Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Er...How Nice

When I walked out of the psych ward and into the bitter cold of the mid-February morning in 1988 - walking as opposed to rolling in on a stretcher that had just disembarked from the Life Flight helicopter like I had arrived 2 months earlier - I knew the expectation was that I would slip back into the life I'd tried to end.

But everything was different. The house was the same but it would be empty as Blind Betsy started her new job in another town, the school was the same but most of the teachers would be more AP classes for me, and the so-called friends I thought might be glad to see me, wouldn't make eye contact, take my calls, and avoided me in the hallways. Even my therapist refused to see me anymore. 

There were only really two things that were the same...

1) I was still me.
2) I was still in the same Biology class I'd been assigned to when it was clear I wouldn't be passing AP Biology (sporadic attendance) just a couple of weeks before I disappeared.

So to say I was a little lost Jane that first day back at school is grossly understated.

Third period. Third floor. Mr. Eldridge's Biology class. 

When I entered the classroom, Mr. Eldridge smiled widely, welcomed me back, and pointed me to a seat at the table just in front of his desk. Already sitting there, also smiling, was Her. Beasley. My new lab partner.

This picture embarrasses her terribly. But this was the girl I remember waiting for me that day. Oh my gawd! So beautiful!

I didn't know her name until that day but I'd seen her. I have a distinct memory of the first time I ever saw her, horsing around with the other weird kids down between the cafeteria and gym - her orange hair practically blending in with the bright orange tiled wall behind her. I was both jealous and shy of the look of her and her friends and the camaraderie they seemed to share. I rushed past with my head down toward Smoker's Alley and stood, alone, puffing furiously on a Marlboro Red before my next class.

I would find out later - much later - that, when I disappeared, she asked Mr. Eldridge about me...where I'd gone. I don't know if he told her specifics but she was able to glean enough from what he told her to understand what I'd done. She also requested to be my assigned lab partner upon my return even knowing the truth.

By the end of that first week, we were already going to coffee at Denny's after school each day. By the end of that first week, I knew she'd lost her mother to cardiomyopathy - what Barbara Hershey's character in Beaches died of - the summer before and had been moved from California to Wyoming to live with her grandparents. By the end of that first week, she knew where I'd been and some of why. By the end of that first weekend, she'd introduced me to her friends, The Park, her life and welcomed me - practically dragged me - into it without hesitation. 

Beasley gave me what I most needed...a life I was included in, something to look forward to, a reason to be.

And then I moved nearly 3 hours away to be in the same city with Blind Betsy.

It was first. But Beasley and I stayed in close touch, I visited often, we forged ahead and I made it through by building new friendships and getting involved with the speech and debate team. With drama. With - HA HA! - creative writing. And then she was forced to move to Denver her senior year to live with her father and his new wife and her two, er, interesting, daughters and so she was closer and we were able to see more of each other, have new adventures (including a Gary Coleman sighting...another story for another time), make more memories.

She and I, after taking a break from school, would enter college at the same time and study the same thing (Sociology). She would move in with her future husband and he would also become a loved friend of mine. I would stand up for her at her wedding - in a black dress...something she still doesn't let me live down to this day even though, clearly, after 19 1/2 years of marriage and going strong, the black was certainly not a curse upon their marriage. She would name her first daughter Susan Jane...not exactly after me - her mother was Susan Jane - but there was incentive to include the name "Jane" because of me. She would name me godmother...although what do I know about god or being a mother? And that's a job I've failed miserably at over the years because, yeah, what do I know about god or motherhood or small children? Hell! Even my niece and nephew didn't get much from me until they were old enough to appreciate The Ramones and start asking me questions about sex.

What I mean to say is that, from the moment I walked back into Mr. Eldridge's Biology class, third period, third floor, sophomore year, Beasley and I, we were tight, tight, tight. To the death BFFs. 

And then? Life kinda happened. Military wife life for her and, well, weird life for me. We still talked a good bit on the phone - as she moved around from place to place...I visited a couple of those places even, as often as I could afford - until I took a job working on a technology help desk and spent the vast majority of my time on the phone. All of a sudden, the joys of spending any time at all on the phone were ruined for me. When I was away from work, I wouldn't answer the phone...for anyone - sometimes not even Andy.

And then the internet happened for real, social media happened for real and I started to maintain most of my long-distance friendships via the intertubes. And, while she didn't resist the intertubes themselves, she didn't make much time for the social media of Facebook (even though she had an acccount) a priority...

And so we didn't talk. For something like 3 years.

Until, one day, recently, I noticed an uptick in her posting.

And then a flurry of messages went back and forth.

And then a phone date for catching up was scheduled for last night.

And, from the moment she answered my call, it was just as though we were still in high school, our words tumbling over each other's in waves of excitement and exuberance and...

Lost love.

And time.

Even though our lives are so very different, even though our politics are so very different, even though our priorities are nowhere near similar...she and I ended up talking and laughing and, on my part of course, getting weepy for nearly 3 1/2 hours and weren't yet ready to say good night to one another even though we had to as adulthood dictates.

We didn't spend much time reminiscing...we've done that in the past. It was 3 1/2 hours of just simply catching up with each other...with ourselves. And we still had so many stories to recount, so many details to share, that I believe we could have easily - with no effort save for a yawn or three - talked another 3 1/2 hours and wouldn't have reached the end of our conversation even as dawn broke for her on the east coast and then for me in Colorado.

Today, two things struck me...

1) Beas is directly responsible for the love I experience on a nearly daily basis now in the friendships I share with Brad, Nykki, Asphodel, Devo Was Right and indirectly responsible for my friendships with Bomb Betsy, Owen, Sarah Williams and so many others.

If she hadn't taken me underneath her wing then, I wouldn't know these extraordinary people now.

2) She and I have been friends for 25 years. And, in those 25 years, she and I have switched places between the characters of C.C. and Hillary from Beaches too many times to count. How is that for ironic? Luckily, neither of us are set to die too soon.

Only Beasley (and Brad) will understand that there are two songs existing today that will always remind me of her. Both are by Bette Midler. Only one - not the one I just posted - have nothing to do with Lacy pee.

I love you, Jen. That has never changed in all this time. Oddly, I know and am grateful for the fact that, you still love me.

Note: The title of this blog, while at first glance seems odd, one of the things I remember best about Beasley when I first met her was her creature noises...she'll understand that. And, my most favorite of all time was when she would say " nice" in only the way she could.


Deb Stevens said...

I love this in so many ways. Too many to count, just now. Thank you, though, for being willing to open up so much. You are brave in so many ways. Too many to count, just now.

Unknown said...

Some people are natural-born healers of our spirits, whether they know it or not. Sounds like your Jen is one of those people. Thanks for telling this story so beautifully. xoxo

TangledLou said...

The older I get, the more I realize that friendships like this are so very rare. This post... wow. Just so many things. xo

Graciewilde said...

So tender - thank you for this. I will admit to being envious. On so many levels.

Masked Mom said...

What a beautiful post, Jane. And what a blessing you both have in that friendship.

Frances D said...

She's a special lady your friend. There's nothing like a good catch up conversation between old dear friends.
Thanks for sharing.