Tuesday, May 22, 2007

J. Day Countdown, Day 3: Another Intermission

I doubt very seriously that anyone is paying enough attention to this J. Day countdown to realize that I didn't post anything for days 5 or 4, but, just in case such a person exists, you do have my apologies. I worked all day on Sunday (and did I mention that the work I'm doing is actually a little dangerous?) and yesterday I was pretty much useless all the way around. I'm sure you understand.

Anyway, today is May 22nd, which means the world is officially on Gemini time. (The Gemini lunar cycle runs from May 22nd through June 21st.) And what better way to celebrate this star-crossed event than by taking time out to wish my old friend, Lisa Ann Compton, a happy birthday?

Though our face-to-face time has always been somewhat limited -- I can't remember a single time when she and I have ever hung out, just the two of us -- Lisa and I have a very special bond which can never be broken. What bond is that, you ask? Well, it's the strongest bond there is: We went to elementary school together. It may sound like I'm being facetious when I say that, but in all seriousness, I believe there's something to it.

Over the past few years, you see, I've run into several people from my high school and college days. I'm talking about people I spent virtually every waking moment with just three or four years ago - people I should have a lot to talk about with. But for some reason, the words just wouldn't come. We hemmed and hawed for a while, saying what we could. But, after the "so what have you been up to?" and "how do you think the Rebs will do this season?" small talk was over, awkward silence reigned. We said our quick goodbyes and parted ways, hoping we'd never run into one another again. It's sad but true. The friends you make in those eras of your life are largely situational. You're friends because you're in the same place at the same time (kind of like the people you work with)...But it's the strangest thing. I never have those awkward moments with people I went to elementary school with. Granted, I have more to talk about with some of them than I do with others, but I'm never at a total loss. I never find myself trying to get away from them.

I've given this little phenomenon some thought - why am I more comfortable with people I haven't seen in 17 years than I am with people I just graduated from college with? - and the best explanation I can come up with is that you can't be uncomfortable with the people who know you best. And, whether you realize or not, your elementary school classmates really know you, just like you really know them. You didn't meet them when they were teenagers struggling to find out who they "really are." You didn't meet them in college, where everyone has learned to sculpt their image and make themselves presentable. No, you knew them when they were kids - long before they had any concept of embarrassment or self-control. You have seen them at their unfiltered best and worst. They can't fool you. You know who they are. If you find out that one of them has become a crack addict, you'll say "Well, I could have told you in the third grade that HE was gonna be a crack addict." If someone asks you how one of your elementary school classmates is doing, you might say "I'm not sure what they're up to these days," but you'll never say "I don't know them." Because you do. ...which brings me back to Lisa Compton.

There's usually a period of several years that passes between my various meetings with Lisa. But every time we meet, it's almost guaranteed that she'll say to me in her slow, Southern cadence, "Hey! We were just talking about you the other day. How are your parents doing?" (Lisa, by the way, sounds a lot more Southern than your average Biloxian.) And the conversation will progress from there. I'll ask her about her sister Michelle and her nephew Patrick. She'll ask if Katie is still teaching. I'll ask if she's still doing "the whole biology thing"...and on and on.

But in the back of my mind, I'm always looking at Lisa and remembering this little short girl in a plaid jumper, with a reputation for having a really nasty temper. True story: when 5th grade rolled around, and all of us boys at the BVM started developing hormones and crushes, most of us gravitated towards one of three girls: Lauren Eleuterius, Jody Ellis, or Emily Collins. (I'm a Gemini, so I had a crush on two of them. Try and guess which ones.) But everyone was always quick to mention that they thought Lisa was cute too. Maybe even cuter than the other three. The only problem was that "she's just so mean!"

Yes, Lisa was one of two girls (the other being Kacie Pelaez) whom we all knew to be a little - oh, how can I put this? - hard-edged. And even at that age we understood the dangers posed by such a creature. Whenever we played boys-against-girls dodgeball in P.E., I would intentionally try not to throw anything Lisa's way, for fear that she'd make me pay for it later. If we were the last two standing in a classroom spelling bee, I'd miraculously forget how to spell all kinds of shit. And it wasn't just me. Everybody knew that you just didn't want to go there with Lisa Compton.

I'm remembering all of this with admiration, of course. (If my later years have proven anything, they've proven that I have an uncommon appreciation for difficult females.) And, in her defense, I have to say that I do have one memory of Lisa being extraordinarily kind. One Halloween - this was probably in 3rd grade - we were allowed to wear our costumes to school (a very big deal when you wear a uniform every day.) And for some reason, my mom had this brilliant idea to make my costume that year. So it wasn't really a costume, per se. It was more like two pieces of fabric stitched together with the outline of skeleton bones drawn on the outside. (I was supposed to be a skeleton.) Well, naturally, I got picked on about it, and after our 10:00 recess, I finally took it off altogether. When it came time for 1:00 recess, Lisa was the only one who asked why I wasn't wearing my "costume" anymore. And when I explained that I was embarrassed and tired of being picked on about it, she gave me this strangely mature pep talk about how it didn't matter what anyone else thought about anything. If my mom had made it for me, I should be happy to wear it. Or so Lisa said. And then she commanded me to put it on and go to recess...It was one of my first lessons in individualism.

And it's because of that odd little memory - which Lisa herself can't possibly remember - that I'm devoting this space to her today. It might also explain why she's the only elementary school classmate on my MySpace friends list. I don't know. But anyway, here it is, Lisa. Your moment in this little spotlight. Here's wishing you a happy birthday and a great 28th year of life.

It's been a while, but that doesn't matter. I know you.

And you know (this is a plural "you") that there are only 3 days left until J. Day.


Post a Comment

<< Home