Today, arriving in an airport an hour and a half south of me: Monica, for a visit that's been in the making for several years now.
It becomes difficult to explain a friendship when you realize that you can barely remember why you became friends in the first place. A quick bit of mathematics tells me that we were off just a bit when we did some phone calculations the other day; we were fourteen when we met. She might have been fifteen. She had the neatest handwriting I'd ever seen, had far curlier hair than I did, and she knew the worst puns in the world. Loved them. Gloried in them. (All these years later, I still remember the punchline "Kicks are for Trids!" even though I cannot remember the joke itself.)
We lived on opposite sides of the state, and we kept in touch through letters and phone calls. The summer of Governor's School, we met up again.
Many of the things said and done during those six weeks have faded, but one of my sharpest, most distinct memories is of sitting in the alcove behind the laundry room in Raney Hall, where we were both staying. As we waited for our laundry to finish, we talked—of life; of dreams; of moving to places where we could live only to our expectations, and no one else's.
It was there, I think, that we decided to be college roommates.
Looking back, I'm amazed she didn't kill me. I was intellectually ready for college, and had been for some time, but the emotional and social maturity needed to succeed in college wouldn't come to me for several more years.
We lived together for close to year and a half. I accidentally introduced her to Louis, whom she later married. I remained the 'perennially single friend' in our triumvirate until shortly after she moved out, when I met Jeff—whose existence allowed me to finally become the butt of some long-deserved teasing.
I changed schools. She didn't. We both graduated. Sperry (whom Monica shared a room with until they graduated) married Curt shortly thereafter, in Mississippi. A week or two later, Monica and Louis married in northeast Arkansas. A couple of weeks after that, Jeff and I got married in central Arkansas.
We moved on: she to Texas, I to Alabama.
We called and wrote occasionally.
When Dad was diagnosed with cancer, she was one of the people who, instead of stepping back and giving me space, stepped forward. When he died this March, she showed up at the funeral, completely unexpected and unannounced—an act that still brings a lump to my throat even now.
We talked. For hours. Mom asked me afterward how long it had been since we'd seen each other. Nearly four years, I said.
She nodded. Some of her old friends—high school, college—had shown up at Dad's funeral, too. She said something I haven't forgotten since: "Some people, no matter where life takes you, are always going to be like that. You sit down, and no matter how long it's been, you talk until you're caught up."
Today she gets to see the house, and meet the cats. Tomorrow she meets the friends. Catching up will occur.
The week after, Joy and Andrew arrive.
Let the catching up begin.