Monday, January 23, 2006

Hold My Hand

Years ago we had to stage an intervention for a friend whose drinking had gotten a little out of hand. At first it was a couple of beers after class on the football field. Then it was a couple more over a late night card game. Finally a few at the start of the day to prop him up, physically and psychologically, for the drone of the day ahead. We, his friends, alternated between concern and alcoholic jokes with the typical sympathy of teenagers. Then one day after a night of dancing some of the boys went up to the roof of the dancehall for some more drinking and smoking. It wasn't until he stepped off the ledge and hurled himself into space that anyone realized how far things had gone. Next morning I came upon a heavily bandaged, bloody eyed, suddenly sober, suddenly scared lonely little boy and the realization that everyone has a skeleton in their closet.

Earlier that year I had my first brush with betrayal. Betrayal had always been there, since my birth, circling me like a snake about to strike, biding its moment. That year it found its mark.

It was towards the end of the freshman year of college. We were eighteen and still carefree and happy. I was best friends with two girls. One day one of them came to me and said, "Hey, do you know what Anne has been saying about you?"

"No, what?" I asked.

"She's calling you the Dumpster Princess. She's been telling everyone that you walk with your head held so high when you live in a ramshackle home that has weed growing on the walls and your mother walks around in tattered robes with holes in them."

I said, "Oh. Ok." What else could I have said?

Later that day I told them I didn't feel like going to the library and went to the ball field. There were trees around the circumference every few yards. Circling the trunk of each tree was a raised brick seat. I sat on it, crosslegged, reading a book. That's when Ari came over. He was part of the most sought after group in our class. He came over and said, "Is this seat taken?" We hadn't really spoken before and I was a little surprised. Before I could answer he had jumped up and sat down.

I went back to reading but after a while I gave up. He was providing a running commentary on the ball game. "There goes Big Billy Joe. Big Billy Joe is reputed to have been raised by baboons from the east coast of Madrika. He is a plantation plantain fed boy, and quite well fed at that. Ladies and gentlemen, as you can see, his early days with baboons has left a distinctly baboonish cast on his face, not to mention his general disposition." I looked over at him and started to laugh and asked, "Is there even a place called Madrika?" He said, "Who cares? It sounds good doesn't it?"

We kept talking and watching . A little later Jane, another girl from his group, came over. They were friends at the time. Later, they would get married. After the game they invited me to come to the cafetaria with them. I hesitated for a minute. Then said yes. Next day I found myself part of a new group.

A few days later Anne cornered me after class and said, "How did you muscle your way into the A-team? What's your secret?" I felt like saying, "Backstabbing friend." but I didn't. Instead I said, "I don't know. It just happened. Hey, we are going to meet in the library in a few minutes. You wanna come."

Anne came to the library that day. Hung around, chatty, happy. After she left everyone made fun of her. I kinda thought that might happen. It was the reason I had invited her. Revenge. I thought it would make me feel better. It didn't.

Ray was one of the guys in our group. A senior wrote a rather graphic piece of fiction starring me. Yes, I am not making any of this up although I am retelling as a writer would, in a language that flows and with voids in dialogue filled in with words that fit. Ray had the story whisked off campus over night. I don't know how he did it. He never even told me he had done that. I found out years later from someone else. There were several times when I was a bitch to him over the next few years but not once did he say, "You owe me. I did this thing for you." He was the one who jumped off the roof. It was a really bad week for all of us. Trying to make sense of it all. But we got through, in some ways weakened but in other ways strengthened by it.

At my first job one of the first things we were asked to do after we had signed necessary forms was to set up direct deposit. I had no idea how to do that. I didn't even know how to open a bank account. My mom was a clerk at a bank and normally she took care of all that. But I was 3000 miles from home. Fortunately, they gave us the names and addresses of a couple of banks. I figured okay, can't be too hard.

Some of the other people in my group decided to go together. V ... let's call him Victor, Vic for short, came over to ask if I wanted to come with them. I said, "You guys go ahead. I will go later." He said, "Why? Is your account more special than ours? You are coming with us." So he dragged me to the bank and one of the girls, Ivonne, helped me fill out the form. Over the next few years they would be my closest friends. I'd have had a hard time without them at the bank that day.

A week ago, just days before I started this blog, I was walking down Main Street on my way back from posting a letter when a kid came running up and grabbed my hand. I laughed and said, "Where are your parents?" He pointed to a couple waiting at the crossing furiously beckoning at him. I said, "You better go." After he ran off I realized. People have been running up to me to hold my hand all my life, sometimes when I didn't even know I needed them.

My other friend, the one who told me the things Anne had been saying behind my back? We stayed friends, hung out, studied together at times. But I never invited her into my new group and she and Anne kind of fell out. I should have been a better friend to her. I should have held her hand.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

you are a should be writing.

1/23/2006 8:39 PM  
Blogger beefdrop said...

I think its important to not regret anything, as everything has a reason and purpose, and thats why it happens. Sometimes people try to run from their lives because they feel lost, and think that they may end up somewhere better. But whats neat is that we are all lost in ourselves, and our perceptions, and really everything just flows along as usual. I guess people try not to make mistakes that they can't repair. But if you look at mistakes actually being a forward step to discovery, than really mistakes are essential to the persons own evolution. I just thought I'd ramble about that.

1/24/2006 2:20 PM  

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