I asked her about it when she got off the phone, and we compared our smiles. Our genetic mishaps were exact mirror images. Mine is on my left and mirrors hers on her right. Funny.
The conversation swiftly moved from dental histories back to where it should have began - the high schools we graduated from, and it turned out She went to Catholic school with my good friend Christine. In a class of less than forty it's no surprise they knew each other, but it turns out they too were good friends. It's a Small, Small World. We compared Christine stories and landed on a party she'd thrown earlier that year - one we had both attended. My memory began to do its thing, and I asked her if she had driven a brown '76 Ford Granada that night. Her eyes said Yes, but her mouth said, "I drove you back home that night so you wouldn't have to take the train, didn't I?" Yes. Yes, she did. I'm not a Car Person so I don't look at a vehicle and know what make and model it is unless it's obvious - like Mini Cooper obvious - but I recalled the car she borrowed from her mother that night because my mother drove the exact same car in a paint job two shades lighter. Funny again.
The things we had in common - being children of divorce, growing up in a home with just our mothers, coming from similar backgrounds of relative poverty - these things were common enough to not be surprising. But the weird stuff we had in common - the teeth, the cars, the fact that we'd met a year earlier, and the fact that we both had women in our lives who practiced Witchcraft, little stuff - was a bit much.
Our connection was soon made a little more bizarre with two events that were either fate or coincidence. One night, in a very drunken moment after the tequila was gone and the other girls in the suite had passed out, She told me a secret she shares with no one - one I'll take to the grave. Two months later I revealed my own little nightmare to her. Maybe because she was nearby? Maybe because she had entrusted me with hers, tequila induced or not? For whatever reason, we had become each other's Secret Keepers.
None of this made us instant BFFs.
For all she had been through, life had made her a secure, strong Old Soul who managed to keep a wicked sense of humor, while I, having been through many crappy things myself, was a very late bloomer and still a very insecure New Soul whose spine only surfaced while in the comfort of close friends. Perhaps there are confidant people who don't get annoyed by the presence of those sorely lacking it, but She wasn't one of them. I must admit that I find the insecure quite tedious. I don't mean the young kids still learning who they are - I mean the adults who should have figured it out by now. If you don't like spending time with yourself, chances are I'm not going to enjoy it either.
Anyway, I learned a lot in the first 17 years of my life, but she was the one who made me realize that learning to be comfortable in your own skin is just about the best thing you can learn to do. It can be debated that the ability to love others is higher on the list, but I've seen insecure people who Love, and it always feels like a desperate act to just have it reciprocated. Just my opinion. The point is she showed me a strength I longed for enough to work on it, and I have credited her with the birth of my spine everyday for the last 25 years.
After Freshman year we moved into different living spaces and only occasionally ran into each other on campus, but an art class in our Junior year threw us back into the same room for 6 hours a week. This time we became instant friends.
We spent our days skipping class together at a local pizzeria and our nights smoking our faces off at the Campus Pub. We laughed about the fact that no matter how broke we were, we always managed to find the cash to have lunch together or rent a car and road trip 7 hours to Toronto to see a taping of Kids in the Hall with fake press passes that would get us interviews with Dave Foley and Scott Thompson. Having finally caught up to her and being the proud owner of my own permanent fake lateral incisor, we asked each other to make sure there was no food caught in our mirror image fake teeth. We compared our spooky family witch stories and griped about our mothers' inabilities to manage their money. Boyfriends were required to accept our presence together at all times except during sex, and to this day I still use the brand of tampon she kept in her bathroom. We knew almost everything there was to know about one another and told people we shared a brain. We joked that the movie Beaches was about us.
I was sure she was my soulmate. My future boyfriends would just have to accept that they could be my perfect match and become my bestest buddy, but the role of Soulmate was taken.
After college I moved around like a gypsy so our contact was minimal, but a year after settling down in Chicago, she flew in on a business trip. She'd been to Asia earlier that year and and found a beautiful, enameled cigarette lighter casing which she bought and brought me that night. We spent the evening catching up and smoking our faces off till I drove her back to her hotel. It was 16 years ago and the last time I ever saw or spoke to her.
After her trip she stopped returning my calls. I made several attempts that year but never heard back. I was sad, hurt, and ridiculously confused because we'd had no argument, but I let it go. I didn't have a choice, really.
My brain, on the other hand, has refused to drop the subject. Through the years I've acquired quite a few recurring dreams, but the most aggravating are the ones where she is back in my life. Actually, it's a tie between those and the ones where I'm back at work, but both are relentless. I don't spend my days fixating on the friendship we had years ago, but at night my brain continues to think it's still sharing itself with her. It also still asks me to figure out how to turn a blue couch into a red Camaro for that evening's performance, but that's a different story altogether.
Last month my father died. The fucking morning after he passed, I wake up to a Facebook message from a mutual college friend of ours Suggesting we become FB friends. I have to admit it threw me for a moment. She finally created an account and could have sought me out to be in touch again, but she didn't. I ignored the Suggest and headed over to the bar with my brother and The Boy to have a drink in Dad's honor. And later, in a moment of much drunkenness, I sent her the Friend Request. To my utter surprise, she accepted.
The month has passed. Occasionally one of us will Like something on the other's page or, and just once, each of us has commented on one another's post. There has been nothing bold like a direct message to or from either one of us. Each day I expect to see she has removed herself from my list of FB Friends, and every day I'm shocked to see she's stuck around for another 24 hours. I'm as baffled by her willingness to be mildly in touch as I was 16 years ago when she decided she wasn't.
I have a list of things this woman has done for me. We co-managed our university's soccer team and just before a shit ton of paperwork was due, I got sick and she did every ounce of it. While painting summer stock in North Carolina for 7 weeks, she paid me a surprise visit. She was behind the wheel all 14 hours of our Canadian road trip because I didn't yet have my license. I once had an intimidating phone call to make to a landlord who was holding my security deposit ransom, and she, pretending to be me, made the call. I'd grown some balls, but hers were still bigger. But again, she's the reason I decided to grow a pair in the first place. She was always more advanced than me. Always a step or two ahead.
Unfortunately, I can think of nothing I did for her. Perhaps we don't recall the gifts we give as well as we do the gifts we receive. Perhaps it's all gotten lost in one of my lesions. Or maybe, just maybe, there's really not much on my list worth recalling. I spent many recent years working at a university and being reminded of the self-centered nature of young adults. It's okay - it comes with the age. We grow out of it. But maybe she got tired of waiting for the late bloomer to catch up.
I've considered the possibility that this has never been a big deal to her. Maybe the young woman I looked up to never saw the loss of our friendship as much of a loss. but I'd like to thank her for what she taught me. I'd like to ask her why she never answered a single phone call even if it was to tell me what a jerk I was. I'd like to know why she took her friendship away without even discussing it with me. I'd like her to get out of my brain at night. I guess I just miss my friend.
Next month I will post a first direct message on her wall. A Happy Birthday. And then I'll wait and see if she Unfriends me for it. The following month, I will be curious to see if she wishes me a Happy one as well. Of course her birthday comes first. She has always been a step ahead of me.