Up until a couple of years ago I was still wearing my dead friend’s knickers. Before she died we were twins in the universe, two people so entwined that our histories blurred, our secrets were shared, our underwear drawers combined.
The knickers have (I think) all been thrown out now, but I often absentmindedly put on one of her bras, before remembering it was stolen from a friend that no longer walks the earth. How unfair that her underwear outlived her.
Her floral gown hangs in my room, one of the first things I see each morning and I remember when her body filled it. There are lots of her things I still enjoy in my everyday: Her coffee cup or the notebook she’d only half filled with diary entries, but the items that have the ability to bring her close again are mainly her clothes and accessories.
I have her ring, full of diamonds and pizazz. I wear it when I need power, it reminds me to take risks, to stand up for myself. It gives me the courage I’d have if she were standing right next to me.
When we were younger she’d let me wear her clothes, which were much better than mine. We moved in together as teenagers and wore matching outfits even though we were too old for the idea.
We loved to dress as twins, but we didn’t mirror each other, if anything we looked and behaved in an opposite manner. We were each other’s shadows and I loved to be the good to her bad. If she was reckless, I was responsible. When she was the bully, I was the mediator. We acted as two sides to a coin, the place that we matched was somewhere much deeper. The place deep inside where core beliefs are formed and fate’s path is formed.
We loved dressing up. Our lives were decorated with prom dresses and party frocks, clothes that were romantic or shocking and fun. I loved vintage shopping, she loved stealing expensive dresses and together we had the most brilliant clothes for any occasion.
Living with Venus was fun. She was the most alive person I could ever have imagined, even when she was just waking up, or lounging in bed or soaking in the tub. She felt fast even when she was slow. She changed outfits constantly and changed her make up to match. She never thought before she spoke and yet perfectly formed sharp sentences shot from her mouth like strikes from a whip. Her brain worked at hyper speed. She was on a different time plane, always two steps ahead of everything and everyone.
Wherever we lived, the mess was the same. Venus undid my childhood teaching of how to cook and clean and introduced me to the joys of living in squalor. There were no cleaning products in the house, the fridge was always full of nothing.
The floor was a carpet of expensive clothes and dirty underwear which we called the “floordrobe”. The floordrobe was formed of the best dresses when we lived together in New York and she was working as a model.
Like a magpie I would find the treasure in the trash, pulling at a strap until a petal colored dress was revealed in tact for me to step into, and out the door to work. We strained coffee through silk dresses into a vase, we didn’t always have money for coffee filters but we did have an abundance of dressing up clothes to wear or walk over, or destroy with coffee.
We didn’t have a full length mirror and I was always in a rush for work. There was more then one occasion I arrived at Conde Nast to realize the beautiful designer dress I was wearing was displaying with a large cum stain.
When I got married she arrived the night before with five designer wedding dresses. We tried them on together and I made outfit changes on the day. My favorite wedding dress she gave me was by Marchesa and made with tons of tulle that made me feel like I was rising out of a blustery sea wave. She told me I looked like an actual fairytale princess and because of her I felt like one. The dress felt incredible but it was the intention of the gift that transformed me, I was dressed in female friendship.
Our friendship wasn’t all rosy. There were dark times, when we didn’t look well. Sallow skin and sunken eyes showed years of bad diet, poor hygiene and a failure to take good care of ourselves. Our appearance was sometimes the markings of dark wordless waters swelling inside and the shadowy path we walked. But in these times our wardrobe became our amour and once we dressed up our darkness easily hidden.
And then she was gone, and my memories of her became crystallized in the clothes we shared. I wore one of her dresses to her funeral and wore more of her clothes as I floated through the surreal waves of grief that followed after.
Years have passed, but the way I miss her feels as fresh as a pearl. I miss her laugh, it makes me laugh just thinking of hers! I still swim through days dressed as her, or dressed as me, because it’s hard to tell where I begin and she ended. I wear her bikinis of holiday, her T-shirt to bed, her dresses to my most extravagant events, always, always with her in mind.
Continuing to share clothes with my lost friend is my reminder of everything invisible we shared between the clothes. The things that can’t be held together by thread but lives somewhere else, in my gut maybe, or my heart, or most probably every cell of my being.
Lily Gutierrez is a writer and designer based in St Leonards, UK. She is also the founder of Story Time, a project that collects stories via art and events in the hope of creating meaningful connection amongst the global community.