Tuesday, July 10, 2007

spilling myself messily at your feet

i am here in my chair. and outside, the air is still. hot. heavy with the coming rain. there is lightning in the summer sky. and i am stalling.

not long ago, i was looking for something, i don't remember what, and instead, i found my high school yearbooks, packed away in a box i had forgotten about. i laughed. i flipped through them a minute and set them aside. it's what i usually do with painful memories ... laugh, flip through them a minute and set them aside ... not this time, though.

i've returned to that time again. and again. turned it over and around and i find i can't escape it. the memories. thoughts of time with friends. love letters. the sad and awkward end. something has stirred something way back and far down; pulling me back, no matter which way i turn, towards 'before.' and there are things i want to say, but i reach for words and find myself turning without them. and i become sad in a way i can't quite grasp.

how does it all begin? and why? is it something primal? something whispering deep in the bones or genes, 'that one.' maybe the old darwinian shuffle has a few steps we haven't heard about before. the physical attraction somehow melded with deeper and quieter feelings of a higher order.

still...i am impossibly grateful for that particular brand of evolutionary magic...as i imagine where they all might be now. reaching out and finding them again.

i loved colorado. being close to the park. the odd stairs in our house. and i loved my room - with the big window, the old rocking chair and the unusually tall bed. i loved high school - most of it. i loved the speech tournaments and band practice and baseball games and ap english and boys who practiced cx debate and cherry creek and and even chuck fleener's relentless pursuit. and i loved my friends.

(looking back, i probably could have been popular if i'd tried. but, i didn't. probably because i couldn't see myself very well. even now, i couldn't tell you what i was like ... if i was strong or funny or interesting. my mother used to tell me all the time how selfish i was. i remember that. but, i think she was wrong. i didn't think much about myself at all. maybe i haven't changed that much, after all.)

i look through the photos ... with the frozen grins, the bangs that defy gravity and i can see the hallways, feel the cool metal of my locker against my back, smell the scent of love's baby soft and aqua net in the air. beav. steve. gayle. scott. lara. kevin. erik. kelli. aimee. dawn. mutt. jeff. and marcie.

all roads lead to marcie.

she and i became friends because she told me we would. i was shy and she was on the fringe and we each needed a hand to hold and she decided mine would be hers - it was a friday, early in the 9th grade, and she had come to school in her pom pom uniform with a large bandage on the back of her thigh because she'd sat on her curling iron that morning and was mortified, as any fourteen year old girl would be, at the thought of people staring at the bandage all day. she was ranting in the locker room and being slightly taller, and more than a little afraid of her, i came up with an idea to help her hide the wound (even now, i'm always coming up with ideas to hide the wounds) and she declared we would be best friends forever. or until she 'didn't like me anymore.' and not having any other offers, i accepted.

and for a long time, it was good. we were silly, happy girls. one of our favorite things was to write letters to each other. she'd pass me the evening's topics as we left for the day and at night, we'd write and trade letters in the morning. i loved to make her laugh. i didn't even mind when my words would come out of her mouth. it hadn't occurred to me, yet, that i had a gift for writing - even as it had already become apparent to marcie.

it should come as no surprise that marcie did not like my boyfriends. she was jealous and angry and frequently miserable to be around. she thought one was gay and the other - the devil. she hated him with a furor that shocks me still.

the day he and i broke up, she was giddy - still full of venom, but genuinely happy. and constantly devising ways to 'get back' at him. i thought it was her way of trying to cheer me up. (her incredibly fucked up way, but still...) but no matter how much she wanted me to, i wasn't ready to let him go. mutual friends tried to get us back together, thought it might be a good idea to call and see how he was doing, ask him to our prom, but marcie made it known that it would be the end of our friendship and i knew that i couldn't survive that loss, too.

a few days after that conversation, i remember marcie being called to the principal's office. she never said why. all i know, even to this day, is that she wrote a letter about 'the devil' and sent it to someone. i don't know what it said. i know that she was suspended for a few days and lost her slot as editor of the paper for our senior year. (i don't know what i was thinking when i agreed to take her place.) and i know that a few weeks later, my high school ring arrived in the mail with note from the boy about the short supply of common decency.

i had no choice but to let him go. so i did. sort of. (the first time you fall in love, it changes your life forever. no matter how hard you try, that feeling never goes away.) and marcie and i were never the same after that. oh, we were still 'best' friends, but once you've see the edge of someone you love, it's difficult to return to 'before.'

we still did silly, girly things. hung out at rocky mountain records&tapes, ate steve's ice cream on the mall, danced wildly to depeche mode, daydreamed about the boys from steamboat ... eventually, i found another boy, 'the gay one.' and one day, not long into our senior year, marcie decided she was done with me. one day, she moved out of our locker, stopped speaking to me - except to tell me that i was 'dull. unoriginal. and unworthy of any more of her time.'

and with that, we were done. i know where the first crack occurred, but, to this day, i don't know what triggered the final break. maybe it was the new boy. or memories of the old. new friends. her parents' divorce. success. taking what she felt she was her due. it's the one mystery i'll never be able to solve.

still, i figure i got exactly what i deserved.

i should have stood up for myself long before it came to that. i should have told her every day that she was beautiful and smart and talented. and maybe then, she would've have been able to see that i could be in love with a boy and still be friends with her.

looking back, she had to feel that seemingly imperceptible shift - may have known the truth of 'the devil and i,' even before we did. she had to know that the closer he and i became, the further i might move away from her - into the one place she couldn't follow.

to watch someone you love move away from you, even if she's headed toward the thing you want most for her, is to walk the tightrope of your own happiness. we were both too young to understand that or maybe we did understand it, we just didn't know what to do about it.

so i did what i always do. i shut up. and i shut down. (hard to believe i can 'shut up' i know, but i can.) what i should have done was stand up. to see that things between us were closed in a way that befit our relationship - with kindness, and bravery, and honesty.

woulda. coulda. shoulda.

what did i say earlier? it's not at all that i fail to forgive others for the hurts i have received - it's that i cannot forgive myself ...

still, i know now that every wrong turn eventually equals a right because there is always a lesson to be learned or a gift to be had. i am stronger now than i was then. smarter. kinder. i still dance with 'the devil' now and then. (and 'the gay one' is a good friend to this day.) but i miss the silly, girly ways and the memory of a time before i knew that i could be spilled so messily and painfully at someone else's feet.

but then, don't we all?


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