June 23, 2011

“Don't you know a rumble ain't a rumble without me?”

Trying to start this post feels like jumping into a game of double-dutch with four ropes going all at once. Where do I start? Do I tell you about the first time I met Stefanie? No, because I don’t remember when we met. How about the time she was in the elementary school chorus and would drive us nuts when she repeatedly sang out her lines, “said a lion, a poor neurotic lion”. Or the time she and my sister got into a fist fight at our lemonade stand and she chased her for blocks.

I could go on to tell you about the first time we drank together, after sneaking out of her parents’ house at 3am, and how she took care of my 11-year old sister who puked red wine into a plastic trash bin all night. I’ll never forget the time she brought back a wooden plaque from Ocean City with the inscription, “Best Buddies Forever”.

I could attempt to count the number of times we watched “The Outsiders” and how she cried every single time Dallas died. Or how “Rumble Fish” became the benchmark for how we would live our teenage years. She will forever be Rusty James in my eyes.

I remember how she'd sneak her mom’s car for joyrides well before she had a driver’s license. And how she’d break into the secret candy cabinet and dole out European chocolate to her friends. We’d blast Rush’s “Tom Sawyer” from the stereo, playing air guitar and dancing on the furniture in the “good” living room. The first time we smoked pot she didn’t blink her eyes for 23 minutes and I had to throw water in her face.

One time she almost killed me for not sticking up for her, and she came after me with lightening shooting from her eyes – but hugged me instead of strangling me. Another time she called the boy I had a crush on, pretending to be me because I was a chicken. There was the summer I didn’t talk to her except to make harassing phone calls (I was cruel and will forever be sorry). Another time monsters chased us at Parkwood Elementary as we were peaking on acid. One night I had to rush her boyfriend to the hospital to get stitches in the side of his head after she threw a beer bottle at him. Then I didn’t hear from her for years, except in other people’s tales…

The stories are endless and legendary, some hilarious and others terrifying. The thing is, through the ups and downs, I’ve always adored Stefanie like a blonde-haired, green-eyed sister. We played together, partied together, wrote music together and dreamed like no other girls in Kensington dreamed – together. We’ll always be dreamers. Together.

It had been ten years since our last hug goodbye, but tonight felt as though no time or distance had passed between us. As we bid farewell I realized it’s a phenomenon we’re still alive. It’s a blessing the bitterness between us has sweetened. I’m grateful to know such a strikingly beautiful, deeply complicated and insanely compassionate woman.

The two ladies featured in Exhibit 1A and 1B are walking miracles.

Exhibit 1A

Exhibit 1B

Keep writing. It saves lives.