I won't run into my Greta anytime soon. I remember she was blonde and vivid
, i was shy and strange, we were both outcasts. Sometimes we'd kick the boys. Sometimes we'd hide.
Beth's parents were divorced, which was strange to me. I slept over her house often, i think, and i would always forget something there: socks, toothbrush, swimsuit - anything to let me go back. I remember the complex and well-worn quilt her grandmother made for her, and the time she jumped off the roof and survived, though grounded. We'd shower together, in our bathing suits, and giggle. We'd talk about growing breasts, and agreed that we hoped they'd get so big they'd FALL OFF because who wants them anyway? We'd turn out the lights and listen to Tomorrow Never Knows over and over and talk about important things. She started smoking, but still wanted to sing on Broadway. Her little brother got older. So did we.
I went to Martha's Vineyard with her on her uncle's boat. We took the dinghy out and got stuck, out of fuel, on a sandy spit. We walked around investigating the plants and laughing, until we flagged down a catamaran of friendly young people drinking beer, who towed us back to the port. We felt so grown up with them. We were 13? 14?
But i always felt invisible. We went into town that night and went separate ways. I saw her later with some older guy: she asked me in confidence where i thought they could get condoms. I almost cried. But i didn't. I couldn't go back to the boat alone, so i sat on a bench and talked to a stranger who humoured me then watched the people go by for hours on cobblestone streets, then snuck back to the dock and watched for her to come in.
She moved to California not long after to live with her father. After that, i heard from her at random intervals: 6 months, 3 years.. i always imagined we would come together again and i could show her all the ways i'd changed. In a writing class, i wrote more than one story where i was her, and strong. When i heard her voice on the phone, we'd laugh the same way as before.
I was living on the floor in my brother's room in my parents' house when i answered the phone for my sister. Her friend from our old neighborhood recognised me and said hello. Then she asked, offhand, if i knew Beth Walbridge. Of course i did! She was my best friend.
Oh. Well, Erin's mother heard from someone who went to church with Beth's mother that Beth had killed herself a couple of months ago. No, i don't know how. No, i don't know why.
I fetched my sister to the phone and tried to remember Beth's mother's name. I tried to think of anyone i could call. I tried to imagine she was dead. It's hard to imagine that i won't run into her down the line, It'd be the same thing, I'd shake and tremble; I've lost myself. All those changes i was saving for her, they're lost.