The Death of Anne

Photo Credit: Prill Lu
Photo Credit: Prill Lu

The basement stairs sigh as my eyes adjust to the dim light filtering through the opaque egress window.

I’m overwhelmed by the musty smell of laundry detergent and damp concrete, broken bits of yarn and old blankets. Mom needs the ice we stored at the neighbor’s, so that’s why I’m here.

On the floor I can see the rough green carpet and in the shadowy corner, the flimsy forts made out of refrigerator boxes. She’s sitting Indian-style with long nut-colored hair draped down her back, coloring flowers on the front door.

She’s the only person in existence who matters to mine.

We’re Betsy and Tacy. We’re Trixie and Honey. I can’t see beyond Barbies and make-believe and sleepovers to a day when the girl with a head a little too big for her frame won’t be my first thought in the morning.

My fingertips travel briefly along the wall.

Hello.

We were fourteen when those boys came over with spray paint to graffiti the walls with their names and anarchy symbols.

I had dyed my hair a lighter blonde and she had dyed hers red. We spent hours in her room, plastered in boy-band posters and electric guitars, listening to All Time Low, and talking to them on the phone.

I still couldn’t see beyond, but I could see behind and know I wouldn’t always be the only person in existence who mattered to hers.

Letting the smell of my childhood permeate the first layer of skin around my heart, I wonder if she remembers what I remember, coming down here, or if she still has to put flip-flops on before making the descent into the bug-infested bowels of the basement.

I could let the memories seep into deeper layers, sit down on the bottom step and cry, and try to remember when she stopped being the only person in existence who mattered to mine. Wonder when it became so easy to live without her, and if I would forget her if this smell ever changed, this last spidery thread of connection.

But I don’t wait for the hurt beyond the initial wave of fondness, because my mother needs the ice, and sometimes I try to live without needing anyone.

His hand pulls on mine, across the pulsing dance floor.

The brassy notes of the live band bounce around the sloping walls like the memories bouncing around the cave of my heart, memories I entombed when I rolled a stone across its entrance.

I see myself in the passenger seat, watching his profile slip in and out of the glow of passing streetlights, and he says I can never touch the deepest place in his soul.

I didn’t understand then, but now my knowing is as alive as the blood pumping into my fingertips, as free as Lazarus untwirling his shroud.

He cannot touch the deepest place in me.

She and I dangle our feet over the side of the hammock as sunshine dazzles the water.

We’re Anne and Diana.

A spontaneous road trip, a jar of Twizzlers, and laughter are all I need. Maybe this time I will find my kindred spirit.

I’ve wandered through valleys looking for my best friend, scraped my knees bloody on rocky crags.

I’ve stayed in abandoned cities and lengthened time’s cord for her, I’ve merged roads and sailed from safe shores for him.

I’ve clung to centuries-old truth that I need people, that I was made for community, that man was not meant to be alone, and two are better than one.

And yet…

before Eve there was God.

They will never touch the deepest place in me.

Hunched at the edge of the water in Silverwood Park, I am tired of being disappointed by this person who’s supposed to be my best friend.

The idyllic archetype of my heart has rested serenely as Anne Shirley in a paddle boat, quoting Tennyson. Suddenly, startled by the shock of cold water, I realize the boat is full of holes.

Whatever I’m after in a best friend–and I’ve never been able to pinpoint what that is–doesn’t exist.

I am mourning her watery death.

The Spirit rustles the leaves beside me. The sun trickles between branches overhead, and the Father brushes a kiss against each of my eyelids.

I hear Jesus whisper, Whenever you’re ready to come home.

He knows I know I’ve been looking for life elsewhere. He knows I know that only he can touch the deepest place in my heart.

Whenever I’m ready to come home. Tomorrow I will let him bring me home. Tomorrow, I will be able to be grateful for my friendships for what they are.

Right now I am grieving a life-long friend that has died.

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