She was right. I never was an intimate friend of hers. We had become friendly after a sea change in me in my Senior year of high school. I had gotten into a competitive college and I let loose a bit from the quiet studious kid others had known through my preceding 3 years. We joked a bit, wrote some ridiculous school play, and I even got invited to my first high school party at her house April of my senior year. That summer we hung around a bit too, her at her vacation home and I at the house my parents bought to escape the city.
I remember a particular night, coming down from the city and sitting in the back of her boyfriend’s Pontiac convertible going 80 on the parkway. Ah, to be 17 again.
We parted ways, her off to a traditional women’s college in the East and I to the Midwest. We had some further communication the next summer doing what Jersey Shore girls do best after a year of college under their belts: going to the beach by daylight, working at night, then bars and boyfriends on the weekends. Ah, to have the drinking age at 18 again. (Yikes , I have children that age!)
I didn’t hear from her again for decades. I would hear little bits of news through alumni newsletters and a smattering of friends. She spent nearly 15 years in Italy, married and had a son. She returned to the US and became a schoolteacher like her mother.
I had heard several years ago that she had opened a Thrift store. Perfect, I thought as my father had just passed away and I had an entire household to dispose of. I contacted her, we spoke on the phone and I travelled to near Philadelphia to reconnect and to see if she could use any of my late Dad’s stuff.
We had a pleasant catch up (bitch?) session at a lovely sandwich shop. But the first indication that something was wrong was the sparkling water. Odd that an innocent order would in a sense “spark” such concern.
She ordered a particular brand asking its origin. When the teenage waitress said she didn’t really know, my friend lambasted her about not knowing her products and how did she get the job there anyway.
If I could have run, I would have.
I tried to tell my friend to please “let it go,” but she launched into a speech about the sparkling waters of Italy and how Italian wait staff know their products. I politely excused myself by saying, “I never drink the stuff,” to which she inferred that I was some sort of yokel.
She went down from there. I opened up about my own particular hell that I was going through and she did too.
The difference was that hers was much worse.
Over the course of the next few months, and the words of George W. Bush, I did the “google.” Sometimes my investigative skills backfire. I found information I wish I could unsee.
Years passed and I heard from her again but this time she asked me for money. I contacted her family this time to get a better understanding. Again, I wish I could unhear now.
She was bright, very Intelligent, but totally lacking the Emotional intelligence of a truly mature and mentally stable person. She had the I before the E from what I had C-een.
My last email to her was begging her to get the help she needed. She has since blocked me.
We lose many to mental illness too.