Seven and Five
5 July 2002
Yesterday I got e-mail from an old friend. Well -- I'm not sure she still counts as a friend. I think you have to be dubious about how good a friend you are to anyone if you can't correctly guess which country she currently lives in. But if she wants to make even the briefest and most occasional of efforts, we could be friends again. I think. We have the background for it -- we met at the end of my seventh grade year, her eighth grade year. That's a lot of shared background.
The thing is, the last time I saw this woman on a regular basis was our senior year of high school. I may have seen her since the summer after senior year, but I don't remember it, if I did. The last time I heard from her on a regular basis was our sophomore year of college. That's seven years and five, right there.
(For those of you who are thinking, "Senior year? Didn't you skip a grade in high school?" Yep. But the last year I was there, I took senior classes, went to the senior prom, got senior pictures taken, went to graduation...senior year. Definitely.)
Seven years ago. Five years ago. Hmm. You know, I'm not the sort of person who sees herself as having changed all that much. I still recognize my behavior at the age of four as typical and sensible M'ris behavior, albeit with less data and fewer skills than I have to work from now. But I'm not sure which things other people see as essential to me, and that's where I'm not sure what my old friend will see as a change. Another girl from our high school class was talking to me about her boyfriend during Christmas break of our freshman year of college. She said, "And all of a sudden I realized, oh my God, I'm dating Marissa! Only, you know, with a penis." She evidently decided that she didn't want to spend the rest of her life with me, additional hardware or no, and broke up with the guy. I felt like maybe I ought to have been hurt somehow, but mostly I was just disappointed not to have the chance to meet the guy and find out what she had thought I was like.
Seven years ago my hair came down to my shoulders, and I had it cut regularly, sometimes even by someone who got money for the job. I had just finished reading the Illuminatus! trilogy and the complete works of Ayn Rand and was working my way through Heinlein. I was just playing my first role-playing games. I had finished two novels and destroyed them already, but I had not yet written more than one short story outside of classwork (and none of those since grade school), nor had it occurred to me that I might do so. Seven years ago, I had never lived anywhere but with my parents. I had my first job outside the house, with people who insisted my name was Kathy. There was only one Scott in my life, and I hadn't dated him yet. I spent a good deal more time obsessing about what it would be like when we left for college. I didn't yet know whether I would have a roommate or not, but I'd picked out the fabrics for the quilt my mom was making me to take to college. I thought I might want to do a double major with chemistry so that I could study materials science. There was never any question about my physics major.
Five years ago my hair still came down to my shoulders, but I was about to let it grow (out of benign neglect, not planning). I was discovering the science fiction novels of Ursula LeGuin. I had gotten a little more critical but hadn't yet made my first big leap in ideas about writing. I had started to keep a journal, but it still sounded stilted and public because it had been an assignment for my creative writing professor for the first semester of its existence, and I still hadn't entirely gotten over that incarnation of it. I had been through two years of courses that actually challenged me -- in the physics department, of course. I had started the summer research program at the University of Toledo, and it was not at all as I expected. I still expected that grad school would be entirely different. Mark was an important new name in my life, and Michelle and Heathah had been around for awhile. Jen was just a friend of Heathah's. I had joined The Crowd at college, but I still thought of myself as their tag-along little sister. There were two versions of Scott, but nobody was quite sure how things would be with the original one since we had broken up and I was increasingly serious about Mark. My life still had no thoughts whatsoever of Timprov, C.J., Curt...or any of the rest of a rather long and important list at college, to say nothing of after. I already expected to move to California in two years.
Seven years ago, I had just gotten back from a trip to France and England that included the friend who wrote to me yesterday. We had walked around Stonehenge and Chambord together. Before that...before that, we groused together about one teacher's blatant favoritism (towards me -- it's no easier to be the blatant favorite) and another teacher's overnight essay assignments. We rode around together to do "open lunch" when I had a minute off from newspaper staff. We rode back to school once singing "Daffodil Lament" from the Cranberries' rather new and oh-so-cool "No Need to Argue" album, with our heads halfway out the windows, nearly yodeling the "Look lovelies" in alternation. Before that, her mom wouldn't let her wear heels to high school dances, and I don't think mine would have let me not. Before that, we walked home from high school together with her best friend, always ahead of the boys who threw things at us, tomatoes and cassette tapes and whatever they could find. When one of those boys had a death in the family, a year or two ago, my mom told me about it, and all I could think of was his face all twisted up and sad and his arm still throwing pencils and things. Before that, she told me I absolutely had to take debate class, no ifs ands or buts. Before that -- before that, she was still young enough to think that going to my dad's softball game with my family was a really cool idea.
I would have read the books I read yesterday seven years ago or five years ago, if I'd had them around. I would have snickered at the tragic plight of the Yatwingians in The Northern Crusade, and I would have been fascinated by Flu (which I'm still reading) and read bits of it out to whoever would listen. I would have entirely missed some of the clumsiness in The Thread That Binds the Bones -- Main Character Looks In Mirror, for example, would have gone completely past me. I would still have thought to talk about myself in terms of what I was writing and what I was reading, who I knew and who I loved. I would have filled in the blanks differently, but they would have been the same blanks.
I guess I hope she writes me enough to let me know what her blanks are, and not just how they're filled in.
And the main page.
Or the last entry.
Or the next one.
Or even send me email.