Friendship

Last October, I visited a friend I hadn’t seen in twenty years. “I can’t remember anything about high school!” she declared, “What’s wrong with me?” She wanted me to relate to her what I remembered, but I didn’t recall a great deal either.  It’s as though a giant eraser unlaced my neighborhood’s Lollypop Lake, the North and East wings of my high school’s math building, and Alexandra’s entire house, which I hitchhiked to several times a week and lived in for one month of a summer, and left an icy page.

Alexandra swirls in my mind like a whirling dervish, her face fresh as a peach lifted to the sun, the blue of her eyes somewhat occluded by contacts, and her grand, open smile.  A paisley skirt whirls, and wraps around her legs and unwinds the opposite way.  I never saw Alexandra like this, but I recognize her seventeen-year-old face more clearly than my left hand, lined and veined. Periodically, my husband smacks the New International Bible on the back of my left hand to flatten a cyst.  If only old age could be flattened by miracles.

As a religious wanderer after high school, Alexandra wrote me letters from a Sufi camp, but I do not recall if she danced there.  Later, we hitchhiked a two thousand mile stint through the South and crashed at the house of a scraggly haired, Sufi acquaintance of hers.  In the morning he jumped in bed with us.  He didn’t wear a stitch of clothing or a robe, only an erection.  I scrambled out of the double bed. Let Alexandra talk down her fellow acolyte.

I can only picture one time Alexandra danced, surely there were more incidences.  Alexandra donned a smashing, out-of-character, green-sequin dress.  Disco era.  Green-sequined memories are the only ones we seem to keep.  Like free-spirited Alexandra naked from the waist down in a tent we pitched in the Smoky Mountains, where the park was littered with trash and people missing teeth.  My careful not looking.  Or her father’s black maid we self-consciously tipped at her father’s suggestion for a week of ironing our jeans, setting out cornflakes and crescents of cantaloupe each morning of our stay.  Fried green tomatoes.  I remember Alexandra and I triple featuring James Bond or a The Planet of the Apes, and drawing her Buddha’s on my desk top of World Religions’ class for her to find next hour.

At the bar on Colorado Boulevard with its live bands, the last to give in to deejays, did Alexandra drink rum and coke or tequila sun rises? My friend, Billy played there.  Would she groupie it with me down the stairs of Billy’s basement and watch him Tommy Bolin his electric guitar?  Did she tote bagels and cream cheese with me as a gift?

Alexandra’s brother, Mike’s band, Harmony Wheel, materializing on the cover of a Denver newspaper.  Alex’s father remarked, “You can’t buy better advertising than that.”   Mike’s chimes clang in my brain.  Mike’s beat.  Mike’s band in the basement. Really good.  A pretty blonde singing at Alex’s mother’s luau. Corny leis. Drinks with umbrellas.  Mike working his mouth as he crisscrossed his drum, listening to some internal angel.  Not there specifically, but somewhere, imprinted on his mind.

I remember my sister stealing Alexandra’s first crush, a smart boy with glasses and 70s hair.   My rapacious need to filch her boyfriend Monte, so I would loom large in her imagination. She remained large in mine.  Monte and I refused to take her home, so we could watch the sunrise, so Cindy bought a van and went with me to California instead.   I moved in with Dino, shrank in her estimation.  I mourned Alexandra’s indifference–for years. More, I missed Alexandra stirring together breakfast cookies: orange juice, oatmeal, eggs and bacon.  Alexandra’s sketchbook–a black woman with Afro sheen. Alexandra too busy for me at chemistry in college, chewing the eraser end of a pencil, developing a jerking tick, more prominent over the years. Alexandra awaiting her growing-marijuana extradition in Texas, getting her medical degree during the wait.  Alexandra meeting her father’s scrutiny over his eyeglasses.  The curve of her calves in blue jeans.  Always sandals.  Or maybe not.  Reading…science fiction. Sunbathing in the backyard, breasty in her bikini from birth control pills, ripped from Taekwondo.   Ignoring me or calling every couple of years.  Her laugh, nervous and familiar, on the end of the phone, Amy?

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