There’s a show on CBS called Unforgettable, about a police detective with a rare medical condition that allows her to remember everything she sees. Sometimes I wish I had that ability, especially when I receive a friend request on Facebook from someone I have completely forgotten. It’s frustrating to search through a person’s photo albums and still have no idea who they are. This never happens with people from my formative years. Ever. From the kid with premature facial hair whose brother is a well-known play write to the boy who announced to the class when I got my first period, their names and faces will be forever seared in my brain. Ask me whose parents created a dead-on R2D2 costume for his little brother on Halloween? Peter M., of course. Who played Mary Poppins in the eighth grade play? Easy, it was Lisa B.
As an only child of divorced parents, I placed the utmost importance on my female friendships. By middle school my family became supporting characters in my life story. The co-stars were BR, TL and myself. We weren’t exactly the Three Musketeers; the only things that BR and TL had in common were their respective friendships with me. BR was cool, confident, lived on the expensive part of town and had all the latest gadgets. TL was a tortured artist, writer, and child of hippies who introduced me to Crosby, Stills and Nash when everyone else was listening to Pat Benatar. BR appealed to the rebel in me, the one who wanted to be noticed. We smoked cigarettes, painted our faces with make-up to get into R-rated movies, and went on that fateful horse and carriage ride where we both made out with the same boy. TL spoke to my introverted artist self. We questioned the existential meaning of John Lennon’s murder. We shared secrets of our parents’ sex lives. On the class camping trip we huddled together in a cold tent as the rain poured down, feeling superior while the other kids frolicked in a dry cabin.
Each of my best friends fulfilled a different need in my life and I loved them both. TL still gets the credit for helping my mom choose between her two boyfriends one fateful night when they both showed up at our apartment. BR wholeheartedly agreed with TL’s choice, as did I. We all adored the charming European hotelier who whipped up filet mignons for us after school dances. When my mom married him the summer before eighth grade, BR and TL were there. While the adults indulged in an after-party, we girls jumped on the beds of our shared hotel room and talked about the future into the wee hours. The wedding was a sign of change to come. By the end of the school year, my mom’s new husband would be transferred across the country. I didn’t want to hear about the new friends I would make in Virginia; my soul was with my best friends in Chicago.
It was a rough road ahead. While I struggled to find some connection with the southern belles who populated my conservative, all-girl universe, BR and TL carved out their adolescent identities in a co-ed setting. TL invested in lots of black eyeliner and found her niche with an alternative crowd. Having seen the point of high school after the first five minutes, BR was ready to get out. She was envious of my new experience. We spoke on the phone a lot in the beginning and then only intermittently. When I visited Chicago I discovered that my friendships with BR and TL didn’t grow; they were like objects on a shelf, once cherished and now dusty. I finally found a friend to fill their void my senior year. PW was a great person, deep like TL, fun like BR, and with her own special nurturing qualities. We created lots of classic memories, set to the soundtrack of a mix tape that I still own.
The summer before starting college outside of Chicago, I wanted to hook up with my old best friends from eighth grade. BR was on her way to college in Texas, happy to finally escape her family. She didn’t have much time for me. TL agreed to come over and hang out for a few hours, but she had plans to meet her boyfriend later. I’m not sure how our afternoon turned into a drinking contest. Was it to mask the fact that we were no longer close? Somehow we consumed an entire fifth of Stolichnaya, chased down with a six-pack of Diet Coke. By the time we set out for the store where her boyfriend worked, we weren’t just drunk. We were falling down, blackout drunk. The details on how we became separated are fuzzy. I remember that we got into an argument trying to hail a taxi. She left, and her boyfriend escorted me home.
With the exception of one day almost ten years later when I went to see her in a play, I haven’t spoken to TL in over 25 years. She didn’t want to hear my explanation of how I, as a sloshed 18-year-old, ended up having sex with her boyfriend (who was completely sober at the time). I wanted, needed to tell her that I was sorry. She must have known me well enough to see how out of character the whole thing was. Apparently not. Whatever bond we shared as girls was overshadowed by the incident. It was clear that she blamed me, and not him, for what happened. Ironically, the boyfriend was one of the first people to “friend” me on Facebook and is only one of two people whose request has been denied. Boys who take advantage of foolish drunk teenage girls are not permitted access to my cyber circle.
As for BR, we shared grade school crushes on Matt B. and Adam L., and separate flings in our twenties with a bad boy who shall remain unnamed. But boys never came between us. Maybe that’s why we are still friends. It’s wonderful reminiscing about life with BR when we were almost fifteen, but it’s also great that we are creating new memories to reminisce about when we’re eighty. I often wonder if TL has any fond memories of us, if she smiles when she thinks about weekends spent ordering room service and watching free movies in the hotel where my stepfather worked. Or, has she blocked out every remnant of our friendship with click of a mouse, the way that you set up a security wall on Facebook?
For years it seemed that TL was consciously avoiding everyone from her past, not just me. I heard that she had a rough time in New York. Then I heard she was living in L.A. and I fantasized about running into her one day, in our shared city of ten million people. I never did. I found her online, though, with a changed name but the same sardonic wit. It’s hard to disappear completely these days, especially if you’re the writer of a blog that you want people to read. So if you’re reading this now, TL, this is for you. I remember sitting in the courtyard at school, trading pastrami sandwiches for the rice cakes with peanut butter your vegetarian mom would pack you. I remember your beautiful gray cat Fog who ran away, and the tabby named after a song by The Knack. I remember Fondue Stube and the empty dining room reserved for yoga. I remember your denim overalls and visiting your dad at the station. I remember a story you wrote about me, you and BR, about what we would be like when we grew up. I still remember.