Where to begin? Where to even begin, with you? We've been friends for...years now. So goddamn long, but so short, when you stop to think about the grander scheme of things.
I remember high school. I remember so much, and when I sit here and think about it all, even more comes flooding back to me. I remember the band room...and the endless hours spent there when we didn't feel like going to class. Mr. McClymonds always was good about letting us come and go, whenever we wanted. I vividly remember the one time we were in the bandroom together, right after Erik dumped you, and you were crying. Lisa was there, too. I didn't know you then nearly as well as I know you now, and I remember trying to think of things to say to comfort you, and thinking that I was glad Eugene and I were happy with each other. And look at where we all are now. It's funny...how much things change. How we thought then that breaking up with our high school boyfriend was the worst pain we could ever imagine. How wrong we were...how wrong, and how innocent and naive, in so many ways. Though I don't think you were ever naive. Not you. You were world-weary far too soon.
I remember other things...some good, some bad. You, under the table at Prom, and crying because you and Erik had gotten into a fight. You in that gorgeous coral dress. I still remember that dress, and how you wore your hair, and the way you were so pissed off that you couldn't get the last bits of wild pink out of your tresses for Prom. You tried everything. I even remember the antique jewelry you wore. God, you were beautiful, that night. I remember being so pissed at Erik that he made you cry then. That was back when you still let people see that you could be hurt.
I remember the first time I caught a glimpse of your spunk, and your wildcat, "Go ahead and take me down, but I'm bringing you with me if I have to, motherfucker" attitude to those who wrong you and your loved ones. I remember going to Daytona Beach on our band trip, junior year, and finding out you had beat Krissy Duncan's ass in the stairwell. At least, I think it was the stairwell. In any case, it didn't matter. You beat her ass, just the same. Whoda thunk, a tiny little thing like you could throw down, like that? I know Eugene and James were damn impressed.
I remember the time, in Chem III, when you made Mrs. Kwolek damn near shoot her coffee out of her nose when you announced that when Brooke McConnell had turned to Brianne and said, "It's called being NORMAL", you turned to Brooke and, in defense of Brianne, coolly replied, "It's called a diet. Maybe if you went on one, you could sit on your chair without your ass spilling over the sides." Oh god...Brooke wanted to kick your ass then, and she outweighed you probably by 100 pounds, with a streak of mean bitch, to boot. But you had your inner steel, and a decided, "I'd like to see you try it." attitude, as well. You just stared at her, got up and then walked out of class when the bell rang. Then you went to class, and proceeded to have us rolling on the ground laughing when you told us. I remember you and Corey bitching at each other every...damn...day. Lunch. Chem III. Physics. Anytime you two could bicker with one another, you did. It was just...how you two were, though. Always friends, like everyone in our group was...but it was how you related. I remember so much, about you. I always will. You're a ball of energy and passion and cigarettes and wild hair and quirkiness and complexity and tiger-fierceness and compassion and sadness. How can I not? You're a goddamn lightning bolt of contradictions, and beautiful for it.
I remember working together, at Jams and again at Kings, bitching all the while. I remember walking around as we scooped ice cream for irritating customers and singing "Break Stuff" just loudly enough for the customers to hear and think we were crazy. I remember making fake vomit in the toilet with Megan, and Adam coming in and freaking out when he saw it. I remember the stupidretardedsilly pranks we pulled on one another at work, all the time. I remember being the only two goddamn waitresses to work on the 4th of July at Kings, and ripping Alan a new asshole because we got screwed over. I remember the time you tried to quit smoking that summer, and I threw a pack of cigarettes at you and told you to start smoking again, cause the cigarettes might kill you slowly, but I was gonna kill you NOW if you didn't stop being so irritable. The time you got thrown into in-school suspension for skipping out of Physics, and you spent the last day of your senior year of high school in the ISS room, fuming to holy hell because Ricky Carna was a moron and accidentally ratted you out, and told Harper you were in the bandroom. I remember all of us walking past the room and offering our condolences to our "jailbird" friend, when we could. Actually, we pointed and laughed, but hey...at least we tried to make you feel better. And graduation, when, once again, you were fuming because Ms. Kelly claimed you didn't turn in your lit book and that you couldn't graduate.
That's how I remember you, mostly. Full of piss and vinegar, and raging against some injustice at life. Of course, you, out of all people, have every right to rage, rage, rage against life. Especially against the dying of the light. You learned, at 18, what most people take their whole lives to learn, when Dave--love of your life--was taken from you. You learned again, when Brian, your favorite cousin, was taken from you, as well. You learned, again, and again, and again. The last in a long line of people to whom you shouldn't have had to say goodbye so soon was Brenda, this summer.
There are two things you said in the past that have stuck with me ever since, because they are so true, and because I think they go right to the heart of what makes you...well, you. The first came months after Dave died, and we were having one of our hours-long talks, like usual...and you were smoking, also as usual. And we were talking about Dave's death, and you said, "You know, I was angry for so long. But I'm not angry anymore. If anything, I'm lucky. Damn lucky. Most people search their entire lives without ever finding their soulmate. And although I won't get to spend the rest of my life with him like I thought I would...I found him. I found my soulmate. And for that, every day, I am grateful." You have absolutely no idea how much respect I earned for you, that night. Or the respect I have for you to this day, ten years later. To have lost the things you have lost, and still be able to climb above it and not let yourself wallow in self-pity, like so many people would have done. That's one of the great things about you. Your refusal to whine and pity yourself. Though sometimes I worry perhaps you should take it easy on yourself more often, you're no whiner. And you're no quitter, either. I've never seen anyone with the inner steel that you have.
The second thing you said that I have remembered ever since is "Everyone has their demons." Although you are very selective about whom you let into your life, and no, you are certainly not a people person...you give everyone a chance. Everyone. You understand the outcasts, those who are lost and those who are misunderstood, and those who haven't ever been given a chance by anyone else. Maybe because...you've always felt that way yourself. The beatiful stranger who lives on the outside of our world. Your ability to listen without judging is remarkable, because it shows you have plumbed the depths of human emotion and know, with stark frankness, just what the human heart is capable of, for better or for ill. Though you know me better than anyone, the darkness and my weaknesses as well as the good, and I can probably say the same goes for myself, with you...there are so many things about you that I just...don't know yet. And that's a good thing, I think. Your complexities are limitless, but your ability to surprise me is equally limitless.
I think I'll wrap this up. You deserve so much more than this, SO much more, I could spend a week straight writing, and I'd never even come close to touching everything about you and our friendship. But I'm tired, and the words aren't coming as easily. And I don't want to put anything down on this screen that is less than what you deserve, and less than my best. Not for you. Not ever for you.
I know that sometimes, we go days, weeks, sometimes even months without talking now. It happens. We're pushing thirty, and more and more of life's responsibilities pile up each day. There are times I miss you so badly, you in Michigan, me in Texas, and all I want to do is sit with you and talk face-to-face, about life, about problems, about books and literature and being world-weary. I have this small poem by Shakespeare bouncing around in my head, and though he wrote it, as most of his poems, about a lover, it pertains to how I feel about our friendship, and you:
Doubt thou the stars are fire,
Doubt the earth doth move,
Doubt truth to be a liar,
But never doubt I love.
Never doubt, for one second, that I love you, Jen. We are both passionate, we are both stubborn, and we sure as HELL have a lot of flaws, between the two of us. And those are going to create problems and friction for us, every once in a while. But never, ever doubt, that you are my best friend. And never, ever doubt that you are the closest thing I have to a sister, other than Bri and Shar. And never, ever doubt that a day will go by that I won't think of you, and wish you were here with me to share it.
I love you. I love you for your no-nonsense way, and the way I can always count on you to be the only person in my life who always, ALWAYS tells me exactly what I need to hear, instead of what I merely want to. I love you for understanding my flaws, and loving me for them, anyway. I love you for loving me enough to let me see your own flaws, and trusting me with them. I love you for trusting me with your hard-won friendship, and heart. I love the way we are close enough to fight like sisters, and love each other all the more for it, when we do. That we can go those great gaps with not talking, but still know if there was a phone call in the middle of the night and an, "I need you," we'd be booking tickets for the next flight before we hung up the phone. I love the fact you are unique and different and not afraid to speak your mind. I love you for your flaws. All of them. They make you even more beautiful, to me. I love you for the fact you don't even see how beautiful you are, to others. I love you for being the one to reach a hand back and pull me away from the dark chasms I come across in my mind, sometimes. I love you for loving my family like your own. I love you because I know that you'll always be here for me. I love you for the way in which we never have to say a word to each other, to understand what's going on in one another's head, and heart.
I love you, Jen. You are my best friend, my confidante, my sanity, the only thing that makes sense to me, sometimes. The only thing I don't HAVE to understand, to depend on. And I love you.