My mind is in turmoil.
I have wondered for years if she was still alive. Her name is Mel too. We are opposites in every sense of the word. She is tall and I am short. She is blonde and I am brunette. She is hyper and I was always laid back. She was popular and I was not. She taught me how to dress, wear makeup, how to talk to boys, introduced me to heavy metal and taught me how to bang my head. We learned how to smoke cigarettes together. We babysat as a team. We once spent a whole weekend rewinding a tape and learning all the words to Bohemian Rhapsody. We double dated. She was my sister and we were inseparable. In fact, we married each others high school sweethearts in a surreal chain of events that no one saw coming.
We lost touch after I moved away but I was able to visit her twice when our vacations bought us back to Florida. The second time we visited her, her marriage was falling apart. Then I traveled to Central Florida just after my mother’s death, just to see her. Her mother called me out of the blue after 2 or 3 years of no contact. My immediate thought was that she was gone. The last I had talked to her she was babbling and incoherent. I remember sitting silently on the phone for what seemed like an hour and listened to her ramble without making discernable sentences, but not wanting to hang up because I was comforted at least that she was alive and as long as I had her on the phone with me she wasn’t going anywhere. Then I didn’t hear from her until her mother called.
I knew that she must have been high on something the night she called, so when her mother called me, with that sad tone in her voice and important news to tell me, my first thought was that she was dead. No, her mother said, not dead, merely overdosed and now living in a rehab. She warned me that the damage done by the drug was devastating to the brain and that she was now in a state of psychosis. Even living 9 hours away, I dropped my life and came running. I didn’t care the personal or financial hardship an emergency trip would cost me. We were talking about my sister, my best friend. I had to see her, hold her and know that she was still alive. When I arrived, she did not know me. Her mother had to introduce us, then after blaming her new “foggy” brain she was overjoyed to see me and spend time with me. I spent one hour with her after driving all night to get to her. She spent the whole hour telling me that she really wasn’t that sick and that really all she needed was for her mother and ex-husband to get off of her case. For that one hour, I was anything that she needed me to be…a person to vent to, an old friend who needed to have the “true” situation explained to her, and at one point, a stranger she was introducing herself to for the first time. In my heart I wept more and more. With every word she spoke, it was obvious that the friend I had spent countless hours laughing and sharing with was forever gone. She had been destroyed by the drug. Obliterated permanently by the damage left behind. We parted with promises to keep in touch. She told me that she planned to be home in the next month and restart her life…maybe even move to where I lived to start over. I held her close and smelled her hair, not knowing really if I would ever see her alive again.
I drove back to her mother’s house silently. I pretended a headache and went to lie down. What I really did was sit on the bed and cry while my husband held me and prayed. Her mother asked me later what was really wrong with me. She wanted to know what I wasn’t telling her. She needed me to talk to her like a nurse. Knowing that she needed to hear it, I explained that this person, this altered version, is permanent. This brain damage is unchangeable. This personality shift is probably the new her…forever. In reality she had died that night. The person that we knew was gone forever. I spoke with her twice more before she left the rehab. I didn’t even know she had gone. I called one evening to check on her and they said she had checked out. I didn’t find her again for almost a year. She called me at midnight on New Year’s. We spoke for 15 minutes. She told me she was in love with a man she met at AA and that she still wanted to move near me to start her life over again. I asked her how her children were…she changed the subject.
That was 5 years ago. I was able to find her cousin on Facebook and asked tenderly if she was still alive. I was told that the cousin didn’t have contact with her, but that yes she was alive. I miss her terribly. I think about her almost everyday and utter silent prayers that don’t even have a form other than “protect her”. Last night, after entering her name in the Facebook Search box (which I am in the habit of doing every so often but always finding nothing) suddenly there she was. Older, a little more rough around the edges, but alive and staring back at me from my computer screen. She is suddenly tangible and available….and I chickened out. I looked through her page, trying desperately to glean some insight into the person that she is now. It amounted to no less than stalking. I looked at posts, pictures, looked at the page of the man she is in a relationship with now, but I didn’t send her a message. I just…I don’t know…I’m scared. But then, that’s not exactly the right word. Worried may be a better word. By all appearances she is still that “other” person, the new person that I don’t know. I am faced with a dilemma that I never saw coming. Do I get to know this new person? It would seem that after searching methodically for her for years and even asking family members about her that I would be overjoyed to find her and would not be able to stop myself from contacting her immediately, but that is totally not what happened. My heart leapt when I saw her face, but then immediately in the place of joy came fear. Fear that I would hope for a relationship that cannot be. Fear that I would not love this new person and might even hate her for taking my best friend away from me.
I could tell from her Facebook posts that we have very little in common anymore. She appears to still be working out her demons while mine were faced long ago. We apparently lead completely different lives, with different directions or even morals. Do I let this person into my life, not knowing what pain will come of it? Do I welcome her knowing that I may have to walk away from her at some point? I cannot abide letting drama into my life for the sake of a friend I do not know anymore. Honestly, I am ashamed of myself. I searched for her. My heart pined for her. I have grieved the loss of her for years and now that she is right in front of me, I am frozen in fear. How can I ever have claimed to love her and not leap for joy at the sight of her? How can I say that I truly am a friend when I became a coward the moment I saw her? How can I be someone who is in school to be a professional counselor and feel judgmental towards my oldest and dearest friend for changing after a nearly deadly addiction?
I am ashamed and I should be. I lay in bed last night and prayed. I didn’t even tell Hubby that I found her or what I was going through. I just wanted time to process. As I lay there, I thought about my boys talking at the dinner table about the Mayan Apocalypse. We were discussing how no one really knows the hour and time that God will call us home. Then I thought about my oldest and dearest friend, who I almost lost and to some extent did lose to a drug. What if …. What if something does happen to her? What if I had the chance to hear her voice one more time and I chickened out? I have lived without my mother for 6 years now. What I wouldn’t do to have one more day with her. God is handing me another chance with Mel and I am letting the fear of the enemy keep me from her. It does not matter if she is different. I am different. I am different in so many ways than I was in high school. Different even, than I was the last time I saw her face. Being close to her might be painful, as I am reminded of the differences between then and now, but at least I have the chance to be close to her at all. I am going to take that chance. It might not end well, but I do not think I will regret trying.
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