The first thing I remember noticing about her was her eyes. Even behind rectangular frames, they had a way of standing out, the blacks of her pupils darker than expected, blue irises sharp, crisp. We were a long time coming, kindred spirits of the sort who meet and bond through common interest screen-to-screen. As much as people are able to conceal their true selves thanks to the anonymity of the Internet, you can just as easily be more yourself when you don’t have to look someone in the eye and be held accountable. In the latter sense, we connected through loving the same music and a bit of writing. Most of us are tethered to our electronics on a daily basis, so we can keep up with distant friends in a way that seems easier than staying in touch with those a few miles away. But it’s also easier to get into a new band, obsess over a new podcast, lose yourself to the new identity and leave that old digital life (or digital life in its entirety) behind. She came into my life at a time when I’d moved to a new city with no job, little money, and only two acquaintances. She was a bit of snarky sanity when my life felt closest to veering off the rails. I was desperate for work, lonely, and heartbroken after the death of my grandfather. I needed to lose myself, and there is no shortage of that on the World Wide Web.
People can outgrow each other so quickly, especially without face time. Even writing this now, it’s hard to believe that that meeting was five years ago this autumn. She brought me Earl Grey cupcakes, and we wandered around Union Square looking for tea and buying gel insoles when the soggy weather made our feet hurt too much. We ate falafel on the street and split Belgian fries. I don’t think I’ve laughed as hard with someone or said so many tastefully (or tastelessly) offensive things in conversation. She has a way of throwing looks that speak as much as words. There’s always that worry in the back of your mind (or, well, maybe at the back of my mind) that someone will be different in person, more awkward or less authentic or something. She was unapologetic, boldly herself, realer than most of the people I’ve met in my years here in New York.
In most cases, that would be a fond memory, a chapter of place and time isolated in the past. We’ve gotten into a bit of mischief since (*smooths eyebrows*), but the important thing is keeping in touch constantly. If I need to vent about my day, I know she has my back. If I need a hard truth, usually she’s not shy about putting me in my place. She’s gotten me to sit through Love, Actually more than once, and I probably never would have given Pitch Perfect a shot without her. Her name appears as “Bad Bitch” on my contact list for reasons that I’ve long since forgotten, but the monicker is too amusing for me to change.
Why am I going on about all this? Because my friend is one of the smartest, most lively people I’ve ever known. Even though she’s a year younger than me, she’s been to more countries than broke, playing-it-safe me will probably see in my lifetime. The stories she’s told me from college have more adventure than I’ve had ten years removed from my freshman year. She’s done paddle board yoga, so she’s also a little bit crazy. But this year, she confronted the very real possibility that she could carry a BRCA gene mutation and an almost inevitable risk of breast and/or ovarian cancer. When the test came back positive, she didn’t decide to retreat from life and ignore it until she was out of her twenties or settled down into a more “secure” life. She faced surgery, she started a blog, and she pushed forward. That should have been the end of the beginning of her journey, but life’s not as smooth as a TV movie montage. Recovery has been difficult, infections are an unfortunate reality, and the healing process is not as empowering and flattering as motivational speakers would have you believe. Of course when you’re beset by pain and faced with wounds and sunken features, it’s not going to be easy. Your body not cooperating with the reconstruction process? I can’t even imagine going through it, having to make those choices and push forward and go back to work and plot basically a year of life around this nebulous but all too real threat of Cancer, capital C.
So, even though things hurt and may never look the way you wanted them to, know that your friends will always be there to look you in the eye and take you to ridiculous concerts where you ruin onstage moments because you can’t stop laughing. The future isn’t something we can know for certain, but what you’re doing right now is buying yourself more of it, more time to write and travel and take photos and chase passions and befriend more people who will love you for being the firebrand you are. Just like your blog says, M Is For Amazing.