Tuesday, February 19, 2013

back to the future: that's the power of love

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In one of my previous posts, I shared a 'bad mommy moment' I had with my daughter, one that involved the term "BFF". I shared that, even though I've had some wonderful and close friendships, I wasn't sure I ever had one of those.

Truth is, I did. Until I changed the meaning of the acronym to "Blow Friendship Forever". 

A long time ago, while I was living in Columbia (SC), I met a girl who was a lot like me. Ok, other than the fact that she was a New York Jew and I was a WASP so Southern that I had an uncle named Stonewall Jackson, we were a lot alike. Smart, nerdy, sarcastic, pale, and red-headed, we both always felt a little like outsiders no matter where we were.

Until E was hired at the insurance agency where I worked, and we met for the first time. Instant belonging.

E and I were like the sisters we'd never had. We did most everything together, and the things we didn't were shared the next day. I made her feel good to be a smart girl. She made me feel special and unconditionally accepted. We really loved each other.

Then I blew it. It's too sordid and too old to rehash, but various circumstances and insecurities led me down a path that broke our precious friendship. We yelled and screamed and cried at each other, but what was done was done. We each picked up the pieces and moved on with our lives. In a fashion typical for me at that time, I moved away and left her behind along with everyone else I had held dear. Is it any wonder my favorite quote from Monty Python's Holy Grail is "Run away! Run away!"

I moved to Charleston, started life over, made new friends, got into new trouble, and eventually settled down into what I considered a legitimate life for myself. I thought of E now and again, wondered how she was, even played with the idea of contacting her to apologize. But, it seemed too late for all that. She had probably forgotten me, and our trouble. If she hadn't, it seemed best not to hurt her by reawakening the past, especially if it might come back to bite me. It seemed there was no good reason for me to contact her. Not even the fact that I still loved her.

Fast forward through 23 years and a whole lot of life. As a way of exercising my revived creative writing gene, I started blogging for skirt! online. A few people read my blog, liked it, shared it, gave me some great feedback. It didn't pay anything, but it provided me with the discipline of having to sit down and write regularly. I reconnected with some friends from high school, and made some new connections. 

And I created a Twitter account. Because apparently that's what you do when you blog. I wasn't very good at Twitter - the first day out they blocked me because I was sending email-like messages to people I knew and the Twitter borg thought I was a hacker. I'm still a Twidiot, but I don't get blocked anymore. And I never actually bothered to look and see who - if anyone - was following me.

Until last week.

While taking a much needed break from editing a technical document, I decided to look at my Twitter account as a change of pace. There were actual people following, some I didn't recognize. I scrolled down looking at the names and pictures. Until I got to one picture with a distinctive profile and cropped hair that looked red even in black-and-white. 


It was E.

Remember that scene in "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" when his heart grows bigger and pops all the metal bands that had been restricting it? Yeah, I had one of those moments. My dear E was following me!

Very quickly, panic followed: Why was E following me? How did she find me? What did she want? Was it time for reconciliation, or was it hammer time? I hastily refastened the bands around my heart. What now - do I pretend that I didn't see her, do I ignore her in case she hasn't forgiven me? Or do I throw caution and pride to the wind, hope for the best, and send her a message?

I'm 49. Life is short. And it was time for me to face the music. If she was still angry at me, I could handle it. But I still loved her. It was worth taking the risk to find out. So I sent her a direct Twitter message letting her know I saw her and asking if she wanted to email. Then I checked Twitter like every 10 minutes until I went to sleep.

The next morning I had a message. I was almost too afraid to look at it. Yes, she would email. She had found me on skirt! and has just made her profile public the day before in hopes I would look at it. 

Hmm, seemed like fate. I still didn't know if it was good or bad, but it was something.

We emailed. The emails were hopeful, but I was reserved. Then she wanted to talk. I was still conflicted, but I shared my number. The next day I texted to see if she could talk. No, she had family in town. Crap...maybe this was a bad idea. I texted again: "Are you sure you're not just waiting to rip me a new one?"

The phone rang.

I answered.

There was no "hello", no pleasantries, no small talk. We started talking just like we had decades ago, when we were young and naive and hopeful and strong and best friends. We cried, we laughed, we told stories, we addressed the past and buried it, we were sarcastic and ironic and smart and vulnerable. We said, "I love you." It was like nothing bad had ever happened, like no time had passed.

We both have battle scars, have changed, have grown, have forgiven. So much is different. Yet the love is the same. I don't know how to explain or understand how our love for each other has survived. E says it's because our friendship was meant to be. Maybe she's right.

Love is a funny, inexplicable, powerful thing. It's the subject of poetry, novels, songs, wars. It's a miracle, really. Miracles are when you get something better than you deserve. 

I don't know where this is going, but I choose to trust the miracle. And my friend. Because, like most of the things in my life, she always was better than I deserved. 

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