I had a girlfriend one time. Or anyway I think she was my girlfriend. Her name was Ashley Alexander and she had red hair and was pale and thin. I liked her a whole lot. She had come from Germany. Her family lived there because her father was in the military. And when she moved here her neighbor, a girl I knew named Amber, told me she was “weird” and that we would be good friends. How she ended up being my girlfriend I don’t know. I think she asked me. I don’t think I ever kissed her on the lips.

It snowed one winter. I remember it was a lot of snow. She told me her parents were out of town and invited me over to “get snowed in together.” There ended up being two or three feet of snow on the ground and school was out for a week. I could have spent that whole week with her and the snow would have come down hard and we’d have been there in that big house, but I didn’t do it. I was clueless and went sledding with my friends instead. And I think the thought of someone wanting to be around me was terrifying for some reason.

I can’t even remember going sledding. I’ll bet I would still remember that week with Ashely Alexander.

A boy named Kyle went to her house instead. He’d tagged along with her friend Emily. He was the worst person I’d ever met. She called me and said he was there and that she didn’t want him to be—and that she thought he was a miserable sack of shit. I told her to tell him I would punch his face off if he didn’t leave her house. She told him. He left. He never looked at me again.

I remember a girl coming up to me at school one day. She said, “Hello, Mr. Alexander.” And she winked. Later that day I told Ashley I couldn’t be her “boyfriend” anymore. I had to be alone, I told her.

That summer she met a bunch of horrible people and went insane. She chopped off her beautiful red hair and turned into a boozing jerk. My friend Brent ended up dating her around this time. We went to her house one morning after she’d been drinking for days and days. We pulled the good cop / bad cop routine. I was the good cop. I made her laugh and I hugged her. Jesus, she was a mess, but I loved her anyway. She was pissed at Brent for being so hard on her but she told me I was OK.

(Later that day Brent would take off his pants in the driver’s seat of his own car and show me the enormous knife wounds on his legs that he’d given himself the night before.)

Ashley went to a different school after that. I didn’t see her that often. She would call me at night and tell me she hated her friends and asked me to come see her. Mostly I didn’t. I don’t know why.

Once, at 2 a.m., I showed up in her basement room and picked her up off her bed and was swirling her around the room for some reason, maybe because it was funny. Her mother heard us and came downstairs and caught me there. She said, “Ryan, you know I love you, but please put my daughter down and come back when the sun is out.”

The last time I ever saw Ashley she was wearing cowboy boots and chugging a 40 in the backseat of my friend Ginny’s car. We shared a cigarette and she said I looked different. I said, “You look different too, Ashley Alexander.”

The last time I talked to her she said she was moving to Austin and getting married. She told me to keep sending her messages late at night.

I tried doing that last week. It was the first time in maybe two years. The number was dead. Maybe she is too. I sure hope not.

She was a good one. I hope she’s breathing somewhere. Hell, I just miss that god damn girl sometimes.