Wheatfield Near Fort Pierre, South Dakota. Photograph by Robert Clements

Saturday, March 16, 2013

I Miss My Girls

No photos on this one because there are too many to post and because this post has to do with the heart, rather than the eyes. It has to do with people who knew me before electronics, before cyberspace, before the use of personal computers, when all we had were land phones and we listened for our favorite songs through the crackle of AM radio stations.

It's Saturday, and I'm missing my women friends back East, is all. I have made a few friends here, and they are dear to me, but oh, how I miss women who really know me, have known me for a long time, and like me, anyway. And oh, how I love them. "And later, nighttime songs came back again," sang Carlie Simon. "But the singers don't compare to those I knew...".

If you looked carefully, back then, you would see a motley group of young girls with thin, filly-worthy bare legs and grubby skinned knees, galloping in a herd through the neighborhood cemetery. I miss those women who praised imagination as life in its highest form and had complete faith that, whatever we wanted to become, so it would be. I miss our faith, our awkwardness, and our complete and utter allegiance to one another.

I'm thinking of those women who have made me laugh so hard that a trip to the bathroom came too late, and we didn't care. We laughed harder, is all. As teenagers, we sat around kitchen tables steeped in the wonder of our astrological signs - I wanted to be a Scorpio back then - and consulted Ouija boards for conversations with ghosts who inhabited our houses and our minds. We went to movies that held us spellbound long after we left the theater. We had overnights in which I would wake up, hear my friends breathing, and know that all was right with the world. We went to the local coffee house and pretended to ignore the boys that we longed for with all of our hearts.

I'm homesick for the women I've cried with over deceased pets, the unfairness of parental dictates on our behavior or lack thereof, bad breakups, the deaths of President Kennedy, John Lennon, Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and so many others, the absolute tragedy of a dead bird, the fear and loathing of not being cool, and the loyal and indignant comfort offered after humiliating situations that we thought we would never get over.

On weekends back East, I lived alone. Every weekend I visited at least one friend for coffee and conversation, for walks and talks and validation, for comparisons on our relationships or lack thereof, for dog time, cat time, theater time, time, time. Somehow, during those short hours, we solved, resolved, or redirected the pathos and paths that made up the emotional trajectories of our lives. We got through everything intact for the most part, and with the understanding that someone out there believed in us like no one else ever would or could.  

When I was writing my novel in my little house, I would come out after several long sessions with pretend people, dazed and wondering where everyone went. It always feels strange to enter the world again, after leaving it to perform what is essentially magic with your mind. But I could always call a girlfriend for lunch, or a chat, or just to make a connection that would tell me that life was running on most of its cylinders, that their children and/or spouses were fine, and that the real world was functioning without me in it for a while. They were the ones who were most excited when the novel was finished and released. I miss those celebrations and I miss celebrating their triumphs.

We all need that. At any age.

Robert and I talk about how it's harder to make friends at our age. Everyone is busy and they have their own lives. And we live in a new place that is remote and people are far flung. For lunch, for instance, the women I know travel 50 miles or more to enjoy one another's company. We don't meet often, and it's special when we do. Lunch lasts for hours. As it should.

Here, I'm meeting my friends as an adult. At this point, we've solved most of our more melodramatic situations and we've learned how to manage. We encourage one another, and help out when we can. We have developed mountains of coping skills and strength and we have our own families to shelter our dreams and our sorrows. Hours once spent spilling secrets and drinking tea or wine have dwindled to the amount of time it takes to be interrupted by a cell phone call. We are more guarded, because we should know better by now, I guess. I don't know. I still feel 14 sometimes, with its aches and confusions. And that's when I miss my women the most. It was my choice to live here in this strangely beautiful place, and I love my partner.

All that has nothing to do with how I miss my women.

On this day before St. Patrick's Day, I raise an crystal-etched filled glass with good red wine to cherished memories and rock-solid friendships that go back before the beginning of who I am now, here, writing on a laptop in a small college town in this big state where, when I shout out my heart's desire, I hear an echo most of the time.

I would rather hear the voice of my oldest friend who hates the phone, the voice of my friend who still has honey-blond hair and a love for animals and fantasy, the wise counsel of my friend with the deep voice and the wicked laugh, the soft voice of my friend who listens like no one else, the humor and toughness of my friend with the greyhounds, my beloved pearls, my New England sister, my friend who lives somewhere near Seattle, my six-grade girlfriend who had a dog named Skipper, my ever-missed Lovie, Hadley Raymond, and so many more. We can reach out and touch each other whenever we want. We can call, email, Facebook, text, twitter, hash tag, and/or do some Face Time or Skype.

I just wish, with all of my heart, that I could hug one of them, right now.

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