Do you remember tap dancing down a set of cement stairs with me? We weren't wearing tap shoes. I had traded in my feathered gown for a pair of Guess jeans with zippers at the ankle, but it didn't matter because I felt like I was Ginger to your Fred. You were tall (really tall) and hilarious. You often wore white shoes and white pants and favored button-down collar shirts in shades of pale blue or yellow. You were really tall. So tall, I could see you over the heads of all the other kids at the Speech meet. I thought you were wonderful. I remember going home the night I met you and writing in my journal that I thought you were "it."
"It" was a term I'd heard my stepmother's single friends apply to men and I thought it sounded grown up. I thought it sounded right. "It" meant that you were my soul mate. "It" meant that you were "the one," but in a more subtle way.
At any rate, at some point, after a lot of telephone calls and notes passed and whatnot, we went on a kind of a date and it didn't work out that great. It would seem that you weren't "It." At least not in the prince and princess live happily ever after kind of way. That you were also looking for your prince didn't come as that much of a surprise.
Unlike most couples who date in high school, we have managed to live happily ever after.
I still have the string of pearls you gave me. They are made of clay, each pearl bearing the imprint of your fingers. You knew me when I had breasts. When I had a retainer. When I had a boyfriend (and another boyfriend and another...) You knew me when I went to camp and to college. We saw "Dirty Dancing" one more time than we saw "Top Gun," and we saw them both a lot. First run.
Those lunches at Ikea when I was hugely pregnant with my daughter and you pushed my son in his stroller are still some of my most pleasant memories. What a nice time we had. You with your plate of meatballs, me with my slice of strangely green Princess Cake. My boy asleep and the air conditioning blasting out over blond wood. People thought we were a family. And we are.
I have a photo of you holding my son. You are wearing a red lace dress and a gigantic hat. You look so happy and he looks utterly unsurprised. You made the dress yourself. Just as you've made dozens of hats and pillows and parade floats. You like to cook. (You are the first person I ever met who could make Coq au Vin. Not bad for a tenth grader from Albuquerque.) You bake pies when you are low. I understand this need to nourish yourself in times of sadness because we share it. Just as we share a love of books and of country music.
That time at your caberet when you sang a Nanci Griffith song just for me still makes me want to cry. It was amazing to have that happen to me. Like a movie or a book. Amazing to have that happen to the girl who thought you were "It" and didn't have even the remotest idea how much more you could be.
You dearest, you. I have baked you a chocolate cake. You will come for dinner and we will celebrate your birthday. You are a wonderful friend.