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Language Log

Thursday, Apr. 05, 2012 - 7:12 a.m.

An childhood friend died this past weekend. She had already shocked me by having grandchildren older than Q (I know I started late, but knowing that doesn't actually prepare me for people of my age having adult children or grandchildren); now she's up and died. Not sure how it happened, apparently it was sudden. So I was just thinking about her and thought I would mention her here.

She came into our 6th grade class-- it was a small "gifted" class that had already been together as a cohort for a couple of years, so new kids were notable. She stayed over at my house a few times, etc. I found her kind of annoying because she had a habit of retelling events that everyone within earshot had in fact been present for in the first place. (That sort of thing still annoys me, though I recognize the place of this habit in forming community and collective memory). So she was among my friends for a little while, but her exuberance didn't make her a very good fit for close friendship.

I don't remember much about her in Jr. high years. Hanging out at her house now and then in hopes that some boy I liked in the neighborhood would hover into view. She was Filipino; I remember meeting her mother, who didn't speak English. I didn't have much experience with that and it was awkward.

In high school, she became a bit more trouble. She was tough, pugnacious. On one occasion I remember her catching me doodling the Metallica logo on my folder and called into question my authenticity and sincereity of my fandom (i.e. accused me of not actually listening to them). That offended me greatly. Even after I quoted "Sanitarium" lyrics at her, she looked dubious. She was obviously no longer a friend.

Later, one day when I was skipping school with this guy I had had a long-standing crush on (finally! A day skipping with just him! Now was my chance!), she ran into us at the grocery store and invited herself along to lunch at Friendly's. She would. not. go. away. Over the course of the lunch, they discussed their unhappiness with things and made plans to run away (I don't think there was a mutual attraction there, just similar interests in escape). So after lunch off they went together. I went back to school, deprived of my opportunity at snogging with the boy (an opportunity I would not have again for several years, as it turned out). Later I found out that they had gone on to steal a car and drive on out of town. Susan had called from somewhere down the coast later that day or the next and came on home; Mike went who-knows-where until he was picked up and subsequently spent a few years in juvy. (Juvie?)

I didn't really see her much after that, though I guess she was around. I did see her once after graduation. She was working at the Subway and looked miserable. I was going to community college, and felt a good bit of schadenfreude.

Then last year I found her again on FB, friended her because why the hell not? Kids, grandkids, skydiving, still the same pugnacious attitude. She got a new tattoo just last week-- a large demon skull-looking sort of thing below her neck across her shoulders. Whatever kind of 38-year-old woman gets that sort of tattoo, that's the sort of person she was. To me, it seems like a nice mix of bad judgment, juvenile tastes, and disregard for public opinion that I just have to admire even as I roll my eyes (which I would not have been able to do in front of her for fear she would punch me).

And now she's dead. Seemed like she was just hitting her stride, too. I can't help but feel sad.

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