The girl on the corner is gone now. She won’t come back. We can’t right wrongs or ask for answers.
I remember my friend from the time I saw the red chiffon scarf tied around her ponytail. We were six years old. The last time I saw her was at her wedding in August of 2001. She died in December of that year. One episode of adult onset anaphylaxis complicated by lifelong asthma. She called 911 when things got bad, but she was dead by the time they got there. And that was that.
So who will remember that girl? We’d run down the hill from our elementary school and sometimes cut through the field on the way home. We’d walk home from middle school or the bus stop in high school and stand on the corner and talk forever. About everything. We got our periods. We wrote endless notes in class. We fought sometimes. We made up. We saw The Empire Strikes back about twelve times the summer it came out. Return of the Jedi let us down a bit.
Her dad, shy and kind and always smiling, drove us everywhere and would pick us up no matter where or what time. Her mom worried about everything and once tried to pay her not to go on a girl scout camping trip. By the time we got to high school I’d stand while she told her mom over the payphone to “shut up!” We tried to sneak into R rated movies. We got drunk for the first time in a friend’s basement.
Who will remember the girl who was so shy and fierce at the same time? The girl with the best laugh ever heard on earth? The girl who got silly drunk and high and re-entered a party with maxipads stuck all over her head? The girl who loved horses when she was little, and art when she got older? Who froze bras and prank called? Who loved Duran Duran? Who acted out being a penis in a series of photos before any of us had ever seen one? Who made tidal waves with her boobs one night when we were all in a terribly cold lake?
I know that girl as well as I know my own children now.
The last year of high school made us two different girls. She who had always been shy wanted more freedom and more adventures than I did. She would sneak out. She had a plan for losing her virginity. I wrote her long note in English class about that. Shouldn’t she wait for someone she knew or cared about? Wouldn’t she regret it later? She disagreed with me. She did it. A few weeks later she took a ride in a car with a college boy we didn’t know. And he’d been drinking. We stood on the street and fought about it. And that was it. We loved each other but she was ready to go forward. She was so brave. And so she went.
She graduated with top grades and already had a plan to be making six figures by the time she was thirty. She studied Engineering. She was the only woman in a lecture hall of three hundred boys and would pick one to mess with by sitting in the seat he always chose. She got her degree and traveled the world building staircases for oil storage tanks. She entered web design just as that began to grow.
We rebuilt our friendship but it wasn’t the same. Our first year of college we were across the hall from each other but didn’t talk. After that it was piece by piece until we could have fun again. But she wasn’t my best friend anymore and I haven’t ever had another.
And the grown woman? Who will remember her? When my brother was critically injured, I flew home. She picked me up at the airport and took me to the hospital and came back the next morning with a huge plate of baked goods her mom had made for my family. She came to stand by my brother’s bedside for a while with me.
We went to Las Vegas for my bachelorette party. I was scared of the log ride. She sat in front and yelled “bring it on” so loudly that we all started yelling and the finally the ride attendant told us to quiet down. She thought a pirate in the outdoor show was checking her out. Maybe he was.
She called me a few days before her wedding, to tell me that she hadn’t told her fiancé that she wanted to keep her own name and to ask how I’d done it. And I knew we’d be able to be best friends again soon, when she had her own kids. She’d have more time then. We’d have more in common again.
We went to her wedding on a hillside in Wisconsin. It was hot and my baby was cranky so we couldn’t stay for the dance. I’m told she had at least three disco outfits.
She died four months later. And when I saw her mother, she hugged me and cried. And asked “What will we do now?”
She and I were part of a group of friends that have been together since we were little girls. And they all have their own histories with her. And they remember her too, other bits and pieces I don’t know. She wasn’t just mine. So many people laid claim to her that I’m told the memorial service felt a bit competitive. Who loved her best? Which friends were the most important and loved – old or new?
But I see the corner we stood at as clear as day in my head. We’d watch the seasons change by looking down at the curb and up at the sky. Time went forward. We grew up together. She’s gone.