When Sharon asked me to be a part of this blog, I really couldn’t say yes fast enough. I’m still trying to parse the reasons for this eagerness, but my hunch is that they revolve around a deep love for stories and the sense that I’ve lost so many of my own over the years. In the course of my nearly 30 years on the earth, I’ve had what I think of as several different lives–and these sweeping changes have had a way of disconnecting me from former iterations of myself, such that I actually find myself (often pleasantly, but sometimes unpleasantly) surprised when someone tells a story that reminds me of one of those former lives. It helps me to remember that the disjointed narratives I think of as dead or clumsily tacked on in fact form a shared history, and that–despite the fact that I may sometimes wish otherwise–we carry our pasts with us, even as those pasts are continually shifting. So I’m glad to be part of telling our stories, because I think this re-telling both retrieves something lost and creates something new.
I don’t remember meeting Sharon. I do remember the first day of our second grade class, but my thoughts of that day primarily circle around an outrage that I was not assigned to the classroom with a treehouse in it. In fact, as I recall, there were two other second grade classrooms, both equipped with forts made of 2x4s, which, in retrospect, must have been built by one of the teacher’s husbands, who apparently did not like the third teacher enough to be so accommodating. So we were stuck with this less popular woman, who, for whatever reason, had a poster or pin displayed above her desk reading, “No, I’m not TINA TURNER.” At any rate, Not-T-T used to call each of us up to her desk individually, in what now strikes me as a rather creepy scene, to recite the Bible verse we had to memorize that week. My earliest memories of Sharon are set during that trek to the desk: our names rhyme, and in the narcissism of childhood, this is enough to cause constant confusion–we were forever both responding when the other was called.
For the next several years, we did basically everything together, partly because we loved being around one another, and partly because Sharon’s Saint-Like mother was kind enough to let me stay over for nearly the entire summer, while my mom worked her exhausting government job. In my eyes, her house was magical: the carpet was thicker and softer than the carpet at my house, the living room was sunken, and everything was always clean. The orderliness of the house rubbed off on her, or so it seemed to me–her desk at school was never full of wrappers and garbage, as mine constantly was, and seeing her pristine white keds and magnetic snap belt that always stayed in place was a persistent source of wonder for me. At the time, I did not recognize her as overly dark or serious, but I think this may be because as kids, we all have a little of the macabre in us. I loved to laugh, to find amusement in the sound and feel of new words and stories…but the stories we made up (and rendered as dramatic recordings using Sharon’s tape deck, I might add–more about that below) were Noir-esque murder mysteries. Interestingly, though, it’s difficult for me in retrospect to extricate our personalities from one another, or from who we became in high school and beyond. Perhaps that’s why telling our stories is so fascinating–it seems to give an abstracted window into a moment of life that is in many ways no longer accessible.
1. My memories of unicorn-playing are not located in my front yard, but in Sharon’s. This may have something to do with the appeal her house had to me as a kid (something, by the way, that I’m only now just recognizing)…but I remember running around the driveway in the sun, loudly declaring that I would be a purple unicorn with a gold horn and red wings, and then comparing color-schemes with her. My sense is that she was also purple, but this may be because her bedroom was this color later in life.
The red plastic rhinestone was about the size of a small compact, and it was trimmed in gold-colored plastic. I was given over to the firm belief that, if we only concentrated hard enough, its talismanic powers would activate, and transport us to the unicorn realm we imagined. My faith in this regard was at least in part bolstered by the discovery that, if we held the red jewel very close to our eyes and looked into the light, the plastic facets produced a nearly psychedelic visual effect, transforming the heinous brown carpet and wooden paneling of my parents’ living room into a rouged-up alternate universe with cubist angles. Even today, my favorite color is red.
Ah, the snow-cones! There is no other way to describe the color one’s mouth turned after the Rainbow cone than “disgusting,” which perhaps made it even better. Rainbow was my favorite, as I loved anything brightly colored, and hated choosing only one flavor. After getting my mom or dad to take us across the street for Snow-cones, we would suck on them until the syrup was all but gone, and the sad-looking leftover ice returned to a defeated white.
2. Let me start by saying that I am absolutely crazy about Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, even now. I really earnestly believe that it’s a fantastic bit of entertaining movie-making, and credit it with getting me interested in Philosophy before I knew what that meant. Nevertheless, I have no recollection of watching it that night. In fact, the only thing I do remember about that night was Sharon crying at the movie Labyrnith, an association that I will never be able to detach from the scene when David Bowie’s character tosses the baby in the air. A room full of 8 or 9 year old girls continued watching the movie, and I left the room to go find her whisked back to my bedroom. Seeing her so upset was traumatizing to me, as I had not yet learned to process this sort of feeling, especially as a response to a movie. My parents had, up to that point, attempted to shield me from feelings of sadness or abandonment, and being confronted with them for the first time in the body of a friend was bewildering.
3. Many other times when she spent the night were, in contrast, full of unadulterated giddiness. I, too, have vivid memories of reading Garfield comics under the covers till all hours of the night, and repeating phrases over and over until the sound of them on our tongues and in our bellies became pee-your-pants hilarious. Just last week, I remembered repeating to myself in a voice that I can only characterize as evocative of tom-toms, “Emp-ty-CAT-in-an-emp-ty-BOX!”…accompanied by Sharon, while both of us did a little dance, carried away by the incredible silliness of words. And even though I love it, Garfield Minus Garfield will never compare to these moments for me, as an absurdist comic appropriation.
And now a new one:
We are in Sharon’s room on a summer afternoon, and she says to me–in a purely hypothetical way–“Have you ever thought of how you would plan the perfect murder?” I confess that, no, I had not, but my penchant for the dramatic leads me to agree to/suggest (whose idea it was it a puzzle to me) a staged radio-play-style enactment of the attempt to solve this hypothetical murder. It is thus that we drag out the plastic tape deck–complete with red microphone–and begin to record a masterpiece of auditory theater. We are the narrators, the witnesses, the murderers and the victims; we are even, in a post-modern twist, the DJs who break into the story to advertise hair gel and pizza. We lower and raise our 9 year old voices to become anyone and everyone we please–to be free, to exercise our suppressed aggression, to laugh and laugh at life, and the silly suggestion that we should behave.