Would you feel better, better, better?
The sunlight was filtered through the windy clouds and through the waving branches of all the trees. Wind is strange in the Hill Country. It whips around all the rocks and the evergreens. The trees here look panicked when they sway with the gusts; it's not their usual experience here, unlike in North Texas where it's commonplace.
But the sun. It was cold in the sunlight, thanks to the wind, and the cold front that came through here along with thunderstorms at dawn. They blew over quickly, headed south, back toward the sea. I think they died down before they got there, but I was too busy listening to the all too rare sound of rain to really care about weather patterns, wind advisories, storm warnings...
It was blue skies and wind today.
The kind of blue skies that make me think of fall. Marching band, but later in the season. I can practically hear the toms echoing in my chest, the trumpets in their distant clumps shrilly trying to outdo each other, my heart swelling with excitement at a new season, a new show. Never again. That's something to mourn.
I also think of a carnival I went to with a neighbor girl.
(We used to be friends when we were young. Casey. I wonder what happened to her. What happened to us? It was never clear; all I remember is the hurt, feeling alone. We were just very, very different. I was cerebral, reading books all the time, watching the news. She read Seventeen, listened to country radio stations, wearing makeup. Now I remember...)
The images are seared into my memory somehow. I went with her family in their station wagon (this was before SUVs hit it big) to some Cajun carnival. We played carnival games, mostly. I shot a cork rifle into a bottle and won 3 pogs with Troy Aikman's face on them. I bought a pair of handcuffs for a dollar. They had real locks and two keys. (I kept them until my sister handcuffed herself to our bunk bed. My dad commandeered them after that. I have a strange suspicion they became a "marital aid" after that.)
The sky was so blue and there were no clouds, unlike today. It was just a big blue upside down bowl above us all the way home. It was hot in the sun, and cold in the shade if you sat still. Casey and I sat in the back of the station wagon. It was hot in the back because of all the sun.
We arrived home, lethargic from the heat. I walked down the street to my house, where Troy Aikman was on TeeVee playing football.
Now in the dark and cold I remember another friend and another friendship that fell apart. This girl and I bonded in one of our advanced classes in high school. She lived close to my house. We walked back and forth from her apartments to my house in the evening after school.
Girl and I were inseparable for months. So much unlike Casey and I... Girl and I, we were both cerebral, but still different. We butted heads. I felt cowed by her superior reasoning and gave way when she pushed back. Coward. I think I began to resent her for it.
But before it starts to sting too much here's a good memory:
Girl and I would walk. There was a park near where we lived, with well defined paths. But no, such paths were not for such as we were. We explored, we took the faint dirt paths, scorning the gravel lined ways, to new discoveries, and fancied ourselves mavericks.
We would talk, and talk on our quest for discovery. One day we followed the marked trail, until one or the other of us got bored and we branched off perpendicular, toward a ravine wall. We climbed, dodging cactus and nettles, sharp flint and slippery limestone along the way, until we reached a ledge just big enough for the two of us to sit facing each other, cross legged.
The sunlight fell through the tree branches all around us, lacy and still without any breeze. That ledge in the Balcones Escarpment was almost like it was made for the two of us, for that moment in the afternoon. She had me spread a tarot for her in the dust and we talked about life, mostly her life. I was perceptive enough to know at that point in time that she was troubled, just like me, and did try to give the best advice that someone could give. Either she didn't listen or my advice was terrible (probably a mixture of both) but she was unhappy still.
We came out of our shared reverie and realized it was dusk. The ground had begun to seep its cold back into our legs. The last few cicadas harshly called to one another, shouting their goodnights. Girl and I saw that it was already dark under the trees and that we didn't have a way to climb back down the limestone. There was only up and so we climbed. It wasn't far, and we came out close to the street. The sun had set. I walked her home in the dusk, and then walked home in the dark.
I've tried to find that ledge, many times. With her and without her, it wasn't to be found again. That time in the shadows is gone forever, but I still remember it fondly.
When Girl and I talked, we talked. We had such conversations... Philosophy, religion, tarot, literature, politics, sexuality, all those things eighteen year olds are fascinated with, don't you know. We were so very important, so very full of ourselves. She was going to rule the world. (I should have sensed trouble when she refused to "give me" Europe. I always argued that it was bullshit, I was her best friend after all. Bah, that argument somehow never got old, even at the very end.)
And too... she was older than I was. Although we lived a block or two away our lives couldn't have been any different socioeconomically, and in some ways culturally as well. She was raised Catholic and I was rediscovering my Quaker heritage. She lived in a small apartment with her mother, her brother, her older sister and her older sister's four kids. I lived in a small house with both my parents (although their marriage was just then falling apart, Girl grew up with the knowledge that her family was dysfunctional at least) and my younger sister. I was a virgin (all talk and very much still afraid of sex) and she was... not. (I envied her that...)
I honestly think she didn't understand my upbringing. I wouldn't go so far as to say she resented it, but she didn't really respect where I was coming from. In many ways she didn't take me seriously (not that I deserved to be taken seriously) and that's probably the most hurtful thing to an eighteen year old.
I remember it well. We were in a restaurant and the topic (of course) turned to sex. I tried to call her on her promiscuity. (I never called her a slut in so many words, but it was implied in the statement. Heavily.) She didn't take it too well. I'd like to say I meant it with only the best of intentions, but to be perfectly honest I wanted to cut her back, in my clumsy way. Did she mean to hurt me? Very few of the cuts she inflicted were intentional on her part, but me being me I counted all of them as hurt, and punishable, therefore.
Unlike with Casey, I can actually pinpoint where the friendship began to turn dark. It unraveled from there, that point, that conversation. Unlike with Casey I can say that it was mostly my fault.
However, I do realize that it was in a way unavoidable. While we clashed, we pushed our friendship inexorably away from us.
When I hear Regina Spektor's song "Better" I think of her.