We weren't friends in high school; I'm not sure she knew who I was back then.
I certainly knew who she was.
She commanded the hallways as she passed through them, her long straight blond hair swishing perfectly behind her. We weren't in any classes together, but she was always in my consciousness. She was, as they say, a presence.
I hadn't given her a thought until we sat across from one another at a reunion dinner a few years back. The conversation was random and wine fueled. Stories were shared, most all of them flattering to the teller. Hers was one of confusion and consequences and love, lots and lots of love. It was personal and revelatory and I was hearing it.
At the other table sat the girls I remembered, the ones I sat next to in class, the ones who thought they knew my story as I thought I knew theirs. Here at this table, no one knew me. I was as foreign to them as they were to me. So I listened. And I learned.
I learned of tragedies which had struck others of that golden circle, of marriages gone awry, of kids with troubles and of plans unrealized. There was laughter as youthful misdeeds were recounted, misdeeds which scared the hell out of me 40 years later. In many ways they were so much older than I was back then.
And then I got shot.
I heard from long vanished buddies. I was visited by neighbors I didn't know I had. I had Facebook friend requests. And classmates at a mini-reunion in Phoenix drove down to Tucson for lunch. A dozen or so, they were warm and caring and interested and thoughtful and fun. They had not been my friends or acquaintances or nodding neighbors when we were in high school, but that afternoon they were my friends.
And the friendships have blossomed. Three were back today, a Cali-Girl and two Phonecians, bringing me lunch and concern and themselves for three hours of chatter. I heard my still-blond-new-old-friend (she really needs a better name, don't you agree?) hearing the context and the emotion behind the talk of my recovery. She was one step ahead of me, defining my position in words for which I had been searching.... fruitlessly searching. She wasn't triumphant when I caught her eye and acknowledged that she really got it. She just smiled and nodded her head.
And I realized, then and there, that teenagers are stupid.
She had been confident in high school and that frightened me so I decided that we couldn't/wouldn't/shouldn't speak and so I never made an effort to see who she was underneath the aura. I have no idea what she thinks, or thought, but I have no doubt that it was something equally inane. We were teenagers, after all.
I bet that she was an old soul even then, and that having been here before she knew her way around. Is that too hippie-dippie for you? Then perhaps you have a better explanation for her ability to own a room, then and now.
Had she thought to pursue me? Does it matter? Perhaps if we had shared classes together.... perhaps ... and again, does it matter?
Right now, today, I have a yoga practicing, education oriented, lunch buying friend who is willing to drive 4 hours to spend 3 hours sitting around my kitchen table. She is tuned in to a wavelength I just don't hear. Without bringing her ego into it, she was understanding, clarifying and supporting my nascent thoughts.
As my body heals, my brain has a chance to assume center stage. My heart aches and I have the leisure time to explore the pain. I've been 3 weeks without pain medication. My muscles are waking up and my ligaments and tendons are stretching out. I am preparing for Dr. Boaz to allow me to walk. And I have time to think.
Sitting still is no longer a problem. Random pains requiring narcotics do not appear any more. I am uncomfortable but nothing worse. This is a good thing.
I am now aware of another kind of pain. This one is closely associated with tears and loss and anger. I've been ignoring it for a while.... for about 3 months.... since about January 8th. But now, with the physical issues subsiding, this one is asserting itself with authority. I've just begun to share it aloud; my lunch guests are among the first to hear it.
She brought her wisdom to the table. I basked in the simplicity of it all.
I'm glad that grown-ups are willing to take chances that teenagers eschew.
With age comes wisdom? Maybe. It's definitely bringing me more friends.