book, story, volume six

Alice

Photo Illustration

“Where are we going? I’ve never been down this way before…”

“When you’re in class do you understand what’s going on?”

“Yes. … When the teacher asks a question I’m usually the first one with my hand up.”

“Yeah – but do you really understand what’s happening? I’m just wondering if you’re slow… because right now you don’t seem to understand what’s going on. We are going down the 15. The 15 is another way to San Diego.”

Mortified and hurt I sat quietly. I didn’t know that Temecula was not along the 5.

The girl intent on making me feel like a fool was my best friend Alice.

Alice and I became friends at a time when my heart was aching and raw. My long-time boyfriend had just left me. Every waking moment was like being lost in a cold, isolated tundra. Tears were always waiting behind my eyes. Weekdays were filled with the business of school and work, but I couldn’t bear weekends alone.

Alice was in the same situation. We were drawn together in our love losses and in our quest for new lives and happiness. Every weekend we had plans. We talked, we texted, we messaged, all the things people do to communicate through their electronic leashes. Every weekend were lunches, dinners, 5ks, baseball games, or on wilder whims San Diego or Las Vegas. We were two young single gals with nothing to lose. Every weekend whatever she proposed I embraced. I wanted to be a friend she wanted to have. I went from one codependent relationship to another.

This particular weekend we were on a pilgrimage to see the Dodgers take on the Padres – but first we were stopping to do a little tasting.

At winery after winery, we sampled cheese and made small talk. But when we decided to have lunch she was annoyed. “There’s nothing you can eat,” she said bitterly.

At this point I had been a vegetarian for roughly a month and I had no inclination to stop. Before my change to the veg life I was the biggest omnivore of them all. My favorite meal was steak (medium rare) and eggs. I lived for Vienna hot dogs, and Spam was always in my cupboard. Part of what Alice and I bonded over was all the delicious things we ate in the past and all the wonderful things we would eat in the future. Ordering meat was over now. Being vegetarian means reading the menu more carefully, and maybe asking the waiter to clarify an ingredient or two.

After this wine excursion we traveled on to our room in San Diego proper. We checked in, dropped our bags, and made haste to Petco Park. We arrived at the stadium after the National Anthem. Then Alice realized she forgot her sweater. We grumpily speed-walked to the hotel and back. After we settled in, none of the stadium food was to her liking. We made no conversation between innings. I would have had more fun if I had listened to the whole thing on the radio at home. After the game, we stopped at a restaurant before trekking back to the room. After I ordered the soup, she said, “See! You can’t eat anything!”

Later, in the quiet of the room I shared with someone I had to this point thought of as my best friend – the day sunk in. I felt like I was on vacation with my mom.

The next morning before getting on the road, we needed gas.

“Here, use my GPS to find a gas station.”

The device showed a station two blocks away. As she was filling up she was angry that the gas station I “chose” was so expensive.

The ride home used to be the best part of the trip. We would stop for one last San Diego dessert before getting on the freeway. I would wildly sing along to ABBA and Cher; we would gossip and reminisce as we cruised along the beautiful 5.

Today: Silence. Two and a half hours of crushing, judgmental silence. When we arrived at my house I grabbed my things and we said “bye.” No cheery wave before I headed inside. No waiting to make sure I had my house key.

How do you say “I don’t want to be friends any more?”

We quietly drifted apart. We avoided each other on social media. I had no intention of running after her. When my ex-boyfriend left me I begged him to stay; he was making a mistake; we needed to be together. I was alone and clung to Alice because alone was too cold. Finally, after time journaling and reading relationship books, I felt ready to be who I am.

Years have passed since she drove away from my mom’s house leaving me to fumble with my luggage and souvenir wine glasses. I don’t live at mom’s house anymore. I live with a nice fellow, and our life is quiet and happy.

Every six months or so she reaches out to me. Our attempts to “catch up” usually consist of her slighting me and my wondering why I even bothered.

Like having drinks with your high school guidance counselor.

I know she reaches out because she cares; I let her reach out because I care.

I’m not sad that we aren’t as close as we used to be; I’m just glad that there was a time that we were.