Before Breast Cancer, I actively avoided all forms of social media.
I am more than a little chagrined to have embraced it now so totally. It's been interesting to reconnect with old friends.
I mostly lost touch with my childhood friends and my mother's family after puberty. We all went our separate ways, moving, going to a different schools and otherwise evolving. Some stand out - Brenda, Lolly, Kim, Joy and Denise.
Circa 1980, Denise is one of my best friends. We are very close. She seems to possess everything I want - a pretty normal, intact family, a lovely home with air conditioning and cable television, the best clothes, latest records, makeup and spending cash. She has no siblings to compete with and is somewhat spoiled. While she is pretty and thin, she's not beautiful. She knows it, and constantly laments her freckles and nose. She is adopted and cannot get over this ultimate rejection of her birth parents. She uses it against her adopted ones like a sword and they give in to her constantly. I happily enjoy some of these spoils with her, but secretly scorn her seeming ungratefulness. These people went through mountains of bullshit to adopt her, and they love her and give her whatever she wants. Denise's parents are not perfect, but they are solid and steady. They each drink one beer a night with dinner and that's it for substance abuse. There is no drama, other than what Denise creates. I think she is a very lucky girl.
We go through many tumultuous, pivotal moments together - puberty itself, my parent's divorce; smoking marijuana and drinking beer in the woods near my house; skipping school; dating; losing our virginity. I have pictures from the trip her folks took us on the now defunct River Country at Disney. We are achingly young, sunburned, smiling and happy.
Things change. Denise is more willing to push the envelope where drug experimentation is concerned. I'm scared to be around that, and the sketchy fuckers involved. Little by little, we lose touch. I only hear of her exploits through the grapevine - she's overdosed on something, she's attempted suicide, she's acting strangely. She chases one boy in particular with manic devotion. He of course, uses and discards her harshly. For revenge, she ends up with his unattractive, hard-partying cousin, who treats her like garbage and cheats constantly.
The last time I see Denise is at the Trail Drive Inn. She is there with the cousin and his crew. They all seem like bad news and way too old to be hanging with teenagers. Denise is uncharacteristically joyful and beaming. She tells me that she is pregnant and to marry the cousin. She is 16.
I possess my own self-destructive tendencies, but cannot comprehend her decision. So I tell her what I think - that she's crazy. What about that fully paid college that her folks have planned? She laughs it off, unperturbed by my genuine concern.
Over the years, I've often thought of her. I was pleased to find her on social media, looking good and healthy, and pursuing a career in natural medicine. It looked like she got through it all, and wound up in a good place, feeling like she belonged.
I'm happy for her, until I click the next link. It shows her mugshot from last year, apparently when attempting to purchase Heroin a few days before Christmas. It's wrenching. Her hair is messed and neglected, showing much gray. Her eyes are empty and resigned.
I don't search for any more links. It's better to remember her at River Country, jumping off slides and running with me on the rope ladders, our 13 year-old bodies strong and untouched by intoxicants. Or at Disney while her dad tirelessly taking our pictures as we model our sunburned faces and Mickey Mouse shirts. Singing along to REO Speedwagon in her room, a cool oasis in the middle of a sweltering summer. Putting on our first make-up together and picking out Sergio Valente jeans at the Big Apple.
I'm a lucky girl.