A friend of mine told me a story over the weekend. She was an ice skating teacher while in college, and she had no car. On one particularly cold and miserably wet day, she was slugging through icy slush to the campus rink, feeling her feet grow numb. A few minutes after she arrived, one of her students arrived holding two cups of coffee. The student gave her one cup saying, "I drove by you walking to the rink, and you looked so cold, so I bought you some coffee."
My friend thankfully accepted the warm drink, even though she doesn't generally drink coffee..... but in her head she was wondering, "Why didn't she just stop and offer me a ride instead?"
Yesterday, while bored at a meeting, I drew a clumsy sketch of a horse's head on my meeting agenda. I've always liked horses, even though I'm not that great at drawing them.
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When we were in high school, she became bitter, withdrawn, and a little "punk".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.