Indeed. We’re standing on the sidelines of the Women’s March on Austin. We’re here not because we want to join the marching. I mean, we’re feminists for sure, but a bit ambivalent about the current protesting tactics, knowing that attendance no longer gets you credit. We’re here because Husband wants to record some footage for his travelogue about Texas, and I want to see two women we knew in college and haven’t talked to in over a decade. Last week, they Facebooked that they were going to attend the march, and we said we’d see them there. We’re here, at this pep rally, because we feminists in this country are still marching and have yet to learn that marching more or less achieves jack shit—these formulaic and police-maintained “March for [insert cause here]” all need to get extinct already, because we the people gathering to show the government we don’t agree with their insanities no longer creates a forward change like it used to, and therefore all that we’re really doing is marching in place. Anyway, here we are at the Women’s March on Austin, mazing our way through the sea of people in pink pussy hats to locate two women and the wife of one of them. It’s exciting to see people from way back when because reunions give me an opportunity to show off just how fucking cute Husband and I are together because that’s just how vain I am.
We further make our way to the outskirts of the pussy-headed parade when I hear my name. I turn around and see these past friends sitting on their blanket with an apparent lack of reunion excitement because after they see us and we see them, they stay seated—which isn’t to say that all rise when we arrive. Still. It’s called a greeting. They continue to look at us, motionless. Regardless, I do a little giddy walk to them and throw a zest of pep into my step because at this point I’m still believing this brief reunion will rock. When Husband and I are a few steps away, they collectively decide to stand, slowly. I dive in for some hugs because that’s what friends do when they haven’t seen each other for forever and a day. First hug is good, second one is weird, and then I face the wife-stranger and we do a short hug because everyone else is hugging, though by the time I step back from our vague embrace I’ve already forgotten her name.
Post-hugs, post-hellos, post-how ya doin’s and the how’s life conversation fillers, the five of us stand around and mumble other updates. After one lull in the conversation, we look at the crowd like bored adults who are failing to find a hobby they enjoyed as a kid to still be interesting, then we quickly revert to pulling out our cell phone safety blankets to show off some pictures. And then the lull re-arrives, and we go back to looking at what democracy supposedly looks like. One of the women pushes into the blank space of our dwindling conversation, “Well. We should get going soon…”—a statement fully infused with an “awe shucks” tone of faux-disappointment. We look at some more pictures so as to appear that of course there’s no desire rising up in any of us to bolt from this textbook-awkward situation. Then, a few more flashes of reminiscences are followed by an empty invitation to join them for lunch, the subtext of which is I don’t want you to come, but I don’t want to look like an asshole for not inviting you. Stupid pleasantries. Husband and I respond with, “Oh cool! Yeah, maybe.” And then, finally, a final hug. Goodbye.
Marching back to our truck, the shroud of what in the fuck? descends on mine and Husband’s conversation. We don’t know why what happened just happened, why we felt weird around people we used to see every day in college—people I’ve kissed when drunk, people whose cars I’ve cleaned out puke from even when the puke hadn’t geysered from my own mouth, people who were at every party I attended and witnessed all the dumb drunk shit I did. These were women whose voices I’ve screamed along with at reproductive rights marches and anti-war protests and gay rights demonstrations, our female empowerment thrumming together each time we collectively answered, “When do we want it?” Now, eleven years later—and thirteen years after the last women’s march we attended together—it’s at this current ineffective march that we experience an ineffective reunion.
“Well that was awkward as fuck,” I comment.
We don’t know why the statement I say is true, just that it is.
Wait. Scratch that. Maybe we do know. Maybe it’s because we actually didn’t know each other all that well. Maybe it’s because we were never really that close to begin with—maybe alcohol + similar interests ≠ bff.
“Maybe we stunned them into silence by just how fucking cute we are!” I say this not because I’m vain but because that’s just my way of avoiding this particular reality. How it is that once-active relationships can devolve into stagnancy, into friendships with no futures, our past fondness for each other just marching in place, weary.
Chelsey Clammer is the author of BodyHome and winner of the 2015 Red Hen Press Nonfiction Manuscript Award for her essay collection, Circadian (forthcoming October 2017). She has been published in The Rumpus, Hobart, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, The Normal School and Black Warrior Review among others. She is the Essays Editor for The Nervous Breakdown and teaches creative writing online with WOW! Women on Writing. Chelsey received her MFA from Rainier Writing Workshop.