A few Thursdays ago was the kind of evening that brings tears to your eyes – positively balmy, warm and tropical; all the windows in the house open, curtains swaying playfully in the breeze, people on the sidewalks headed in one direction – west, towards the beach. But not me, oh no. Since an object in motion tends to stay in motion, I was trying to get some things done, among them putting away the multiple loads of laundry I’d just washed. There are few pleasures in life finer to me than the smell of cotton sheets washed in Tide and Downy and bleached from here to Kingdom Come, so it was with a particular joy that I snapped the fitteds and the flats up in the breeze and tucked them in, just so.
Deciding to put on some music for motivation, I plucked LTJ Bukem’s Progression Sessions out of my CD rack, since I hadn’t listened to any atmospheric drum ‘n bass in a long time and figured it was just the ticket for a warm spring evening. I put the disc in, hit play, and with the first few bars and his lyric ‘make you feel like June when it’s December,’ was immediately transported back into a time and a place I now think of as bathed in tawny, gold light – a few years spent nearly joined at the hip with my homegirl, Suzen, who now lives – restlessly so – on the east coast.
And oh, how I miss my girl.
Here are some things I can tell you about her: I never thought of anyone as having ‘chestnut’ hair until I met her. She got into Georgetown because her Grandpa gave the school a million bucks, but she worked extra hard to get A’s so that she wouldn’t be just some rich kid sliding by on family money. She was the only chick I knew with a vocabulary better than mine. She taught high school English in the hood and read each and every page of her student’s journals. She was a vegetarian from the age of 8. She liked to drink. A lot. She was a knee-jerk liberal and devoted protester, staying up to party all night and showing up to march first thing in the morning. She often gave me candles as gifts, and she liked woody, spicy-smelling scents. She turned me on to Kruder & Dorfmeister’s Remix of Lamb’s Transfatty Acid (still just about my favorite song ever) and to LTJ.
And here’s what I can tell you about us: We were the two brunette Intellectual Party Girls on the largely Irish scene in Lower Haight, stepping out down the hill to see what we could see every Friday and Saturday night and spouting off with fifty-cent words between shots. She was skinnier and had bigger tits but had no ass and I pack ghetto booty. She lived around the corner from me. She taught school and I wrote for a website downtown. We bonded over colored pens and spiffy office supplies. Whereas generally I was the sensible one, getting to sleep before the sun came up, she was always the Last Man Standing at any given party, and guys liked her not just because she was hot, but because she was just a guy’s girl. In fact, I was one of her rare female friends, which made our bond all that more special. I remember staying up over white wine and party favors until 11am arguing about whether a friend of her sister’s, who had gotten a J.D. from a prominent law school and then promptly quit to stay home and raise children, was wasting her education. We never said it, but we loved each other.
And then it all went bad.
First I married a boy I had no business even dating beyond six months. Then the summer I went to Ireland for a month to clean up that mess, her boyfriend broke up with her while I was gone. She was devastated and fell in with a guy who had a penchant for smoking speed. It took about three years for her to hit bottom, during which time she moved across the Bay and became further isolated. In 2004, I saw her once. Once. This was a girl I’d spent every weekend with for years. I called her persistently; let her know I didn’t care how bad it was, that I loved her just the same.
She left about two years ago. Gave me her favorite magazine rack and my God Box. I cried all the way home from Oakland, listening to 2Pac on the freeway and thinking, west, west, as I sped over the Bay Bridge, away from the horror of the squalor that is an addict’s apartment. She went to rehab for two months, where I sent her colored pens and a cute striped diary in an anemic attempt to ameliorate her misery. After rehab, she moved back to the east coast. For nearly the first entire year of her sobriety, I heard almost nothing from her, just a few very brief emails. I was crushed and confused, but with the loyalty of any dog, I was also unfailingly patient. And a year ago today, I came home from work on the day before my birthday and found a package from Amazon.com on my doorstep, containing Sinead O’Connor’s CD of reggae covers. Sent by Suzen. And I sat in my empty room (I was waiting for Crow to show up with a new bed for me) and cried and cried. With relief, with joy, and with sorrow, as Sinead’s big voice boomed out of my stereo and echoed through the bedless room.
A bit later, she and I had a long phone conversation.
“Suz,” I said, “Remember that one summer? It’s like, it was all so gold, and we didn’t even know it. You were teaching, I was writing, we were both paying $500 rent, tons of boys and parties and life was just so……simple. So light. You know?”
She concurred, and we shared a quiet moment of communion and memory.
Now things are so much heavier, more serious. She struggles every day with addiction, the hard work of recovery, and the post-meth difficulty in experiencing pleasure. I have a ‘real’ job, a hefty nut to cover every month, dogs that depend on me, a future to think about. There are no more drunken dawns for the two of us.
But still. Though we talk very rarely (both of us are notoriously phone-phobic), we do exchange emails that vibrate with pure emotion. We tell each other how deeply we miss one another. How much we love one another. Then and now. And she still makes me feel like June.