Sunday, September 25, 2011

Egg in the Mud

"You come here, you haven't been here in so long", and that, when coming from San Francisco is hard to resist. My side of the world was less exciting, and she was promising a spa day in Napa. I bought my ticket.

Where once we had been separated only by a bookcase, we were now over 2,000 miles apart, a thought unimaginable ten years prior. Before email, before Skype, we talked on the phone, constantly, and wrote letters, the wonderful old handwritten kind that now sit in a box in my closet. We met freshman year; I remember quite clearly that she was wearing a lime green suit and white pumps, although she dismisses this, horrified at the idea, and her very comfortable jean and cashmere sweater wearing self seems to negate my memory quite effectively. We were assigned as roommates sophomore year, the girl in the white pumps and the loud girl who wore plaid, which is how she remembers me, an image I cannot dispel. Her second impression, after a thorough scrutiny of my cassette tapes, was that I really liked Billy Joel. She was edgy, she had Flock of Seagulls hair and a taste for new music, crazy stuff like R.E.M. and INXS, I had a bob and John Denver. We were further apart than San Francisco and Chicago.

She spent her nights in the architecture studio, I spent mine at the Wheel. When my late night revelry caused her to oversleep and miss a final I thought we were done. A kind professor, a big heart and my slumbering through the last of Sociology 302 kept us together.

Where she is organized, I am madness. Eventually she learned to sign my name, being the responsible one when we moved from dorm to apartment, and bills had to be paid. As a person who liked to be at the airport two hours before her flight and forced to rely on someone who happily sauntered to the gate as the doors closed, she returned home with a wonderful gift to say thank you for living, only so briefly, on my schedule.

Years later she was at the gate to greet me, of course she was, she had been there for hours. I bet my flight was late. We ate at the garlic restaurant, Johnny Rockets and Hamburger Mary's; we got food poisoning somewhere on the wharf (and lived through it in her Marina neighborhood one bathroom studio apartment), and we rented a car and drove across the Golden Gate Bridge towards Napa Valley.

We stopped in St. Helena, the best small town I have ever seen, and ate sandwiches in the park from a wonderful market, next door to the most amazing kitchen store I could imagine. We were on our way to Calistoga, and the mud baths. Her friends recommended Dr. Wilkinson's Hot Springs, home to the man and the mud. My father was entertained by the entire idea, amused at the idea of the two of us paying money to be immersed in a pile of wet dirt.

Mud smells, and it's hot. It clogs your pores and makes it hard to breathe. With at least a fifty year cushion, we were the youngest people in the room. Every one of us was naked, although it seemed that we were the only ones exhibiting any sense of modesty at all, the rest of the mud sinkers, all seventy plus years of them, wandering from room to room, wearing little but scraps of dried old mud. Forcing yourself, naked, into a pile of warm mud takes youthful stupidity, old determination and strong arms.

My father delighted in this story, "Everyone else was old? And they didn't change the mud? You sat, naked, in used mud?". This had not occurred to me. "Why do you think the mud was so warm? What do you think the old gals did in that mud Allyson? How bad did it smell?". I hung up and called San Francisco, the shriek of horror could be heard across 2,000 miles.

Many years later, when Jack had to call her, on her birthday, to tell her that my father died, she cried, "not today, please not today". But she has shared this day, one of my very favorites, for bringing her into my world, and the worst possible I could imagine, for taking away someone I loved so much. It's become Bill Day, for celebrating and toasting my dad, but it will always be Egg's birthday, a reminder of the passing of time and the value of true friendships.

Twenty six years later we are still friends, best friends.

I wrote this to post on September 25th, but was, of course, late.
Happy birthday my friend!

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