Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Tangent - Girls - Part 1

I'm having trouble deciding how many parts this sequence should have, and in what order they should be posted. So I'm going to treat it a little like stream of consciousness rather than in the more measured, rhythmic way I try to normally write. It may turn into that at some point; we shall see. I will, however, still overuse the word "so," especially at the start of paragraphs.

So. The first thing that comes into my head isn't about me. It's about a friend I knew as a child, with whom I re-connected in adulthood. We first met each other when I was 10 years old, she would have been 11. At first, she was mean to me, taunting me in the playground with the words most perfect for tormenting me completely. That didn't last though. We got to know each other better; we liked the same books, we liked to play the same games, she played piano, I played piano, and most importantly, the private school we attended had very few students, so since know one else shared our interests we naturally gravitated towards each other.

During sleep-overs, I thought she was very modest. We'd get ready for bed and I'd change into my pajamas without even thinking about it but she'd do it where I couldn't see, often in her large closet. We'd both developed early, and I remember she used to leave her bra on under her pjs until the lights were out. I thought it was odd, but never asked about it, it seemed too private of a thing to question. Her parents were more devout than mine, I think I just assumed that they had taught her that gettting undressed in front of people was wrong.

Three years later my family moved to a different state. My friend and I got to see each other several times a year, but 'out-of-sight, out-of-mind' definitely held true for us and our friendship lagged. When I graduated high school and ran away to college, it was to the same one she attended, but she had a crowd of friends that I didn't feel included by and we kept to our own circles.

One of the reasons that I had let us drift apart was that some of her behavior while in high school really bothered me. I knew she was rebelling, I thought it was against her parents and their strict religiousness. I remember her proudly explaining to me how to rip off an ATM by pretending to make a deposit, then going to several different sites to withdraw the funds before the bank had caught up with the transaction. (This was the 80's, for those of you accustomed to instantaneous transactions at the bank, take it from me, it tweren't always so.) On another occasion, through clever manipulation of a receipt, she received a full refund for a garment that she never actually returned. She also taught me how to steal expensive items from public lost and founds; her example was Disneyland. She and her friends shop-lifted, drank what they shop-lifted, and basically ran wild. All of this behavior was perplexing to me, but it never occured to me to say anything to any adults. And because I would never act that way, I judged her rather than feeling concerned for her, and let us drift apart.

Before I started college, I went to visit and slept on the floor of her dorm room while I was there. Her room mate was gone one night for some reason, and after we'd turned the lights out that night, she confessed to me that all through high school she'd been extremely promiscuous and had in fact had two abortions about which her family and most of her friends new nothing. I didn't know what to say. I'm afraid I probably said next to nothing out of shock. I hope that I thought to ask her if she was okay, but at 17 I was incredibly clueless so I'm sure that I did not. I thought about that night often, though, and some time in the next five years or so quietly decided that something terrible must have happened to her when she was a kid that had hurt her badly enough that she needed to resort to that behavior. Maybe she was trying to get her folks' attention? Maybe she was screaming out for help? I didn't ask then, and I can't ask now, so I'll never know.

Over the last 15 years or so we've had sporadic contact. We were always living in different states and never saw each other. I got a call from her one year, begging me to come home for the reunion of our little private school, but my marriage was floundering and I basically brushed her off and forgot about it. When my marriage finally ended for good several years after that and I came back home to Oregon I made an effort to put a note in her parents' mailbox and shortly thereafter I got a call from her, and she and her fiance came to visit one afternoon. I was shocked that she was getting married, I was even more shocked that she was getting married to a man old enough to be her father. Even though we hadn't been in touch and I couldn't claim to know her well anymore, her getting married to this older man felt really odd and out of character. I was invited to the upcoming wedding, but already had a commitment, and we lost touch again.

In 2009 or thereabouts I got on Facebook, my intention being to keep in touch with friends who were out of state and my family. One day I got a friend request from my friend and now we are friends on Facebook. We don't talk or hang out or see each other any more than we used to, but we are at least keeping up with each other's lives and interests through posts and likes and comments.

But something interesting happened in between 1999 and 2009--my friend came out of the closet, and by the time we reconnected on Facebook, was in a committed, long-term, and most importantly, healthy relationship. I wasn't surprised. In point of fact, my first thought was "Oooooohhhhh, maybe that explains it all." Because as I said in my "Some Women" post, sometimes all the mistakes you make and dangerous behavior you undertake happens because you have to trek through a wilderness in order to get to the person you really are. And maybe it really explains everything, all the way back to two little girls in a bedroom, one of whom was too shy to undress in front of the other. Maybe the way she teased me at first was her way of dealing with the fact that she liked me in a different way. That's what we always got told by our Moms when the boys were mean, after all. I'll never know, because I'll never ask, but I'm mightily curious about how things might have turned out if she hadn't had to slog through that wilderness for so long.

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