Monday, January 19, 2015

Turning Stones

I'm a big fan of quotes. In high school my best friend even kept a running quote book of things we would hear other people say, or fascinating quotes we would read. When I was thinking of topics to write about I started leafing through quotes on ThinkExist, and I found the following Andre Maurois quote: The first recipe to happiness is the following: avoid too lengthy mediation on the past.

Standing on a stage sharing meditations of my past is what I love to do. I love searching through my garden of memories, turning over stones and finding a story worthy of sharing. It comes naturally to me because it's what I love to do in my everyday life. In this particular case, I should have left the past exactly where it is. 

When I was 6 years old my parents lost our house. We lived in a  little up and coming neighborhood in Colorado Springs and my folks bought their very first new house. With two children they could manage it, financially speaking. Then they had a very unexpected third. Then they couldn't manage it. They went through a very long foreclosure process, and we eventually moved out of our house to a townhome and apartment complex in Littleton. 

It was a charming little complex, despite the rotten neighborhood that surrounded it. I would borrow my older brother's scooter and roll around the complex (I was too scared to ride a bike at the time). I would scoot around and look for places to hide, too shy to introduce myself to the neighborhood children. 

One day as I was scooting through the courtyard I saw a girl who looked about my age playing catch with a small group of boys. This was very odd to me, because girls my age didn't play catch with boys. They didn't play catch at all! They played Barbie, and dress-up and house. I thought she was the coolest girl I had ever seen. I scooted onto the grass and sat by a tree and watched her as she out-threw the boys. I took her in: a gangly girl with dirty blonde, frizzy, shoulder length hair. Her eyes were huge; huge and blue, and her mouth was also huge, with gaps in her teeth from the ones she'd lost. 

She finally approached me, after minutes of my sending psychic messages to her, silently begging her to. She invited me to come play catch with her and her cousins. I told her I didn't really know how to throw that far, and she spent the rest of the afternoon teaching me how to throw, even after her cousins left. It was fast, but I had very quickly found my very first best friend. 

I won't call her by her real name, because it's an extremely unique name, so I'll call her Starla. Starla and I, much like Forrest and Jenny, became like peas and carrots. We spent nearly every waking moment we could together. 

We would walk together to and from school, until her mother pulled her out the the public school we attended and started sending her to a private Christian academy. We would play dress-up using old sheets. We wore pantyhose on our heads and pretended that we had really long pigtails. We made up bad dances to Amy Grant songs. We walked to the nearby Albertson's and would buy $.25 candy, and that was subsequently the same Alberston's where she and I would commit our first and last act of theft (Lipsmackers lip-gloss). We watched Nick at Night with her blind Grandmother and would reenact scenes from the Patty Duke Show. She even helped me shake my fear of learning to ride a bicycle, and with the help of her cousins, taught me how. I hated the days I couldn't see her, especially when she got the chicken pox; so much so that I actually snuck over to her apartment so I could see her, subsequently contracting chicken pox myself. 

Of all our adventures, what I loved the most was our overnights. We spent nearly every weekend spending the night at one-another's place. That was when we would play husband and wife. She was always the husband, and I was always the wife. I don't want to get into the details, because we were little kids. I will say, that of all of the experimental things we did, what I loved the most was when she would hold her fingers up to my lips, and kiss them. If we kissed each other for real it would of course be a sin, but if she put her fingers between us, it was okay. After we "kissed", we would fall asleep holding each other, our legs intertwined. 

Back then I didn't know what to call our friendship beyond just "best friends". There was a deep shared kindred-ship that was completely unspoken. My adoration for her ran beyond just friends. I couldn't name it at the time but reflection in my later years would label it love. She was my first love. 

Our friendship carried on for four years, until quite unexpectedly, Starla's mother decided to move to Greeley. If I had to put it in Washington terms, I think that would be the equivalent of moving from Seattle to Olympia. Now on paper that doesn't sound very far, but in 1990, when a phone call from Littleton to Greeley is considered long-distance and my chief mode of transportation was roller skates, she may as well have moved to Greece. 

I only saw her one more time after that. It was nearly a year later, and I was coming home from church play practice. I walked in the door and my father was standing there waiting for me. He said there was someone in the bathroom who wanted to see me. The door flew open and it was Starla. All I remember was our screams of joy, our arms being thrown around one another, and the feel of her lips as she kissed me on the cheek, without fingers. I only got to see her for a few minutes. She was only in town visiting her cousins and she begged her mother to stop in and say hi to me. 

I never saw her again after that. I was 10 going on 11 at the time. I thought of her a lot throughout my formative years. When at 25 I finally came out, people would ask me, "When did you know you were gay?" I would say I knew when I was six, but I wouldn't dare tell them it was from the first moment I saw Starla. 

Years later my partner at the time and I were planning our wedding. I had told her all about Starla, and I asked her if I should try to find her through MySpace. I had thought about her for so many years, and I just want to know how she is, what she's up to. She had a troubled home life, and more than anything I wanted to know if she followed the same path as me and eventually came out. I searched for her and found her immediately; like I said, she had a very unique name. I wrote her and asked if this is the same Starla who used to live in Canyon Crest apartments. A day later I received a note back from her in all caps, "OH MY GOSH I CAN'T BELIEVE IT'S YOU!!!!!!! CALL MEE!" She left her phone number and I wrote her back saying I would call her that night. 

When I got home I shared with my ex I was finally going to talk to Starla after 18 years, and I was surprised that I was actually scared. I wondered if this was a rock that needed to be turned over, or if I should just let it stay a precious memory. My ex told me to prepare myself, because she might not be out and proud. She might live in a trailer park with 8 kids and be a stringent right wing conservative. I countered that she grew up in a college town, so maybe she's smart and liberal, and has a girlfriend with a hip buzzcut.

When I called her I was shocked by how quickly I recognized her voice. Even though we were adults I could still hear her childlike lisp. The conversation didn't go as I'd hoped. She told me that she had six children. She was engaged to her fifth and sixth child's father. They lived in a trailer park, but they were fixin' to buy a home as soon as he found a job. She paused a lot to yell at the kids, at one point screaming, "If you don't stop bothering your sister you're gonna get a beating with the belt!" She then asked me what I had been up to. 

I told her I had moved to Seattle, and that I was getting married to my partner of three years. She countered with, "Partner? Your business partner?" "Oh no," I said, "My girlfriend...uh, I'm gay." I don't know why I put so much emphasis on gay. I think I needed her to hear it and emphasize to her that I can't believe she wasn't gay. She was my play husband. She initiated everything

There was a long pause after I said gay. All I could hear is the fighting among her children getting louder. She finally responded with, "Oh I see." I couldn't bear the tone in her voice. It was almost as if she had said, "Oh no, this is Summer's worst case scenario." I told her it sounded like she had her hands full, and why don't we talk when she had some spare time. She agreed and said she'd call me back.

The next day on MySpace she disappeared from my friends list and set her account to private. 

Maybe she thought of me over the years too. Maybe she hoped that I didn't end up gay and had lots of kids like her. I think were both equally disappointed in one another. I never reached out to her again, and I of course never heard from her. 

While it's kind of my job to turn over stones to share stories from my past, I have found that some stones are best left in the garden, undisturbed. 

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