Two friends have been on my mind a lot lately, one new friend and one old friend.
My new(ish) friend Sarah and I met when Eric and Anna and I first moved here. I was, out of sheer boredom, working at my sister-in-law's espresso drive-through near our house. I hadn't yet figured out what my next step would be, job-wise. This got me out of the house and allowed me to have conversations that didn't revolve around horsies and Dora the Explorer. Anyway, Sarah came through almost every day, and we just clicked. We discovered that we both were new to the area, having each moved from Oregon. We lamented the lack of culture and diversity here, talked politics, music, etc. We got together occasionally, and each time we did, we totally enjoyed each other. She has a great, infectious laugh and is smart and funny and has traveled all over the world. Well, as friends do sometimes, we talked less and less often; I was in the midst of a divorce and trying to hold my life together. She was out dating every woman in town. Every now and then one of us would email the other and say "We really need to get together! I miss you!" It's embarrassing how a year just slipped by...Finally, a couple of months ago, we reconnected. We caught up on each other's stories and it was as if we'd never been apart. We went to the gay-pride parade together, we went and watched live music, she's come to my house, I've gone to hers. Last Thursday we hooked up do enjoy some outdoor music and some wine and met up with some theater friends of hers. Eventually we wandered over to The Elk, our favorite pub nearby, for some dinner. At one point, these being theater people, we started talking about musicals. This isn't something Sarah and I had ever discussed, but at the exact same time we both blurted out "Nothing even comes close to Sound of Music!" Neither of us knew this about the other; our deep, deep love of Sound of Music. We sat there, in the pub, belting out all our favorite songs, quite possibly embarrassing her friends. She had no idea that I had recently taken Anna to Leavenworth, for the full-on Sound of Music immersion weekend. And I had no idea that this hip, well-travelled lesbian from Oregon loved and knew every word to "My Favorite Things" and "I Am Sixteen" (which she called me late the next night and sang, in entirety, on my voicemail).
Yes, in addition my hairdresser, my doctor, and David, I have found another soul-mate. All right here in Spokane. It's been a good year for soul-mates!
The other friend I've been thinking of is an old friend. From high-school...that's OLD. Mitch was a soul-mate of a different sort. We lived in Boise, which, at the time, was about as conservative as you could get. Since I lived there 25 yeas ago, the city has tripled in size thanks to, among other things, Micron. Back then, the Mormon's ran the show. Mitch and I and our group of friends were the weirdos in high-school. We were smart, but had no interest in proving that to anyone. We listened to Devo and the B-52s, smoked clove cigarettes, and proudly shopped exclusively at thrift stores. We all knew that Mitch was gay....except he wasn't ready to admit that, not even to his best friends. To us, he was just one of the girls. We spent more time in the local coffee-shop than we did in class, thanks to Mitch's uncanny ability to imitate our mothers. He would call the attendance hot-line and viola! We were free for the day! Eventually the administrators figured it out and we got caught. Mitch had missed so much school that he was expelled just a few weeks before graduation; he wasn't allowed to walk with us and did not graduate.
The years that followed are a blur; some of us went off to university, others stayed in Boise where it was "safe". We drank a lot, smoked lots of pot, experimented with other things....and we floundered. Eventually I left town, travelled to Europe and went to college. Mitch and I lost touch; I heard through the grape-vine that he had several DUIs and had spent some time in jail. As far as I knew, he'd never even gotten his GED. Then, many years later, a friend of ours moved to San Fransisco and ran into Mitch there; he told her that he was attending Stanford. Oh man, we all had a GOOD laugh about that one! You see, Mitch had always had a problem with telling the truth. I knew he felt inferior to the rest of us who, compared to him, had stable and loving families. His parents were both uneducated, raging alcoholics and it seemed that he was destined to follow their footsteps. Failure to graduate from high-school, an endless stream of low-paying jobs, several run-ins with the law, and HE EXPECTED US TO BELIEVE THAT HE WAS GOING TO STANFORD?? Riiigggghhhhttt. In fact, for the past 25 years I've often thought about Mitch and wondered what had REALLY become of him. Truthfully, I figured he was bagging groceries in a Whole Foods in San Fransisco or something. Which made me sad because while he didn't believe it at the time, Mitch was one of the smartest and funniest people I knew.
Then, last week, I was on Face Book and saw, on the page of a mutual friend of ours from high-school, Mitch's photograph. He looked tan, fit and healthy. I immediately emailed him and said "Mitch! How the hell are you?!" Frankly, I wasn't sure he'd respond; the truth is that I was often very cruel to Mitch when we were friends. His inability to tell the truth about everything from his mother having cancer (which she did not) to his sexual orientation, to where he got his new shirt, drove me CRAZY. I often called him on his lies, in front of other people, in an effort to get him to be real. I know he admired me (I had a completely unwarrented supiority-complex that must've come accross as self-confidence) and I know that I hurt him. I just wanted him to be his authentic self, wanted him to know that we loved him for who we KNEW him to be, not this image he was trying so hard to uphold.
Anyway, Mitch did write back to me last week and we've emailed dozens of times, catching up and filling in the missing pieces of each other's lives. He told hilarious stories about going to our high-school reunion and how liberating it is to go back to Boise as a proud, gay man, and how great it feels to be accepted as such.
Mitch told me that in his early 20s, he had found a mentor, the father of someone he worked with. This man was well-educated and successful, and he saw Mitch's potential. He encouraged Mitch to get his GED and he was instrumental in getting Mitch a job at a Boise hospital which eventually took him to Haiti to do volunteer work with AIDS patients. Mitch's self-confidence grew. He dug deep and found that he had an amazing inner strength, that he was smart and driven and capable and that rather than making up stories about his achievements, he could focus his energy on making things happen.
Mitch DID in fact graduate from Stanford, with not one but two master's degrees. He now works for a very large software company overseeing 1500 employees, and he lives with his long-time partner in one of San Fransisco's most beautiful neighborhoods. He has spend years in therapy dealing with his past. He has studied Eastern religion and has found true peace within himself. He accepted my apologies for my cruelty when we were young, and he apologized for all the lies he told and for not being honest with anyone about anything. He is living his authentic life, using his talents and is happy and whole.
And the best part? Mitch (and his partner) are coming to our wedding in September.