GCSPrank Is Here

For people who spend the day saying and writing things that others accept, while thinking things that are infinitely more interesting.

Monday, May 09, 2005


I wrote several years ago that one sometimes has friends one doesn’t deserve. I used no names, but I had a shining example in my own life to show me such Truth.

Diana met me on our first night at a residential school in Puerto Rico for advanced science and math students. In my first true moment of deep introspection, I was walking back and forth across the rough surface of the basketball court, nearly oblivious to the jolly gathering around me. I had noticed Diana sitting on a large table along with other students, singing hymns. She seemed the happiest person in the place and even then her smile was a joy to behold.

My mind whirled as I contemplated the abrupt and fundamental change I was facing: most of my behavior and many of my attitudes were aimed at being sent away from my immediate environment. Now here I was in a place I desperately wanted to stay in and I had no idea how to behave. I’d already caused a stir and my experiences up till then told me the situation—or I—would force something to happen.

At one point, wandering aimlessly, I passed by the singing group and was grabbed. The shock froze me. Diana had reached out and pulled me, patting the table so I’d sit next to her. Nonplussed, I sat. The singing went on and for a few minutes, I forgot my dilemma. I watched her sing. She was fully in the moment, her dark eyes flashing happily.

We started our classes and as the days went by, I noticed Diana noticing me. As I hesitantly carved a unique niche for myself, she was a constant presence, always friendly. In the wordless way of shy adolescence, we drifted together, and though we never said as much, we were something of an item.

Or more accurately, Diana was seriously interested and I was an immature bastard. In the presence of one of the kindest, most generous and genuine persons you could ever hope to meet, I was a lying, insulting, mean-spirited moron. Don’t blame youth or inexperience: even children know when they hurt someone and only the backward ones continue to do so.

We occupied the same space for the rest of the year, and occasionally interacted, but it was painful and inconclusive. I left for college; Diana went her way and time worked on me. Those college years filled with living in my past showed me where I’d gone wrong, what I’d wasted and how I’d lost so much for no reason at all.

I learned. Thanks to wonderful people, warm hearts and my growing sense of self, I learned. But a deep ache entered my memories of Diana, the awful remorse of causing so much needless pain. I wanted so much to speak to her again, but I didn’t know how to find her and at times, that brought despair.

Months and years went by. One morning, as I slept late in my unusual schedule, the phone rang. When I answered, I heard the voice that collapsed my reserve. Before Diana could explain who she was and how she found me, I blurted out an apology. Like water through broken floodgates, my words rushed downstream, trying in their brief vibrations to assuage the hurts of long before, to relieve the burden of guilt I carried and to let Diana know that I did care for her, that I had finally learned how to express it.

I ended as I ran out of breath, clutching the phone like a lifeline. The silence went on for seconds and I dreaded saying something to an empty line, or hearing the hum of a connection cut. Then Diana spoke. She told me she expected many things—sarcasm, insults, contempt—but never what she’d just heard. I felt like crying. Then she said she was surprised, and grateful, that I was not what she expected. She said she accepted my words and their feelings. And with that, we began catching up.

Over the years, we’ve kept in touch sporadically, but with emotion. As my highs carried me away, Diana was there to keep me grounded. As my world collapsed inside me, she was there to give me hope. I gave back only a tiny portion of the grace and peace she gave me. I denied us a chance to meet while in New York, but she made it a point to meet me shortly after my son was born.

And on a day I thought the end could now be embraced, Diana called, compelled by some powerful instinct to tell me I was wrong. She was brutally honest: “God knows you’ve never given me very much, but for some reason I care a lot about you and you will not give up now.” I didn’t, because she was right. On all counts.

Diana is one of my oldest friends, an amazing presence in my sparsely populated life. She revels in pointing out that I’m damaged goods (at best), that I am often my only enemy and that there is always hope. We laugh at me and with each other, with the ease of honesty and comfort. (I notice she uses potty language with me. Maybe because it’s the only way to make me listen?)

Today is your birthday, Diana. On the day you blessed the world with your presence, I want you to know I have loved you since the moment my arm was kindly yanked out of its socket. We both know I don’t deserve you, but we both also know I’m fascinating.

Okay, I know it and you pretend you don’t. What are friends for?


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