Happy birthday, Noah

I mentioned before that for my birthday last year, I received this alligator.

His name is Giuseppe (ju-SEP-ee) and he's an Italian alligator, both of which facts distressed my mother quite a bit when I first started bringing him over to her house. For one, she didn't understand why he was Italian ("That's like asking you why you're Korean", I replied somewhat indignantly); for another, she couldn't get his name right.

"Igor?"
"Giuseppe, Mom. He's Italian."
"Frappucino? Frappaluci?"

To the point where it made me wish I'd saved "Giuseppe" for my first son's name, because it would never cease to amuse me, hearing my mom try to remember her grandson's name and going through her convoluted list of possible alternatives in the process.

She's got it by now, I think. She sees him often enough– if I'm over at her house, it's a near-guarantee that he's with me, or at least waiting in the car. It's like I've reverted to those childhood days of yore; I take this alligator everywhere with me (except to class; but he comes to school with me and keeps guard in the car while I'm in class): he runs errands with me, comes to lunch with my mom, hangs out at Phil'z in SF, joins us for dinner at a fancy Thai restaurant in SOMA, chills at the bar and occasionally, even DJs. And obviously, too, if he's kicking it in San Francisco– yeah, I carry him on-board airplanes (he's my "one personal item").

On the one hand, I feel ridiculous about this. I'm 25 and carting around this enormous, slippery (read: not-easy-to-cart-around) stuffed alligator, everywhere. Granted, most people find him adorable (the ladies especially seem to love him– flight attendants and waitresses can't get enough of him), but all the same, I suspect his omnipresence in my day-to-day duties makes a lot of other people cock an eyebrow.

On the other hand: I've grown to become surprisingly– what's the word? Not codependent. I don't die or writhe in agony if I don't have him around, though there have been a few instances where I've been tempted to turn the car back to retrieve him (but didn't give in). But I've become accustomed to his presence next to, or relatively near by, me. He comforts me, in that same simple way that our stuffed animals and dolls and other blankets comforted us when we were little kids. When the sting of loneliness comes while I'm away from Noah– when my arms are aching with the emptiness of longing to hold him– when my hands are desperately missing the feel of his hair and face beneath them– Giuseppe placates me. He's the bullet between my teeth when the pain of missing Noah becomes near-unbearable.

And even when I'm with Noah, I still like to have my jolly rotund companion around. I like to think that in this way, Giuseppe soaks up the images of what's going on, recording all our times together and transmitting them back to me later when I'm hugging him to death and trying not to be sad. And plus, he's just always so exquisitely happy. How can life not be bettered by a fat, sassy, ladies-lovin' alligator? How can the world?

At least he's not a love fern. Be grateful for that much, Internet.

Portrait: Natalie

The weekend before this, I drove down to the general L.A. area to see some friends and, you know, do general L.A. area stuff. One of those friends I got to see was Natalie, my first ever Hott Date!, a date which consisted of a long gab session at the Mission Valley Mimi’s Cafe and a late-night swim, sans swimsuits [1]. In the dead middle of winter. So, it was Hott, but it was really effing cold, too.

(What, no real swear words? I know! But this is Natalie I’m writing about here, and one can’t be crass when dealing with such a lovely and reverent subject.)

So, meeting up with her last weekend was actually really monumental because we finally got to do our gift exchange– I had a belated Christmas gift for her, she had a belated birthday gift for me– so it was Christmas AND my birthday, ON THE SAME DAY, who could ask for more?

(Note: these are *completely* candid photos, absolutely not posed or staged in any way.)

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In case you’re wondering– I gave her a Magical Maestro Mouse, a.k.a. "Mr. Christmas," and she gave me a fairy magic princess something set, I don’t really remember, I just saw the WAND! and everything after that is kind of shrouded in my consequent glee. Because, you see, it’s a wand of power, and more than that, it’s a wand of majesty. We beheld the majesty the rest of that afternoon, as did the entirety of Barnes & Noble. It was beautiful.

Anyway. I wrote this about Nat in July 2004 for a website that never quite made it to cyberspace due to my discovery of Firefox and its incompatibility with iFrames. Two years later, however, the words still ring pretty true, so here it is, your Sunday Sap (it’s long because I ramble):

Natalie and I knew of each other’s existence less than halfway into Fall [2001] semester– she lived on the floor above Marcos, Marcos found out she was from my old hometown (practically– from Ventura County, anyway) and told me she went to La Reina. The first time we saw each other, I told her one of my childhood friends went there and graduated from the same class. She asked the name; I replied, "Christina Broat"– her eyes lit up and she exclaimed, "She’s one of my best friends!"

I wish I could say our friendship blossomed right then and there, but it was at least five more months before we actually had a conversation with one another, all thanks to Fred Robinson’s Voice & Text Honors class. I secretly wanted to get to know this girl, this quiet girl who rarely ever spoke up in class but who seemed more intelligent than the rest of us put together and multiplied by four, so badly– but not until the course catalog for Fall 2002 came out did I find the nerve to open my mouth and form coherent sentences. I think the dialogue went something like this:

Lora: So do you know what English classes you’re signing up for next semester?
Natalie: No, not really…
Lora: [Long silence] Oh. [Longer silence] I think I’m going to take Poetry. Do you know anything about Thurber?

Eventually we ended up talking about professors we’d had and classes we’d taken. After that class, or maybe the following one, we got to talking about running down in the canyon and made plans to go running together. That afternoon came and on the walk down to the bottom of the canyon, we became so engrossed in our conversation that we decided to jog "in slow motion" (read: "walk") so that we could continue talking as well as prolong our time together.

And we didn’t stop talking for a long, long time. If we weren’t talking, it was because we were laughing hysterically, and even then we still tried to talk but usually choked on our words while tears streamed down our cheeks. And from there was our best-friendship born. We didn’t even try for a normal, low-key friendship first. We jumped straight into best-friendship, completely blind and working on a killer instinct that told us we were meant to be together, forever and always, except during summer and winter breaks and then that fall semester she decided to go to London and then now because I graduated from USD early–

All the same. If it hadn’t been for Natalie, I don’t know how long I would have survived at USD. She was common ground, familiar territory– I was able to talk to her about things I couldn’t even dream of discussing with others, because I knew she would understand, and she did. She always did.

Natalie has the most beautiful eyes. Beautiful in color, and beautiful in everything else imaginable. If compassion and sympathy and empathy and forgiveness and love and concern and encouragement and hope ever collected into one form and had their portrait done, the resulting painting might begin to resemble something like Natalie’s eyes, except there would still be so much missing. Everything about her feels soft and quiet and gentle. A Natalie Session is something like having Peace injected straight into the bloodstream. The thought alone of her, of her eyes and of her voice, can begin to heal the most broken of hearts. You can rage and scream and weep violently and explode into a hundred million little pieces, and when you are drained of your last drops of energy, you find that while you’ve been falling to bits, she’s been silently picking up the shattered fragments of your soul and putting you back together without your ever noticing it. And she will never point out this service to you. She is the Behind-The-Scenes woman, the reason so many shows keep going but never asking for credit or acknowledgement.

Something about her makes you want to whisper when you’re with her. She gives off an impression of frailty, and you don’t want to do anything that might make her flinch for fear of breaking her, as though she were made of the most delicate glass. Yet she is one of the strongest people I’ve ever met. Tear through the layers of Soft and Quiet and Gentle, and you will find a thin cord of indestructible steel running down her back. Her head may be bloodied, but never bowed. How else could she have the strength to carry the burdens of so many people while struggling with her own?

She is a Supergoddess Hero. She has the power to believe in a person, enough for them both, enough that the person will eventually come around and believe as well. She has the ability to make you feel More Than Worth It, when the rest of the world has you feeling like absolute shit. Her mere presence, even if it’s on the other side of the room as she gives you space to fret and pace and fall apart, tells you that you are not a failure, that you are not a disappointment, that you are a Good Person, that you are better than you or anyone else imagine and maybe she’s the only person who knows this but for the time being, it’s enough. You will burst into tears and wonder how anyone could ever manage to love you when you’re such a mess, when everything about you is so completely wrong, when nothing you do is ever right and your imperfections are screwing everything up and WHY CAN’T YOU BE THE WAY THEY WANT YOU TO BE, and she will take you into her arms and let you sob on her shoulder and never say a word about the fact that you are soaking her shirt with your drippy eyes as well as your drippy nose, and with her magical powers and her magical incantation– "It’ll be okay, I promise"– the touch of her hand will shut out all the pain from your consciousness and you will suddenly find yourself struggling to stay awake. She gives you a pillow and covers you with a blanket and tells you to sleep, and you want to argue but you can’t, and the next thing you know, it’s morning and you’re waking up in her bed, and she probably slept on the couch but is now at your side, asking you if you want tea or Kleenex or asprin and are you feeling better?– and you discover that the terrors of last night have vanished and you are whole again, you are complete, you can stand and walk and– yes, even laugh.

And she will never charge you a dime. She saves people from the depths of despair, she takes crash-and-burn wreckage and restores it to something beautiful and strong, and she does it without the smallest expectation of credit or payment. She loves and heals and fixes and saves every single day, without even realizing it most of the time.

Indeed, a Supergoddess Hero.

Love ya, Mooch-a.

[1] Okay, so we weren’t naked, we jumped in with our clothes on. I think we were both wearing jeans. But it’s just so much more scandalous for us to say we went swimming without swimsuits on.

Thank you for peanut butter and hot dogs

Parents

This picture is of my parents, taken from a Caribbean cruise they went on two summers ago. The one on the left, obviously, is my dad.

A few days ago, I went back to my parents’ house to do some cleaning before my mom returned from Honolulu. I was clearing the kitchen table of the daily newspapers that had accumulated into a tall pile, and as I removed them, I noticed a printout from an Internet site. Upon closer examination, I realized it was an article, a tech column, on Apple’s recent decision to switch to Intel chips.

About two weeks ago, I had briefly mentioned to my father this decision in an attempt to lure him into conversation, an attempt which failed to procure more than a few words and maybe a nod from him. And instead of engaging in dialogue with me then and there, he went home, did his own research, and printed out his results for me. Because that’s how he works.

I’ve been told by friends and boyfriends that I’m a very generous person, very giving, very thoughtful. I used to always attribute this to my mother, who truly is an incredibly selfless soul, but lately, I’ve begun to suspect that my father has been a factor in this trait of mine, as well. I can’t begin to count how many times I would mention something to him– some new technology, a computer game, books, some tech-y toy– and shortly after, I would come home to find it in the family room or the kitchen, he having silently gone out and bought it for me. Last summer, I was trying to teach myself Javascript, and I was having some difficulty with the books he had on the subject because they were written in the early ’90s. After he had identified that as the problem, I just shrugged indifferently and figured I’d just do it without the CD accompaniment and adjust accordingly; he had a different agenda. No more than a week later, a package arrived from Amazon.com, and inside were two updated books on Javascript, which, I learned, he had purchased specifically for me.

When I was younger, he was always taking me to the library, and occasionally there would come a weekend when a computer show was taking place, and he’d let me accompany him on those trips as well (we still have all the computer games he bought for me from those shows). Books and computers– the two major objects of his fixation (though the books have, over the last few years, been replaced by movies), a passion I gladly inherited. I’ve been on computers for as long as I can remember, and he gave me my own when I was seven or eight (maybe earlier). He also used to be very involved with ham radio and encouraged me to get my license, and though I studied and tested twice, I always came up short on my scores (unlike my sister, who I believe got her license on the first try). And though my mother claims I taught myself to read when I was three so I could master the TV Guide, I know I wouldn’t have thrown myself into the world of books if it hadn’t been for my dad, all those trips to the library, and the fact that he always had a book with him, no matter where we went.

Without question, he is highly intelligent. My mother likes to say, from time to time, "Thank god you got your father’s brains!" and she seems confident that this is so, but I think when I was younger, he worried that this wasn’t necessarily the case, and therefore battered me with IQ tests quickly after I became literate. I always scored well, but his response, then, was a guarded, "Well, scores aren’t always accurate when you’re younger than 11." Even now, once in a while I’ll take a test online and send him the score ("Look, I got a 152!"), but there’s never any enthusiasm on the receiving end; if anything, it’s a sense of quiet relief, like, oh thank goodness, I didn’t produce a brainless child.

When I was little, I used to anticipate his coming home by positioning myself at the far end of the hallway as soon as I heard the garage door open. He would come into the house, appear at the other end of the hallway, and I would sprint down the carpet and literally jump on him, delighting in his return while simultaneously fearing the stubble of his five-o’-clock shadow. Other times, I would wrap myself around his leg like a bear clinging to a tree branch, and rather than shaking me off, he would oblige me and limp around the house as I kept my hold.

He’s impossible to get satisfactory answers from. If you ask him where he’s going, he’ll tell you he’s going "out." If you press him for details, he’ll either motion vaguely in the direction of his destination, or he’ll pretend he didn’t hear you. Ask him what he considers to be a stupid question, and he’ll give you his signature look– one eyebrow furrowed, face filled with suspicion and curiosity, as though he’s thinking, "You didn’t really ask me that, did you? Do you really expect me to answer that? Because that was a really stupid question." And he will, on occasion, eat his hot dogs with not only ketchup, but with ketchup AND PEANUT BUTTER.

And I am his daughter.

Happy Father’s Day, Daddy. Thank you for everything you’ve done for and given me these last 21 years, and sorry if there were any typos in this. I love you.

Numbers

This is The Guy:

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Um. In 1991.

So, yeah… there’s something of an age difference between us– though he’s known how old I am (or I guess I should say how young) since the beginning. Actually, the night he found out my actual age was the night when he first kissed me, though it wasn’t until a month or so later that I could confirm that kiss actually took place– it was late and it was cold and we were standing in the parking lot talking, and I tend to have trouble with keeping dreams and reality straight. I, on the other hand, didn’t know *his* age until his birthday this past December, though my estimate, it turned out, was only off by a year.

I guess I can’t really be surprised with myself, that I’m in this sort of situation. As far back as when I was 14, I can remember men who were at least 20 years older than I was trying to hit on me or asking me if I were married, and in all honesty it really pissed me off because I COULD NOT UNDERSTAND why these old(er) men wanted to date me, but none of my cute guy classmates did. This continued throughout high school and even followed me into college, and I used to share these stories with my boyfriend at the time and we’d have a good laugh over them.

And then there was that man with whom I became involved when I was 16 and he was… 34? Never, NEVER get involved with someone whose job takes him out of the country five days out of the week and doesn’t even leave him with e-mail access or cell phone reception. And yeah, I guess also never get involved with someone who’s 17 years your senior when you’ve just reached the age when you can get your driver’s license and cheerleaders are still the coolest people on the planet. But he kept telling me what an amazing writer I was, and I was a sucker for that type of flattery back then. And boy howdy, have I changed my tune since.

But The Guy. I want to say it’s different this time, it’s special this time, because in my opinion, it is, but then again, that’s also what all those unsavory couples who appear on Maury or Jenny Jones or Jerry Springer always say.

Nonetheless, it’s a good relationship. I don’t think I’m actually qualified to identify what a "healthy" relationship is, but if anything, I’d have to say this is the closest thing to "healthy" that I’ve been involved in for a really long time. Excluding the honeymoon periods of relationships, this is probably the healthiest thing I’ve been in, ever. And I’d like to say I don’t feel the age difference, but I do, if only because I always feel so young and, subsequently, so stupid. I know that it’s normal to have questions and, 10 or even 20 years down the road, I’ll probably still have some of these questions unanswered, but sometimes I feel so utterly lost and naive and directionless that I marvel in retrospect at how he didn’t just drop me right then and there. Not that this is anything he imposes on me– I can’t remember him ever belittling or patronizing me, or putting on condescending airs.

I can, however, remember him, on more than one occasion, calmly listening to me verbally flounder amidst my scatter-shot thoughts, holding my hand, or maybe just holding me in general. He has a patience for me that is generally reserved for saints and one of the most understanding, supportive and encouraging perspectives anyone could ever ask of another.

But this is only on the bad days, and I’m trying to do what I can to keep those along the lines of Not Happening That Often Anymore. On the good days, there are no numbers between us– just laughter and teasing and sometimes, French toast. And Snapple jelly beans.

Every once in a while, I’ll tease him about our ages. I think it’s funny that when *he* had just reached the age when he could get his driver’s license, I was being potty trained (FYI, my parents bribed me with bubble gum), and when he became old enough to legally puchase alcohol, I was performing in my third-grade class play, "Peter Rabbit." I think I was Flopsy. Or Mopsy. Or Cottontail. A boy named Russell who cried a lot and had freckles played the part of Peter. (Was Mayra the mother rabbit?) And I had just gotten my ears pierced. I remember this because my mom wanted me to wait until I was at least 8 years old to get my ears pierced, but I guess I pleaded enough that she caved and let me do it a year early.

By the numbers, this relationship doesn’t make much sense and bears incredulity. I’ve received disapproval from some friends, hesitating and dubious approval from others. My mother had her eyebrow raised until she actually met him, and now she’s constantly admonishing me to "be nice" to him because she wants him to stick around, at least for a while. And that stresses me out sometimes, because yes, only I can know what’s right for me, but I still want my friends to, well, be friends with the guy I’m seeing. And really, I’m sure they’d be fine with this situation if they actually met him, but for now, he remains to them little more than a number.

So I guess I’m just not one much for numbers. Or maybe I’m not one much for the standard. I wouldn’t say I march to the beat of a different drummer so much as I listen to the same beat as the one you’re marching to, only in my head I’m hearing a whole lot else. Like more cowbell.

The Guy has a habit of staring off into space at random when suddenly, a funny thought will come to him and he’ll just smile and chuckle to himself. Sometimes he’ll share the joke with me– most of the time, actually– but even when he does, there’s a beat between his laughter and his words, as though he’s trying to formulate the best delivery so as to really showcase the humor of the thought. And the thing with The Guy is, his jokes, whether they’re stories or actions or sometimes just *looks*, always build, and it’s such a risk for me to have meals with him when he’s in a goofy mood. There have been times when I’ve had to turn away from him to keep from laughing too hard and choking on the food I had been trying to chew and/or swallow.

He calls me "sweetie," or sometimes "sweetie pie," neither of which I’ve ever been called before. He tends to come up with nicknames for me that he will never use from that point on, names like "Splenda" or "Run-On." The former came about when, over dinner, he commented on how sweet I was. I wryly pointed out that it was just a farce and I wasn’t genuinely sweet, and one of us threw out the term "artificially sweet," and that made him think of Splenda. Or maybe he thought of Equal first, then realized Splenda had better nickname potential.

And the latter just came from my innate gifts of writing, speaking and thinking in run-on sentences.

He tolerates my need for three comforters on the bed, my erratic trains of thought, my sporadic and unbudgeable lapses into silence, my refusal to play by that confounded poker book, my cluelessness with pop culture and general trivia dating prior to 1992, and my disdain for carbonation. Though not the lone beam, he is part of the light at the end of this tunnel, and for that, for all of that, for so much more, I am grateful. And I find it amazing that I can feel such gratitude for someone I’ve only known for a smattering of months, but then, that’s how every strong friendship in my life has always gone.

Happy belated Valentine’s Day, Guy. Thank you for putting up wth me as much as you do.

Portait: Bri

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This is another of my best friends, Bri. (Click on the picture for the full size. You thought I was lying when I said all of my girlfriends were beautiful, didn’t you? WELL I WASN’T, WAS I?)

It was Bri’s birthday on Jan. 29 and I didn’t acknowledge it because I’m an idiot who honest-to-god can’t remember what month it is (my work forces me to think two weeks from now is, well, now), let alone what day it is. So, happy belated birthday, Bri! Happy 22nd.

It’s strange to think it’s been over a year now since Bri and I became friends. I knew her vaguely in sophomore year, through my then-boyfriend’s then-roommate, Kris. Kris introduced us at one of USD’s men’s home soccer games in… actually, it might have been the second semester of freshman year? But she was in my poetry class with Thurber in Fall ’02, and then I saw her every now and then in Spring ’03 because I became friendlier with Kris, who worked the summer camps program with her. I remember seeing Bri once over summer, for the Fourth of July– a group of us went out to her boat at Campland on the Bay to celebrate.

And then late summer passed, or, as I’ve affectionately named it, Summer When The Shit Went Down 2003. While friends of the no-longer boyfriend (friends we actually shared) were understanding and didn’t choose sides, friends of those friends did (and they didn’t choose mine) and things just got awkward. Bri was, by category, a friend of a friend so I expected she would follow suit, especially as she’d spent the summer on campus with the ex, so when I found out we had a theatre class together, I wasn’t exactly filled with delight.

She turned out, obviously, to be one of the coolest people to come into my life. We started talking one morning (the class started at 9:05) about homesickness and the trouble with being in a long-distance relationship with someone back home, with the additional burden of pre-existing homesickness. Somehow, one of those conversations brought up the fact that she was staying in San Diego for Winter Break but would have to stay on her boat because the dorms were closing. I knew I was going home for the first half of break, then returning for Intersession, and I also knew my two roommates weren’t going to be around for the entire break, so typical me– keep in mind I barely knew this girl at the time– I offered to let her stay at my place instead of the boat. Because living on the water in the middle of a San Diego winter is no joy at all.

It took some persuading (and three nights on the water in the middle of a San Diego winter), but she eventually caved and when I returned in early January for Intersession, found she had been sleeping on the couch (I had originally told her to sleep in my room, ON A BED) and had to listen to her apologize for using the shower. After I had given her a thorough beating for being so damned ridiculous, we sat down and talked about boys and school and life in general. And that was the beginning of our friendship.

Bri is my theatre girl. We auditioned together for the Spring ’03 productions. She wanted "Arcadia" and I wanted "Yerma," and I got cast for "Arcadia" and she got cast for "Yerma." We bonded over rehearsals (she ended up being the stage manager for "Arcadia"), over classmates (DAVE!), over anything in general. I was responsible for bringing her into Tijuana for the first time, where, amongst other things, she drunkenly wrote her phone number on some guy’s dollar bill. She (and her mother) was reponsible for my first manicure and pedicure.

I love Bri for reasons I can pinpoint– her infectious laugh, her endlessly giving soul, her wonderful family from which she has inherited so many of her wonderful traits, her love for theatre and her support and encouragement regarding my love for theatre– but more so for the reasons I can’t, at least not coherently. She knows the absolute worst things about me, and I mean the ABSOLUTE WORST, and has never judged me because of them, maybe because she’s been in similar situations. She was there when one of those things began and hugged me and was there for me throughout it all.

How do you describe a person in such a way that conveys their unique identity? Adjectives fail me here– she’s beautiful, cheerful, hilarious, kind, understanding, brilliant, determined, hopeful, talented, generous– but that doesn’t really say much.

Bri and I had lunch dates throughout the semester. Sometimes we’d stay on campus, most of the time we went to Fashion Valley or Mission Valley or wherever else was close… Old Town was a regular stop for us. And we’d never run out of things to say and we always had something to bitch about, so they were always wonderful breaks from the daily grind of school and general bullshit. And always, we competed for the bill, and always, she would lie and insist that I had paid last time and it was her turn to pay, which worked once. Then I started consciously keeping track of who was paying what bill and caught her in the middle of one of the most convincing lies. And even then, I think she still tried to get away with paying the bill when it wasn’t her turn.

And her enthusiasm! Her enthusiasm is incredible, and she has eyes that match that abundance of energy. I love that energy– I sometimes think the exclamation mark was invented in preparation for her eventual arrival into this world.

Mither fecker, Bri. I love you and miss you and hope you had a fantastic birthday. You know you’ve got a place to stay should you ever truck out to Vegas.

Portrait: Ded

This is my best friend. Well, one of them. One of my four super-hot best girlfriends, ever in the world. Isn’t she gorgeous?

Her name is Dede, and she goes by Dee, but I have always called her Ded and probably always will.

We grew up together in Camarillo, and we were inseparable. Half of my childhood life, I spent with her and her family and her animals– I learned to horseback ride with her, and I learned everything I now know about rabbits, horses, chickens, ducks, and even turkeys from my time spent there. And violins, and piano too. Her sister, Fum (Amanda), is the reason I am madly in love with orchestras, namely their string sections.

Ded only recently created her niche in cyberspace, and I even more so only recently discovered this through Fum’s journal. It’s a joy to me to read Ded’s words because I can hear her voice, all the inflections and sarcasm and joyful glee. We don’t talk on the phone much because we’re both busy and, well, because I don’t seem to talk to anyone much these days.

It’s kind of… something– strange? different? intrinsically refreshing?– to read her entries because of the strange tie we have to each other. Growing up together, we built our personalities and our passions and our interests on so many common elements– we read the same books, listened to the same music, watched the same movies, learned the same games, drew the same pictures. There are small phrases she’ll use, in spoken word and even in this journal of hers, and I know exactly what she’s quoting.

Friday nights were spent playing with Legos, Polly Pocket, Super NES, BSC books and animated movies. She would always fall asleep before the movie was over, and I would peer over the edge of the top bunk (I always slept in the top bunk, which I had no problem with) only to find her sprawled out on top of her Aladdin comforter, "Softie," her down pillow which had been worn and loved to the point of a blanket’s thinness, clutched in her hand. There was one Saturday night– I remember it was a Saturday because the next morning we had Sunday School (her family were Christian Scientists, and I went along with Ded and Fum if only for their company, but also I suppose because religion fascinated me, as it still does)– when we found a small spider on the floor of her bedroom. Or maybe it was dangling from the top bunk. In any case, we both freaked out and, the idea of squishing it incomprehensible to us and the idea of waking up her parents to kill it for us equally unreasonable, we fled to her father’s office and slept on his leather couches.

Saturday mornings were typically spent watching cartoons, or whatever morning kids’ shows the stations began to broadcast (like "Fudge"). Breakfast was addictively-sugary cereal (Lucky Charms!) and a bagel, sliced and toasted and smothered in artery-clogging butter. I only loved bagels and butter at her house– they never tasted the same when I tried to do that anywhere else. Same with toasted frosted strawberry Pop-Tarts with butter on the unfrosted side.

One Sunday morning, we decided to make a superior breakfast involving coffee and bacon, all by our professional chef selves. We had to have been 9 or 10 at the time, at the oldest– and, oh, what an experience. Suffice to say, you cannot cook bacon in an oven no matter how long you leave it in there, and peanut butter and buttermilk in coffee a pleasant drink does not make. And then there was the time we tried to make Oreo brownies (box mix) and filled the kitchen with smoke. Once we chipped away at the rock-hard crust on top and made our way to a slightly softer, slightly more edible bottom, however, we found something vaguely resembling brownies that tasted pretty not-bad. Or maybe that’s nostalgia speaking.

We would giggle uncontrollably over scenes in Disney movies, quote word-for-word "The Lion King" and "Sleepless in Seattle." Our first upgrade to not-suitable-for-young-children material came with TLC’s "Crazysexycool" and Boyz II Men’s "II," and we had dreams of writing a book together. We actually wrote that book, save for the last 20 or so pages– we had near 140, typed, when we stopped, and we wrote those pages in the course of a rainy week. It was trash– all that exists of it now is our memories of it, but still I know without a doubt that it was trash– but we were so certain that we were going to become New York Times best-sellers, the youngest authors ever to make it to the top of the list.

And the books. We devoured books, our appetite for the written word constantly raging and begging to be fulfilled. We read crap books (Babysitter’s Club) and actual literature (from Newbery Awards to classical), and always, always, always we had a book in hand. On more than one occasion, we would take down her entire collection of BSC books along with the Little Sister series (a total of at least 100 books), pile them on her bed, and just read one book after another, all day long.

When I moved away, I felt my four months of seniority somehow morph into four years, and I became not overprotective of her, but– responsible, at least in my head. Things took some bad turns in both of our lives after that, and though I knew better then and I know better now, I blamed myself for her hardships, certain that had I never moved, had I been there, physically been there for her, these things would have never happened.

Since then, 10 years later, we’re still close, but in a subconscious way, in the way that sisters who rarely see, or call or write to each other will be close for all eternity because of the bonds they forged in their early years. That’s one of the things I appreciate most about this friendship, especially when I fall into troubled times and I begin to question the direction of my life, begin to question, as all humans do at some point, who I am.

Ded and I have been friends since I was in second grade and she was in first. That means she’s known me for 15 years, which, holy crap, is a really long time. She remembers my first goals and amibitions; she remembers my personality, raw and then uncorrupted by the world, naive and innocent and pure. And when I struggle as I’ve been struggling this past month, it’s a quiet comfort to know that someone like her exists in my life.

She has in no small way an explosive personality, and it’s an intensity we share. She has a wild giggle, a spitfire soul that seems impossible to break or diminish. The wind doesn’t always know where it’s going or how it’s going to get there, but it never stops moving and it gets to that somewhere in time, and that’s a little bit like how Ded is, and the girl has a perseverance worthy of admiration. And the end result is, when she does stop, when she pauses because something serious has happened, something serious is demanding her attention and concern and sympathy and support, the change is so drastically noticeable that it indeed feels like she’s made the world stop, just for you. And if she’s deemed you worth her time, she will do anything in her power to help you, and always unconditionally. She has a heart that knows no limits for the people she loves.

The Guy insists I can’t have four best friends because "best" is a superlative and by definition, there can only be one. I stand firm that I can have as many best friends as I want, dammit, and I don’t have four "really good" girlfriends, I have four BEST girlfriends because each is a best friend in their own right. Ded is my childhood; Heather is my Vegas connection; Natalie is my inner tranquility and so much more; and Bri is my theatre girl, my harsh reality, and my fusion of the other three. And I love all of them wholly, truly, dearly, madly, but not so much in a Savage Garden way.

So there.

Quotable essence:

Pet Peeve: People who continually, persistently, periodically ask
you, "Are you mad? Are you mad? Are you mad? Are you ok?"  Well…. by
the 12th time you’ve asked me….I do pretty much feel like socking you
in the face. Leave me alone.