When I was young, I knew a little girl who loved to draw horses. She was very good at it too: she could draw horses in all kinds of angles and lifelike poses. She was amazing. I learned all my horse-drawing techniques from watching her. To this day, when I occasionally am inspired for some reason to draw a horse, I draw it using the same style she always used. When we were in middle school, we did a group project which involved illustrating page after page of a long storybook about horses. She drew all the horses. My job was mostly to draw backgrounds, and occasionally to color things in. In one frame, I tried to make it look like a horse she'd drawn was casting a horse-shaped shadow, but she disapproved because I didn't do it very well.
When we were even younger, in elementary school, she came to one of my birthday parties, a sleepover. Huddled in her sleeping bag, she sat on the stone hearth in my mother's family room and read aloud to all of us from Watership Down. I will forever associate those rabbits with her, since she introduced me to them.
When we were in high school, she became bitter, withdrawn, and a little "punk". I was quiet and shy....but I still thought of her as my friend, even though we didn't talk much. I do remember that one day she told me, "Go sit by Ann, it'll driver her crazy because she hates you." I spent a full year thinking Ann hated me, until one day I was seated behind her in a class and discovered that she actually did still like me. I still don't know why she'd said that to me, whether it was a joke or meant to hurt -- or both.
When we graduated, we went our separate ways. I'm told in college she came out as a lesbian, and she spent those 4 years even more bitter and angry. To me though, in my head, she remained the little girl who drew horses and read about rabbits at my birthday party. She was a childhood friend.
At my 10-year high school reunion a few years back, I saw her again. I greeted her enthusiastically with a hug. She politely hugged back, but seemed stiff. As I started to ask how she was doing and what she was up to, my attention was distracted momentarily by somebody else. When I looked back at her a second later, she was gone, had walked away without a word.
I guess my memories of our childhoods are very different than hers. But I still think of her sometimes, when I draw horses.