By Allison Maloney, Collage by Megan Fox.
Last night, my friend Kelli and her sister spent a long night partying with T-Pain and his crew. I know this because she called me to tell me so – we talk or FaceTime once each weekend. Almost every day, she is the person I text first to say good morning, boast a healthy breakfast, or tell my scary dreams.
Kelli is my soulmate. She’s funny, sensitive, outrageously stylish, and politically minded. At Christmas, on a rare visit to Ohio, she presented a patch cross-stitched in the style of an iPhone message received: a blue bubble that reads, R u cozy? It’s a question we ask each other at night before bed, when I’m back in my own New Jersey room. Only a soulmate would understands that coziness reigns high above all other aspects of my day. The current of our friendship, in a nutshell, is this gif of Natalie Cole on stage, pointing Whitney Houston in the crowd at the 1996 American Music Awards. I see you, girl.
Another soulmate of mine, Emma, grew up in a different corner of the country. We met in Olympia, where she serves homeless youth by bike, providing clean clothes and hot food. On a particularly rough day, she once sat with me for hours in my subleased apartment above the Puget Sound, pouring over YouTube videos of Whitney’s old stage moments and crying over brevity of the star’s life before moving on to sob at performances from American Idol winners Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood.
It had been a really, really bad day.
I write Emma letters, like I sometimes do with my friend Tatiana in Texas. Born in Russia and continuously in travel around the world, this soulmate studies birds and writes text messages that read like poems, ones mediocre English majors in cargo shorts would kill to write. Her science brain and straightforwardness make us opposites keenly attracted but I think she’ll write a better book than I will some day, so I send her books worth reading and imagine her doing so in the peak of an Alaskan mountain she’s climbed. In my imagination, she has a huge-ass bird perched on her arm.
Those I consider mates to my soul are primarily women, and they are scattered so. They differ in their cares and wants, they hold unique, particular smarts, and at least one has gotten drunk with Coolio. Sure, I sometimes dream of the boys I love, but more often, I am dreaming of them.
Soulmates divided by distance and circumstance is not a new phenomenon, nor one limited just to me. How many great loves have written long, forlorn letters back and forth? How many soldiers have stared at wallet-sized photos of the people and places they miss most? How many songs have been written about leaving, or being left? (Too many.) But this age allows for instant contact, intangible photos shared in a heart’s beat of time, digital I miss you messages received just as quickly. What I’ve learned is that every city holds people with traits to take with you, those who can make you understand what Drake meant by no new friends. Everywhere, great people exist and prove that opening oneself up—just even a little—can make the worst of things better.
This art, the practice of maintaining multiple soulmates, developed at the same rate as my pick-up-and-leave tendency, which I’ve projected as curiosity that breeds professional stimulation but what might just be an inability to commit, fueled with the power of a little red truck. In the seven years since I left rural North Carolina, I’ve lived in Ohio, Washington, New Jersey, New York (twice), and California. Within these states, I’ve inhabited in at least two different spaces, sometimes moving up to six times – the exception being Sacramento, where I isolated myself for a year in a studio apartment that played home to many visitors, most traveling south from the PNW on some creative tour.
But even in that capital city, which I describe as “the armpit of the West,” I picked up soulmates along the way who helped me survive my time spent there. There’s Tamara, a hilarious runner with a senator dad who let me take breaks from serving the needs of Maria Shriver to cry in her Honda CRV, and Tere, whose immigrant parents spent their lives farming the Central Valley. This residency also allowed me to visit the city San Francisco, where one of my high school soulmates, Erin was trying her hand at the different modes required in building a new life. (Her first apartment was where Journey’s hit album was made—the password to the warehouse was still the 1980s year it was recorded.) The memory of eating breakfast with her, a world away from our tiny hometown, makes up for all of my shittiest west coast days.
If your heart is split like mine, into dozens of pieces across handfuls of states and seas, you know that keeping up with your soulmate(s) isn’t as difficult as it once seemed, but still does maintain a large degree of effort (and, though still unpleasant as I image it’s always been, a high threshold for yearning). For those with their love and life spread all over the place, the following guide is for you.
Make anything an adventure
I once had a friend drive forty minutes to O’Hare International Airport to smoke a cigarette with me in front of my terminal during a layover. I base the answers to all of my lazy, …do I really have the time? questions off of this person’s thoughtfulness. A quick cup of coffee, a hug in a hallway, catching up for fifteen minutes because you’re driving through town – how ever long the visit, just make it happen.
Send selfies galore
If Rachel Syme didn’t already teach you that a selfie is a revolutionary act, now’s the time to learn. Sending pictures back and forth with the women in my life feels like we’re virtually raising the roof in unison at the e-slumber party of the century. New bra? Show me! Fresh cut? Let’s see it! Clean your bathroom mirror and get to snapping – make ‘em remember that face they love.
Develop the patience for letter writing (& buy a lot of stamps!)
Blah blah blah, letter writing is a lost art, old-timey memories, etc. For me, it’s a start-to-finish process that provides comfort. I find great joy in going to the post office, asking to see the themed stamps, and picking favorites outside of the American-flag range. Selecting proper stationary – my most recent preference being plain thick cardstock, stamped with the image of a screaming woman whose face peeps out of brown envelopes just so – is better than sex. Sometimes I kiss the envelopes before they hit the blue metal box, an unnecessary tenderness that I hope my soulmates would find endearing.
Get creative about what constitutes a letter sent
I recently found a hyper-religious card in a dresser drawer and sent it to my intensely atheist friend because it seemed like a fun idea. Make them feel special, but also make them ask, why is she sending me an art show flier covered in doll parts? Photocopies or newspaper clippings of great articles read also make great surprises when randomly popped in the mail, as do postcards of places you’ve visited together. Start looking around, there’s plenty of shit to shove in envelopes!
Think up projects that involve all kinds of people
It sometimes feels as if I’ll never have the chance to see all of the people I love in the same room, but collaboration is a reminder that the Internet makes it easy to work with soulmates far and wide to maintain what bonds. Another love of mine, Kate, is working with me to produce a zine about the first kiss (coming soon to a distro near you!)—an opportunity to call across to the far corners of the earth and ask the weirdoes we know to contribute, bringing some of my favorite soulmates together for a chance to hold them in my hands. Make shit together.
Understand your luck
How lucky, to have met those I’ve listed above and all of the others unnamed. Close your eyes for a moment to think of the people, past and present, who have laughed, struggled, and worked alongside you. When the next weighted morning presents itself—the kind built to make you quit—drag your ass out of bed in their name.
Allison Maloney is a writer. Find her on twitter here.
Megan Fox is a vintage enthusiast living in Minneapolis, hugging kittens and stomping on the patriarchy in big black boots. Check out her music projects here and here, and check out her Instagram here.