Somebody to lean on
"There is nothing we like to see so much as the gleam of pleasure in a person's eye when he feels that we have sympathized with him, understood him. At these moments something fine and spiritual happens between two friends. These are the moments worth living."
- Don Marquis
When I was 17, I met Angie.
Angie was beautiful and spunky. Well, maybe more bitchy than spunky. But she was magic, and we were chemistry in motion. From the moment we met, there was a force beyond our control that kept us next to each other, drawn to each other, inseparable. I don't remember exactly how we came to be the good friends that we eventually became, but I remember that I didn't like her at first. But that didn't stop me from wanting to explore her.
She was loud. She farted in front of people, she was brash, exploited people's flaws, and always saw the glass as half-empty. But something about her was alive, brimming over with adventure and promise and trouble. At 17, trouble and adventure lures you in. Friends are the people you get into trouble with, and I never really had anyone at all, let alone someone to befriend or love. The thought of having someone that could possibly be my partner in crime intrigued me.
And Angie was funny. Not in the traditional way, not like Robin Williams funny. She wouldn't have starred her own sitcom or anything. But she was funny in the sense that you would think, "that's so wrong!" and then laugh until you peed a little.
Then she could pick up the mess you made and cook you dinner. She could be your mother and your sister, with nothing but your very best interest at heart, and then pass you the vodka. She could love you or hate you with equal amounts of passion, and you'd never know the difference. No one escaped her judgmental eye. But there was just something about this girl that had me star struck. Being around her was akin to being near Brad Pitt, or Buddy Mayes. Everyone was in her shadow. She was always a little wittier, a little bit better looking, a little bit thinner than the girl standing next to her. She could always sell you on the idea a little bit harder than the person standing next to her. And the boys were always picking up their jaws after she walked past. It was like a tornado coming through. You didn't quite know what just happened, but it was scary and fun at the same time. She made you want to stand a little straighter, wear a little more perfume, dance a little better. I looked good in her shadow.
We ran into each other a few times, and within a month we were living together. I don't know why she liked me - I was the opposite of her. I was demure and trusting. She was obnoxious and skeptical. I enjoyed reading, she preferred reality tv. She was short and shaped like an hourglass, voluptuous and thick in all the right places - I was tall and skinny and shaped like a thirteen year old boy. I didn't have anything in any of the right places. Her skin was dark, mine was oh so white. Her hair was short and dark, mine was long and blonde. I smoked cigarettes, and she hated them with a passion. My smoking was limited to the balcony, come heat, snow, hurricane - she hated it, and I kind of liked it that I did something that annoyed her.
I was responsible and sensible, she was impulsive and argumentative.
But I believe there were similarities, and even the smallest of them held us together like glue.
Angie poured her and myself a cup of coffee, heavy on the cream and sugar, and we sat on the balcony of her apartment at midnight, soaking in the summer heat and humidity that soaked through our tank tops and the back of our necks. The silence was pleasant. It lasted all of two minutes when Angie started going on about some movie she wanted to see or thing she wanted to do the next day. I "mm hmm'ed" at all the right places, but my mind had drifted elsewhere. I had an idea, but it was ludicrous.
"Let's take a bath." Angie's face seemed to drop for a moment, and I laughed. I imagined what she was thinking. Oh no, I've befriended a lesbian, I've been tricked.
"Remember when we were kids, when you would take baths with your little girlfriends when they spent the night? Putting bikinis on your Barbie dolls and slinging bubbles at each other. I miss that."
Angie seemed to mull it over for a few seconds, then shrugged a little and said sure.
I ran the bathwater, no bubbles.
We both got naked, as if we had seen each other naked hundreds of times. It wasn't awkward or strange. We simply disrobed and argued over the bathwater's temperature. There we were, naked, standing in the middle of a bathroom with the air sticky with sweat, arguing whether the water was too hot or too cold. A matter of taste, she called it.
Then something happened. Something I will never forget. Somewhere between small talk and soaking, a conversation took place. We talked until there was nothing left. We talked about our parents, our failed childhoods, our whole lives from start to finish. We admitted things you're never supposed to say out loud. We admitted to never being in real love, to lost loves, to "what ifs". We cried. We sat in silence for extended periods of time, saying nothing but understanding each other completely. That was the thing we learned over time about our "talks". We could say nothing at all and it was okay. Sometimes we just didn't have to.
I remember her curling her legs up to her chest, talking now into her knees, as if they had tiny microphones. I found myself doing the same. We had forgotten our nakedness, in every sense of the word. The water had gone cold by then, but we didn't even notice. She spilled out her soul into that bathwater, letting go of secrets I don't think she even knew she had, and I did too. And I felt like a chain had been welded from my heart to hers. We were connected for life. We were the same, me and her. As different as we appeared on the outside, we were the same exact person.
After what seemed like hours, we emerged, soaked and freezing. We weren't friends anymore. We were sisters now. We knew each other's deepest darkest secrets, and we trusted each other completely. We had crossed some kind of line. I don't know what it was, but it felt like nothing I'd ever experienced before. We had bonded. I felt love for her, and she felt love for me. I'd never had that before. It was lovely.