Wednesday, December 16, 2009
My childhood friend died today. We were part of a group of comrades from kindergarten until about 10th grade, when life changes, with boyfriends and adulthood sneaking in and pulling us apart.
She was always the beauty, with her black curls springing out like unsuppressed laughter, and her long fingernails, the envy of us all. Around 4th grade, she started wearing her hair in the tightest possible ponytails, smashing the curls down with gel and water, then wrestling it into her control and holding all together with a scrunchie that matched our garish green plaid uniforms. I would argue, fight for the freedom of that glorious hair, but nobody told Melissa what to do.
We linked arms and ran across playgrounds. We gathered in groups of awkward arms and legs, sprawling across pink blankets, eating popcorn in the middle of the night, and laughing. Oh, she laughed. Early on, it was ungainly, childish chuckles, coming from her middle and spilling out the wide smile she tried to hide. Later, it was more controlled with its metal boundaries and self-conscious awareness. But always, laughing.
We lost touch, changed paths. We found each other again in recent years, sharing the weight of years of gain and loss, and I reveled in seeing her smile break across the smudged screen of my computer. She was always the beauty.
I called you birdleg
You called me nerd
And life, and life, and life
Husbands and children
Love and loss
The threads of childhood always
Holding us tenuously together
I hope your hair is loose
Laugh loud, so we can hear you.