I was running absurdly late for work yesterday, made all the more unreasonable by the fact that I decided not to take a shower in the morning. I intended to restart my gym routine this week and I would, of course, take a shower after my workout. I needed to get to work earlier so I could go to the gym. I piddled around the house a little bit due to the “extra time” I thought I had allowed myself by not showering first. And then a few minutes after I ate my breakfast, I started getting that feeling. You know the one. The one we don’t discuss in polite society… woops. The one that says, You are never going to make it out of the house without a stop by the porcelain throne, first. Dammit!
All the “extra time” I had allotted myself was suddenly gone, and I was very late! Now I’m not even going to be able to justify time away from work to go to the gym! Major Planning Fail!
I was standing in front of the mirror, working on my now arduous oral hygiene regime when I got a text on my iPhone from a 918 phone number:
918 Phone Number, 9:45 AM: Hey Kevin!!!! Guess who?!
Waiting waiting waiting…..(Jeopardy Theme)
Clue: been friends since 1992
I had a feeling I already knew, only I thought I had a cell phone number for this person. I thought I had a cell phone number for everyone in Tulsa that I cared to interact with. There are other people in the 918 that I wish not to interact with ever again and so I didn’t want to reply blindly.
I texted the number to my mother to find out if it was a number she recognized. Mom confirmed the identity and I realized the number I had for this person was one digit off.
I waited a while to reply. I needed to finish getting ready and get to work and I didn’t need a conversation with anyone to slow me down.
Me, 11:28 AM: Hey Amber! How’s it going? Been a while!
Her: Hey! Good! Congragts on EMT!!
Me: How’d you know that?
Her: Haha…..I’m watching you…..don’t look over your shoulder…..
Me: That would be impressive. There’s a 23rd floor window over my shoulder. With closed blinds.
Her: Ha! I had to e-mail your mother to see if you were still alive!!! Lol.
How the story tracks from “to see if you were still alive” to “Congrats on EMT” I do not know.
Amber and I became friends in 1992 when we both worked in the grocery store in my mother’s back yard. I’ve mentioned this before. There used to be a big empty field behind our house and then they built a grocery store there.
I swore at the time that I had met Amber somewhere before, but neither of us could figure out where. To this day, it seems like I had to have already known her (though, to be honest, my impression is that we weren’t friendly. I thought she was a snob, and in fact didn’t talk to her for a while at work because of it) but who knows.
One summer evening, I had gone to the store to pick up my pay check and Amber was just getting off work. I ran into her in the magazine aisle as she was heading back to the staff lockers to get her purse. We chatted for a little while and it came up that we were both hungry. Amber had a car and I had money burning a whole in my pocket (nothing new about that) so I convinced her that she should drive us to my favorite (no longer in existence) restaurant and I would buy her dinner.
We found that we had a lot in common at the time; at least enough to build a friendship on. We started hanging out regularly on weekends. She would drive and I would pay. We became good friends.
Amber is two years older than I, and at the end of the summer she started classes at Oral Roberts University and I started my Junior Year at Broken Arrow Senior High School. Our friendship continued and we hung out many week-ends and talked on the phone all the time. It occurs to me now, Amber was probably the only person with whom my mother never rushed me off the phone.
Amber is beautiful and very flirtatious and never wanted for guys attention. Eventually she told me about a guy who was asking her out. She told me she really wasn’t all that into him but she was going to go anyway. That seemed strange to me, but then what do I know about relationships. I said nothing. A while later, I was on the phone with Amber one day and she told me that she was “going steady” with this guy and that we couldn’t be friends anymore because he didn’t think it was right for her to spend time with another guy when she was “with” him. I told her that was stupid, we had been friends for a while, I was here first and she didn’t even like him all that much. I told her it was her loss.
A couple of weeks later she called me and told me I had been right and that she wasn’t going to see him any more. I told her this was the only time I was going to take her back after being dumped for a boyfriend. She promised never to do it again, and she didn’t.
A while later Amber met Brian, a handsome, brilliant, multi-talented, disgustingly self-confident man who fell head over heals in love with her the minute he laid eyes on her. Amber’s biggest complaint about Brian was that he wasn’t jealous of our relationship. A few months before I moved to California, they were married, have been together ever since and have three children together.
In college Amber studied Physical Therapy and she was all about physical fitness and nutrition even though she never struggled with her weight a day in her life. She even joined Weight Watchers even though she was thin. I used to resent that attitude, but now I understand it better. Despite getting her degree, she hasn’t worked a day in her adult life. She’s a stay at home wife and mother and her brilliant husband makes more than enough money that she’ll never have to think twice about that lifestyle choice.
When I moved to California I used to communicate regularly with Amber by way of instant messenger programs. I enjoyed implementing these tools to stay in touch with people I cared about while I was working. Though there is only a two-hour time difference, by the time I get home from work and get settled in and have dinner, it is too late to call people back “home” even if I were so inclined, which I’m really not. I’m not a phone person. So using Instant Messenger to talk during the waking hours was a nice treat.
The problem was, Amber usually initiated our conversations and they were usually about nothing. She would sit for hours typing messages to me while I was trying to work and they were about things like recipes and her workout that day and how she’d just found out there were x number of calories in y food item. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to talk to her, I just didn’t have time for meaningless rambling while I was trying to work. I started ignoring her messages and then pretending I had been away from my desk while she was typing and “Oh so sorry I didn’t see all that!” lying.
We drifted. A few times I tried to have deep, personal conversations with her and she just blew them off and diffused them with her idea of humor. We drifted more.
Several years ago I began having conflict with my mother. Amber has known my mother for years, but she know’s the mother that outsiders are allowed to know, not the mother that her children know. One day, Amber asked me if I had any plans to come back for a visit any time soon. Up until then I had always made time for Amber and Brian when I came to town. I told her I really didn’t have any plans and didn’t really know when I would because I was no longer on good terms with my mother and I couldn’t see myself coming to visit her, maybe never again.
The appropriate response to that would have been sympathy for a friend. Curiosity about what could have gone so terribly wrong and why I might never want to visit my mother again. Understanding for how hard parent-adult child relationships can be.
Her response? “Don’t say that! As a mother it hurts me to hear a child talk about not talking to their mother. You don’t have kids so you can’t understand…”
Few things in this world piss me off more, or faster than, “You don’t have ____, so you can’t understand” or “You aren’t ____, so you can’t understand.” It just belittle’s the person’s intelligence and it’s not a valid argument for anything. We drifted some more.
A few years ago, an e-mail was making the rounds. By today’s blogging terms I suppose it would be a “meme”. It was one of those, replace-my-answers-to-these-questions-with-your-answers-and-forward-this-to-all-your-friends-and-back-to-me, blah, blah, blah e-mails. One of the questions on the e-mail was about how many piercings you have.
When I left Oklahoma, I had one ear pierced. Interestingly, right now, I can’t remember which one it was. Several years ago now, my friend Heather
begged, bullied, convinced me to get the other ear pierced stating that times had changed and it was no longer trendy to wear only one ear ring. She promised that it was not a statement about one’s sexuality. I hadn’t yet worked out my issues and I cared a great deal about that fact. When I completed the e-mail and sent it out to my friends (and my sister) I simply answered the question honestly.
“How many piercings do you have?”
“Just my ears”.
I wondered if anyone would notice or comment. Amber’s response? “So what?!? Are you gay now?” Coming from the private school, good-little-Christian-girl background that I know she does, I automatically interpreted the tone as being derogatory and insulting (I still do). We drifted completely.
In contrast to that, over the years Amber has asked me repeatedly, almost obsessively about my love life. “Do you have a girlfriend yet?” “Why don’t you have a girlfriend?” “Don’t you want to have a girlfriend?” “When are you going to get a girlfriend?” “You need a woman.” Somewhere inside me, every time she asked these questions I knew the answer, I just couldn’t face it and I sure as hell couldn’t tell her. Her incessant prying combined with my own internalized shame only served to make me resent her for pushing. I always answered her tersely and she just laughed it off as thought it were nothing. She never could take the hint that this was something she ought not ask me about.
We exchanged text messages as conversation for about 15 minutes when she finally asked:
Her: OK- so- do you have a woman yet??
I waited several minutes to answer. I wanted to tell her the truth, but– well, there is no but. I was scared. Plain and simple.
Me: What are you? My grandmother? Would you like to pinch my cheeks and talk about my punum too? No. No woman.
She waited nearly twenty minutes to respond. I wondered if she’d finally gotten the message and was leaving the topic alone. I wondered if she was considering the possibilities and going to ask me, again, if I was gay “now”. I made up my mind to answer her honestly if she asked. I wondered if she had gotten her feelings hurt and was pouting in silence as she was prone to do. And then she replied.
Her: hee hee hee. Oh well, just checking.