If You're Out There

If You're Out There

Katy Loutzenhiser


to my bright spots

& to all the friends and fighters out there


From: Zan Martini <[email protected]> To: Priya Patel <[email protected]> Date: Fri, Jul 6, 11:32 pm Subject: I’M DOING DRUGS! LOTS AND LOTS OF DRUGS!

Okay I’m not really doing drugs. Just thought this might help get your attention. Seriously, where the heck are you? Read my texts woman! And CALL ME!

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From: Zan Martini <[email protected]> To: Priya Patel <[email protected]> Date: Sat, Jul 7, 4:09 pm Subject: I’M PREGNANT!!

Someone’s gonna be an aunty. . . .

Okay I’m obviously not pregnant. But wtf? Do they not have wifi or phone service in California? We have so much to discuss! How are things with Nicholas Wallace Reid? How’s the apartment? And how soon can I come swim in your pool??? You DO realize that this year’s impending sucktitude is all your fault, don’t you? The least you could do is hit me back!

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From: Zan Martini <[email protected]> To: Priya Patel <[email protected]> Date: Mon, Jul 9, 10:20 pm Subject: PHEWF!!! SEX TAPE TAKEN DOWN!!!

Okay, really, I promise. That will be the last in this series of delightful announcements. Maybe you’re busy unpacking and don’t find this as funny as I do (I find it hilarious actually). I considered I’M COOKING METH! and ALL CLEAR GONORRHEA-WISE! But I decided to spare you the mental picture (well, until now). And the meth thing was too similar to the drugs one. And anyway let’s be serious—you’re the chemist in this relationship.

Since you’re clearly DESPERATE for the details of my life, soccer camp was fun, though it did little to alleviate my chronic boylessness this time around (sorry if that’s disappointing). Anyway, back to work tomorrow. Did I tell you Whit’s moving in? We’re going to Michigan next week. It won’t be the same without you . . .

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From: Zan Martini <[email protected]> To: Priya Patel <[email protected]> Date: Sat, Aug 4, 11:30 pm Subject: Hey . . .

Did I do something wrong?


Tuesday, September 4

I keep coming back to the same shot. A pair of sandy to-go cups, sort of leaning into each other—like a contented couple, looking out at the distant city lights against a watercolor sky. It was May, almost her birthday, and we’d spent the afternoon bundled in sweatshirts on one of Mom’s ratty yoga blankets, blowing dollar store bubbles at the lake.

“You know what’s weird, Zan?”

The ice in our Vietnamese coffees had nearly melted, the half-filled cups slick with condensation. Priya’s eyes were closed, her face bathed in peachy light. She’d used my actual name, which meant she was thinking serious thoughts. Otherwise I’d be ZanaBanana, or Prescription Xanax, or Alexander Zamilton.

“What?” I said, dunking my wand into the suds.

She made a visor with her hands and looked at me. “Before my mom got married, she had your mom down as the person who would get me if something ever happened.”

I unpursed my lips, just before the bubble broke. “I didn’t know that.” I staked the bottle into the sand and brushed my hands clean. “Would I have gone to you guys? If something happened to my parents?”

I felt terrible before she even said it.

“Doubt it. You have a whole family.” She flipped onto her stomach. “It’s so wild to think about. We would have been like . . . sisters.”

I sprawled out beside her. “We are like sisters.”

She hadn’t quite been her chipper self all day. But I believed her when she smiled and said, “True.” She bent down to take a sip without moving her cup. “I guess all roads lead to us.”


I’m still lost in the picture—in that day at the lake—when someone clears her throat.


I don’t recognize my Spanish name at first. Then I glance down at the Sharpied name tag emblazoned across my chest. Se?ora O’Connell is standing over me, her eyes on the cell phone resting not so subtly against the frayed hem of my denim shorts.

I steal a final glance at those happy, sunlit to-go cups on the screen. “Sorry,” I say, the word slow to arrive. I slip the phone into my backpack. “I mean, lo siento.”

Se?ora O’Connell lets out a clipped breath, as if determined to stay positive. At the whiteboard, she begins scribbling in bright green loops, her ponytail bobbling along as she talks—each orange strand practically screaming, We’re Irish! And no, this is not our first language! I can’t say her accent is all that good—the vowels dull, consonants soggy.

I feel bad for her, though. She’s new, and no one’s really paying attention. Skye and Ying, fellow soccer girls, are whispering in front of me, while Eddy Hays, resident idiot, has formed a pillow with his hands at the next desk over, not even trying to hide his plans to nap. I guess this year I might as well be new myself. My older friends have graduated. And Priya, well . . . It’s going to be a long year.

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