We met in cooking class, back when girls took a year of Home Economics in 7th grade. It was the first day of junior high. We were not in the same kitchen group, but we nevertheless developed an understanding that we were the smartest people in the class. Over the next year or so we became friends, then best friends. We did not share too many classes (she was not good at math), but I think we took all our English courses together and I thought she was an amazingly creative writer.
We went to the same high school, and that was when our paths started to diverge. She was not going to a top-ten college, but that was never her goal. She was going to get her English degree, drive around in a little red Honda Civic, and not get married or have children. But mainly she was going to move East (she liked the idea of Boston) and do freelance writing while working on her Great American Novel.
I acquired a boyfriend she was not crazy about, and in retrospect she may have been right about that. We (boyfriend and I, that is) were way too smart for our own good, and we knew it. It was going to take a couple more decades to mature into those brains, luckily for us I think we did manage it. But in the meantime, she felt left out — and she was. Teenagers are remarkably dense about friendships, and I did not know the first thing about how to nurture girlfriend bonds.
Nevertheless, we stayed in touch enough so that she was my MOH at my wedding. I knew almost nothing about her life. I had not seen her for many months before the wedding, and when I saw her, she had a geometrical-punk haircut with most of her short hair swept off to one side, with the other side shorn down to about an inch. My mother was appalled, but surprisingly enough did not say anything other than note that it was an interesting style.
For many years she would call me on my birthday — it was our once-a-year talk — because my birthday is 6 days before hers. We would catch up, and for those thirty minutes or so, I remembered being sixteen years old and talking on the phone every night, even though we had been at school together earlier in the day.
I last saw her 10 years ago; she was going through a difficult time, but did not, or could not, talk more about it. And why would she? We were strangers to each other. In a reversal, I became the one to call her on her birthday, but I should have known that really, she wanted to cut all ties. She never told me her new phone numbers, new addresses, new emails … so finally I knew. This morning I was scrolling through my phone list, and I saw her name. I called, and got a “disconnected” message. No surprise. Today I deleted her name. Today is her birthday.
Happy Birthday, Tina.