already guessed what had happened.
“Couldn’t pay my bill. They shut it off.”
She just nodded.
It hurt to look at her. What kind of awful downward spiral was she in?
“Emily and I have been trying to get in touch with you.” I tried holding my tongue, but I couldn’t anymore. “We’ve heard some things. We were worried about you.”
She exhaled a cloud of smoke and directed her hellishly red eyes at me. “I’m fine.”
No, she wasn’t.
“How are your classes?”
“I dropped out.” She threw the cigarette on the ground and stared at it for a moment before stomping it out.
“Oh. You working here then?”
Every trace of the person she used to be was gone. I could barely keep the conversation going, and it sounded like she wanted me to go away.
But I couldn’t give up on her. I felt guilty standing there, knowing I could’ve had some positive influence on her life, and yet, I looked the other way.
“What have you been doing with your life then?”
“What do you fucking think?”
Hearing those words, I wanted to cry. She’d never spoken to me like that before. The regret had welled up in me, and it needed to escape.
“Where have you been sleeping?”
“Wherever I can.”
Felicity desperately needed someone that cared, and it seemed like no one had for a long time.
“You can stay at my place for a little while, but if you do, you have to clean yourself up. No more drugs.”
“I don’t need your help.”
“I’m not offering you help. It’s just a temporary place to sleep and shower, with a condition attached. Take it or leave it.”
I was obviously offering her help. I just knew that I needed to make it seem like I wasn’t. I wanted her to feel in control. Maybe even convince her that she was taking advantage of me. Whatever it took to get her clean.
Felicity looked a little annoyed, but she was considering my offer. I knew she wanted it, but was she too proud to take it?
I pulled an index card out of my messenger bag and wrote my address on it.
“This is my address.” I handed the card to her. “I’m home after 6 every day. Come hang out if you want.”
I called Emily on my way home and told her what happened. Emily cried a little and told me I did the right thing. We both hoped Felicity would take me up on the offer.
She didn’t, and we never saw her again.
I was too late. I didn’t try hard enough. I could’ve taken her to a clinic. I should’ve been a better friend.
I thought about it for a long time, trying to figure out all of the things I could’ve done differently just so I could beat myself up with them. Both Emily and I were certain Felicity would turn up in the obituaries, but we never did see her there. We hoped she was alive and would come back to us one day, but that hope was small and ever-dwindling.
Emily and I never forgave ourselves.