Electric Grandmother

Maggie Croft's Personal Journal young spirit, wire-wrapped
spark electric grandmother
arc against the night

-- Lon Prater
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growing apart

It happens all the time. You have a best friend, and they've been a good friend for years, perhaps, and then they're your best friend, and you're always together, and have a great time together, and then something happens, and all that changes.

I won't give you the real name of my best friend from high school. I will tell you she was incredibly cute, had hair like frosted honey, big brown eyes, and reminded people of a teddy bear.

We had had some great times, and would have a few more, after the night I'm going to tell you about, but not very many.

We were sophomores in high school, and it was the spring of 1992. It had been an incredibly dramatic year for me, and I was ready to be done with it. I was emotionally exhausted from it all, and just wanted to read, write, watch great movies no one else liked, and listen to good music. I wanted to sit in my room and be alone. I wanted to get up in the morning and run the lake across from the house where I grew up. I wanted to watch Sherlock Holmes on Monday nights, and Mystery, which was showing a lot of Sherlock Holmes that A&E hadn't picked up yet, and Masterpiece Theater, which was showing a lot of Jeeves and Wooster.

And then the kicker came.

My best friend was driving me home from some social activity or other late one Saturday night. I remember the dark outside and the headlights veering around Saxophone Curve, just before we hit the turn that would take us to my house. And then seemingly out of nowhere, out of the dark, my friend said something to the effect of "AIDS is a punishment from God for the gays".

I just looked at her. She was a pretty intelligent person. She tried to be logical and not overemotional and dramatic like so many other sixteen-year-olds I knew. How could she honestly believe such a thing? What about all the babies and children and heterosexual people who were killed as a result from AIDS? What about the people who contracted it from blood transfusions? How could this make sense?

I can be a fairly hard person to shock. Earlier that spring I had caught one of my other best friends (male) with my boyfriend. That wasn't much of a shock, just mostly annoying. I've had people share some potentially shocking aspects of their personal lives with me (like sexual activities), expecting to shock me, but not getting very far. But this time, my friend did shock me.

I sat there for quite a while, and then asked what she thought about such factors as AIDS causing deaths of innocents. As I recall she didn't have much of a response.

After that I did hole up. I still spent time with my old friends, but found new friends who were strange and fascinating, and appreciated my taste in books and music. My old friends thought they were nuts -- they were just really different from your average Mini-Cassia area teen.
And I spent a lot of time to myself. My junior year was a much quieter time in terms of my social life, and stranger in terms of my personal and familial life. And then senior year came and I saw less and less of my old friends, and more and more of the me who I have become.

I rarely hear from my best friend from high school, but when she needs me I'm still here. A few years ago she emailed me to tell me she was pregnant with her boyfriend's baby. She asked for advice. I knew her parents. What should she do? I counseled her, and she took my counsel and it went well, it turned out okay. I threw her a baby shower, and my husband met my the parents of my best friend who had been so good to me, and we had a nice time. (My friend's grandmother was shocked. No one had mentioned to grandma that the party was for her granddaughter because he granddaughter was pregnant, by the way.)

And here I am, writing this novel about when life changes and you can't go back, thinking about my friend who believed God had sent this horrible plague that has killed too many people, and I still can't believe it's because He wants to punish gays and lesbians.

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