I drove up to Santa Barbara by myself, for a change. High school reunion—the first I’ve ever been to, but not the first my friends have been to and it’s only because of Tdoll and Ddazzle and our nearly life-long history that I left my sweet little family in our heated valley, trading bathtime and storytime and lullabies for a chance to mingle with people I haven’t seen in over 20 years, at the only honky-tonk-ish, country joint Santa Barbara posseses, I think. I was surprised to remember so many souls—and have them remember me—considering I took the GED in 10th grade, passed and fled straight to the local city college. Only one reunioner queried me about this fleeing. He was polite and embarrassed as he posed his questions. What he didn’t know was that I was prepared for anything that evening and attending the reunion on my terms, which was simply to be myself—mother, wife, writer (never in that order) interested in how others are faring as we all experience what inevitably happens to every single person on this planet—aging. And I was grateful for the chance to dance with my friends. I lost touch with Tdoll and Ddazzle for a weird little white-space of time. Never again. Wow, I’m so sorry, honey, the reunioner said, his face concerned. Hey, man, I responded, squeezing his shoulder. Thank you, but everything I went through to get to this point? It’s okay. All is well. He gave me a hug.
Ddazzle was out of this world crazy with stress and pressure and she drank way over any limits and talked and raged and I was so happy to be there with her in that strange honky tonk joint, to wipe the tears from her face, whoop at her whoopings, scream-sing My Sharona with her, or whatever Van Halen the DJ played for us that evening (not a country song in sight), and join her at the bar, the wrinkles in her forehead resting against the wrinkles in mine as she confessed the torture. We got a few looks, but all I felt was, So what! Let her be. We’re all old enough to comprehend the surprise visits of world-shattering-freakiness. Hello? How freaky is a school reunion! Look around. We’re all different, we’re all the same. Accept it. Get over it. Be real.
Ddazzle became my best friend in elementary school. I can say with certainty that she is not the type to lie listless in a glass coffin, waiting for a kiss. She would have snatched the apple from the witch’s claws and hurled it into the magical distance, yelling FETCH BITCH as she shoved the crone off the doorstep. Marching into the forest, she would have bellowed for her prince to hurry the hell up because she had plans that needed a forest fire lit under them…It’s not always easy to live with your huge, dazzling heart on your sleeve…I turned to tell the local Norm to please stop pulling on my arm and asking me to dance, that I wasn’t going to dance with him, ever, sorry, that he must move on, and when
I turned back, Ddazzle was on her knees on top of the bar saying something I couldn’t catch to the two hipster lady bartenders. Their eyes were riveted on my friend. With a jolt of surprise (and relief) I realized they were listening to her. Whatever she said touched them, because they didn’t yell at her to get off the bar. The bored expressions they’d had on their faces all night as they obliged drink requests cracked—they laughed. They got her. And just like that, in true Ddazzle style, my princess with the lungs of a cheerleader and a Farrah Fawcett smile, had fans. That’s right, I thought, assisting her back down to the cheesy barstool. Right on. She was scream-laughing, rocking the stool so violently its legs thumped the wood floor. I placed my hands on her knees, anchoring her just a little. Fuuuuuuuck, she said, wiping her eyes with the backs of her hands. Have you written about me yet?