Muddy

The first day of eighth grade, I met a girl who liked the Beatles. She sang and played the piano and had a huge peace frog sticker on the back of her wheelchair. She was way too cool to be friends with me. One day I found myself standing in the lunch line next to her and we started talking about Obama and how we wished we could vote and how nice it was to finally meet another liberal. She said she had thought I was too cool to be friends with her. One year later, I found myself sharing a locker with her in high school.

Hey this is Anna, new phone number. So I was just ruminating… and I was thinking about how you said on awards night that I had changed your life.

I remember this one time we were waiting for my mom to pick us up after most people had gone home. We lay on the soccer field in the 4 p.m. sunlight and talked about boys and grades and gay rights. Some guy had made a joke about cripples earlier that day. She had laughed. I didn’t think it was funny. With her eyes watching the fairy dust clouds, she told me that she didn’t either.

She was a good listener. I always wanted to tell people things, but I never thought they wanted to hear. She wanted to hear. Her expectant brown eyes would watch me and I would tell her everything, even the parts I didn’t want to tell. Everything seemed to bubble over when I was around her. I always felt a little bit empty afterwards, like nothing was mine anymore. But I couldn’t stop my soul from spilling out of my mouth into her cupped hands.

I wasn’t sure how to respond at the time, but you know, I can say the same about you. It’s funny, you are one of the few people who I really think I ever felt completely connected to and totally understood. That doesn’t happen with most people.

We called them “Feet-in-the-Mud Moments.” It was because one time it had rained and we went outside and sat and talked with our feet in the mud. I hated that we called it that. Feet-in-the-Mud Moments were when we said everything that was bugging us about each other. It was meant to clear the air, but we always just ended up hurting each other and choking on quiet anger. I hated that such a purely happy moment as squishing one’s toes in new mud was used to describe such a stifling experience.

We were really similar. Both of us were used to 4.0 GPA’s and being called hippies. But sometimes she got a B, and I would feel a horrible little jab of pride for doing better than she did. And sometimes I got a B, and I hated her a little bit because I knew that she too felt that jab of pride. She wanted me to cut my long hair, said I would look cute with layers. I think it’s because she had layers and because I sometimes tried to make her feel less genuine for dressing more conventionally than I did.

I called her one day in January, or maybe she called me. She had asked me the week before, Are we friends? And I hadn’t known how to answer. I don’t think we should be best friends anymore, she said over the phone. I don’t either, I said. Maybe it will be better if we don’t have to be so close. I think so too, she said. I had already changed my locker, and I didn’t share the grades I got on my math tests with her anymore.

I’ve actually been thinking a lot about you here, wondering how college is going. Anyway, I guess I was in a reminiscing mood tonight. Hope this random text finds you doing well. How is life?

That wasn’t the end. There were still two and a half years left at the little high school we went to. We couldn’t avoid each other. We sometimes did projects together and we sometimes wondered where we had gone wrong together. I watched her laugh when the guy she liked asked if he could call her “Hotwheels.” I knew that she would shut herself in her room later and wipe runny mascara off her face when she was called for dinner. And I knew that no matter how many times she washed her hands, a little bit of my soul would forever be stuck under her fingernails.

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