Travel (never together, as it turned out) was so much a part of our lives and reminscences, so I imagined myself this past week standing alone on a train platform holding a suitcase full of comically poor decisions and thousands of random memories, inside jokes and stories over countless days and years spent together. What am I supposed to do with this suitcase now? It's too heavy to carry by myself. I'm surprised how vulnerable I feel. There was obviously more dependence for me than I realized and I think she was in touch with that fact more than I was. She was an authority about me. She knew me long before my internal Captain Picard issued the order for shields up. She was the friend that sat with me the night before my wedding and asked the bold best-friend question, "...are you sure?" (I was), she was the friend who didn't pooh-pooh my insecurities and without judgment or drama told me to get over myself lots of times, she was the friend who held my parents accountable for their crap because she was there, too. In summary, she was one of those friends who probably cared more about me than I care to care about myself.
I was the jester over our life together and I loved the sport of undoing her against her will. I would pepper her like a pitching machine on its highest setting, throwing jokey balls relentlessly until she succumbed to my comedic strong arm. She would tell me to stop and try to get us back on track with whatever we were doing, or discussing, but I was relentless because it was simply fun to make her dissolve into laughter. We spent thousands of hours alone together for good or bad of the universe. We ate our weights in raw cookie dough and tore up the Franklin Institute more than any two kids in Philadelphia. As young adults we crossed paths lots and as middle-agers settled a thousand miles away from each other, we fell into the regular calls and occasional visits of adulthood. There was certainly no danger of losing touch and it was comforting just knowing she was out there. And if there is tangible proof of her artistry in my life, it is the tapestry of friends she crafted thirty years ago, one that I still carry with me today.
What is so powerful about childhood friendship? I have no other explanation than it has got to be love. Clearly Facebook appreciates that power and has built an empire upon it. Is it imprinting when the brain and the heart are uncluttered? Or is it the access to a powerful filter, which gets gummed up as we age, that bypasses all the insecurity and duty and "shoulds" and bullshit that constitute too many relationships in adulthood and instead sifts and sorts for the very essence of real connection with another person? Kids zero in efficiently, looking past failings and imperfections and even logic if it feels right. I think some childhood friendships, romances even, are matches-made-in-heaven that get broken by mere physical distance or a perception that diverging paths means having to say goodbye. Karen and I obviously chose to reject the conventional drifting our separate ways, but we've reached a fork in the road abruptly and I wasn't prepared. I miss her terribly. I'll be standing here awhile trying to figure out which way to go without her.