Sunday, December 6, 2009

Girls, interrupted.

Recently, I've been thinking about a girl I used to be friends with.

Breaking up with a girl friend can be just as hard, if not worse, than breaking up with a boyfriend. Girls fight differently; they fight dirty. When guys fight with one another, they usually apologize quickly, forgive quickly, move on. When girls fight, they don't use fists or violence. They use words, the pain of which can sting twice as hard and last thrice as long. They know what to say to cut to the heart, and they use it. I sometimes catch myself doing this with Monster, a flaw of which I'm not at all proud. In the heat of my anger, I say things that hurt, deeply, and I know it. Things that, if Monster were to ever say back to me, would lodge themselves like a splinter in my heart and take a long time, if ever, to dissolve. Words are my greatest weapon, and, like most girls, I know how to use them.

I first saw this girl performing with a swing group at my school. She lit up center stage with her grace and her energy, every movement radiating her passion for dance. I loved watching her. One year later, after taking dance classes and going out social dancing, I tried out for that same swing group and got in. I was lucky to get in, having never danced in my life before college; the other girls who tried out had experience learning choreography and had taken jazz/ballet classes before, and it showed. They knew how to move their bodies, how to control their movements with grace. I stuck out painfully when I came to the group's rehearsals. I was the worst dancer of all the girls, and I knew it. Everyone did. During all the peer review sessions, I was the only one who was constantly given suggestions for improvement. The other girls in the group ignored me for the most part, or else they were cordial to me during rehearsal and forgot about me when they left the rehearsal room.

But this girl, she took me under her wing and decided to help me. Later on, I learned that she was the only one of the girls who stood up for the decision to accept me into the group; while all the other girls preferred to take dancers with more experience, she could tell how much I wanted to dance, and fought for the chance to give me that opportunity. She liked me, and we clicked. She stayed late to help me refine moves, and it turned out she was talkative and quick to share. I absorbed her stories eagerly, grateful that someone I looked up to so much would take such an interest in me; confide in me, even. And just like that, we became friends. She told me about bad dates with boys, and I set her up on a blind date with someone she had a great time with. I nestled chocolate-covered strawberries from my dorm cafeteria into a box on Valentine's Day and left them outside her door with an anonymous card, hoping she'd find them and think a boy left them for her. But she heard me rustling around outside and opened the door, inviting me into her room, where we chatted about our lives--the best way to spend my Valentine's Day that I could think of.

During the two years that we were in the group together, she became my idol and my mentor, both on and off the dance floor. She had many qualities that weren't so admirable, to be sure, but I overlooked them all. In my eyes, she could do no wrong. She taught me to be such a good dancer that she felt comfortable leaving her group in my hands. When she left the dance group, leaving me in charge, I wept with fear at what we would become without her in it. I didn't trust myself to continue what she'd started. Mainly, I dreaded her not being a constant presence in my life. I mentioned her name constantly while leading group rehearsals, thinking that in this way, her presence could continue to be a significant one within the group.

That last year was the hardest one of my life, and she was there for me. One of the things I loved about her was how willing she was to speak her mind, no matter what, where, or to whom. When I started dating one of the boys in the group, I confided in her that he made me feel something I hadn't felt in a long time. That I thought he might be someone I could fall in love with. When I found out that he'd been seeing his ex-girlfriend behind my back, it shattered me and my stupid, naive heart. My friend--let's call her SC for anonymity purposes--was the first one I cried to. She stepped up to take the bat for me, marching into the middle of our dance rehearsal, whereupon the sight of her filled me with relief and broke me down in tears. I left the room, and found out later that she'd humiliated him in front of everyone, made him confess what he'd done to me, made him break down in tears at the way he'd treated me and his overall degrading view of women. That wasn't the first time she'd stuck up for me, summoning a voice to speak out for what I couldn't. What I wouldn't. When another girl in the group was giving me a hard time, I confided to her about it, and she called the girl up to give her a piece of her mind, starting the conversation off with, "You might want to sit down for what I'm about to say to you." When it took me longer than it should to get back on my feet, she baked cakes (with strawberries and sweet cream, and a crust that crumbled on my tongue) and left slices in Tupperware outside my window. She called me and emailed me constantly and, when I was too depressed to reply, showed up at my door and threatened to drag me out of my room if I didn't let her know how I was doing. I would have slipped into anonymity, if it weren't for her.

She was there for me during my highest and my lowest, as I was there for hers--her lowest, to be sure, and there by her side looking at bridal dresses when she got engaged to her first love.

In the end, it was Monster who came between us. Because Monster used to be friends with the boy who broke my heart, she was convinced that Monster was a bad guy too, that he would inevitably break my heart. She was convinced, and nothing would change her mind. "He's different," I would say, begging her to reconsider. "I know he would never do these things to me. I know I've been naive before, but this time I've learned. Promise." But nothing would sway her opinion. We joined a different dance group together, and every time I saw her, she would make snide remarks about Monster, remarks that hurt me as if they had been made about me. "Stop," I pleaded, but she didn't. "Can't you see how happy we are?" I asked, and she would reply, "It won't last long."

I wondered how someone who was truly my friend wouldn't be able to give Monster a chance, especially when he had finally made me happy in a way that I hadn't ever been. After one rehearsal, when she'd gone off about Monster for quite a long time, I pleaded with her one more time to stop, and she wouldn't. I won't go into detail about how things blew up between us, but they did. We both had tempers that were larger than us, especially when it came to the people we loved. It was Monster I loved, and it was me she loved, and we were both relentless in our decisions to protect the ones we loved. Silly, I know, but heartbreaking nonetheless. We said things to each other that cut deep, that were irreversible, that I typed out in a fury and pressed "Send" and felt relieved and horrified about all at once. Monster held me in his arms and I sobbed like I had lost a part of me. Which, in fact, I had.

I knew that I was put in a position where I had to choose between her and Monster, and I knew that it would be Monster. For a long while I thought I would never get over the pain of losing her, who I loved and idolized so much. Like a breakup between a girlfriend and boyfriend, our "mutual" friends took sides, too. One friend in particular, who I thought was my friend, who I thought would be decent enough to at least listen to my side of the story, decided to side with SC. She told me she found me lacking in my ability to maintain relationships, a statement which hurt at the time but which I now laugh at because of her own failure when it comes to keeping guys around. Listen, I have nothing against single ladies, and I know how hard it is to find a good guy, let alone hold on to one. But if you're going to talk the talk, well then you'd better walk the walk, sister.

Anyway. I quit the dance group we both belonged to, knowing that I couldn't handle the pain of seeing her on a weekly basis. (Ironically, my so-called "friend" who sided against me criticized me for having such a shallow reason to leave the group. Less than a year later, she too got into a fight with SC, quitting the group for the same reason. Like I said--walk the walk before you talk the talk, SISTER.) Anyway. After the raw anger and the hurt of betrayal subsided, I just missed her. I missed not being able to confide in her. I missed being able to dance with her. To watch her dance, as I had for so many years. I missed her, plain and simple. But after the things we'd said to one another, I didn't see any way of reconciling.

A few months later, she sent me an email apologizing for the things she'd said. Reading that email, it was like the proverbial weight off my shoulders had been lifted, and I could breathe easier. I wrote her back with my own apology, letting her know that she had been, and always would be, my hero. In the end, I decided that we could never really go back to the way we were before. And I would never really feel comfortable letting her know about my life with Monster, who she was so unwilling to accept as a part of my life. But I still miss her every once in awhile, and I have been recently. I still remember the things she did for me, how she took me under her wing, how she spoke up for me when I lacked the strength to, how it was from her that I really learned how to dance.

If you ever read this, SC, I want you to know that I wasn't lying about you being my hero. And that if you ever need me to, I'll always step up to take the bat for you.

No comments: