Thursday, September 8, 2011

Old School blast from the past

I received an actual letter in the mail today. Honestly, I can't remember the last time that happened.  Yes, I've received the odd Thank You card (generally from the delightful Heather J, such excellent manners!) and birthday cards and such, but a letter?  Really, that is a rare occurrence, indeed.

Of course the letter was from Margot, Margot my best friend made at San Francisco State University in 1981-82.  We met in a general elective Speech class.  I'd already noticed her earlier that day in the bookstore.  I liked her shoes -- black Capezios -- and her hair.  She was a weirdo like me, back in the days when there were weirdos.  [PS I know that I just said on Facebook that I was making a new vow not to say I was too old for stuff.  But I never said I was vowing not to look back on my youth as The Coolest Time Ever, which honestly, it was.]

Funny that just this weekend I was looking at a box of stuff from Margot, not just letters we wrote each other when she moved back to LA, then to Copenhagen, back to LA, then back to SF, then Missouri and Oklahoma, etc.  Also poems she wrote and gave me, poems we collaborated on, drawings she did, notes we passed in class.  I was just looking at the box and wondering whether I would keep its contents much longer, whether they are one of those things I need to let go of, burn ceremonially in a bucket in the yard.  [I can no longer burn things in our fireplace, since we removed the grate and stuck an aquarium in its place.  The gecko would not appreciate the flames.]

I think of Margot quite a bit.  We were best friends at a time in our lives when those bonds go deep.  Two of her paintings hang in my house in the two rooms in which I spend most of my time -- the living room and our bedroom.

She and I were pregnant at the same time.  During our last trimester, we even shared a zip code, 94132, way out in the foglands near State.  Her son was born two weeks after The Kid, and we got to be young mothers together for the short period of time that she remained close-by.  Watching her eat while pregnant, I remember being stunned at the quantity of food she could put away -- two burritos in one sitting, I sh*t you not -- this same person who used to survive on popcorn and an apple, even during the brief time she was a bike messenger.

I always loved her sense of style, her confidence, her sense of humor and outlook.  But as happens, we drifted apart.  I think the last time I saw her, she came to our house for a visit.  I remember feeling so self-conscious about our place -- wishing we had somewhere nicer to receive guests -- and feeling a little awkward.  It's so funny to try and layer the present presence of a person over the memory of a person.  After so long of only having an idea of this friend, then boom, there she was in the flesh.  Such a funny adjustment, to make room for the real thing.

It isn't unusual to receive something in the mail from Margot.  Literally, that box of Margot in my closet has probably hundreds of letters in it.  It's just been a while.

Her letter was inside a card that looked oddly familiar, a painting by Paul Klee.  And lo and behold, it's a card that I gave her years ago.  Enclosed was an article about Arthur Rimbaud that ran in the New Yorker. I have the magazine but hadn't gotten to the article yet.  She sent it, since it reminded her of me, me at 19 always lugging around a poet in my bookbag, Rimbaud one of my favorites.  
Paul Klee, Glass Facade, 1940

Margot and I had so many funny experiences together.  It was she and I who stuffed Charles Bukowski down the garbage chute, laughing the whole way.  She and I who "survived" living in a one-bedroom apartment in Paris with my entire family for a few weeks, then escaped back to San Francisco, where we felt we could be free.  She and I who crashed on Roddy's floor for weeks following arrival as we found work and our own place to live (a tiny studio in which we shared a mattress we got for free).  She and I who went separately and yet together from teen to parenthood.  It's so good to hear her voice.

She included her email address in the card she sent, but I don't think I'll be using it.  So much more fun and so much more appropriate, given our history and who we still are, to mail her something back, using our old names of A-skin and M-skin, one being walking in two different skins, the one called Ariane, the one called Margot.

As different as our lives may be now and the paths that got us here, I won't let go of that pretty little box of Margot.  Instead, how delightful that I can keep adding to it, almost thirty years later.


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