Radio SilencePosted: November 11, 2008
I have this friend. We lived in the same dorm in college during my sophomore year at Purdue. The dorm was more like barracks than anything else, and because of a glitch, where my intended roommate decided not to return after freshman year (what the hell was her name?? I remember she was from New Jersey, and she had lived across the hall from me that first year), so I ended up in a room at one end by myself. Becky was at the other end of the one-story, eight-room building, and for some reason, she and I had this kind of connection.
She lived with a farm girl (can’t remember her name either), who told us how she raised and then slaughtered cattle on her family’s farm. She claimed that there were portions of frozen meat in a freezer in her family’s basement, wrapped in aluminum foil that had labels like “Bessie’s rump.” Being the metropolitan dweller that I was, I found this story fascinating, and more than a little disturbing frankly.
Becky and I had lots of laughs. We watched Letterman together on a nine-inch screen that got poor reception from the rabbit ears attached to its plastic top. We shared one phone in the common room out front with the dozen or so other girls in the dorm. We got snowed in, with drifts against the doors so high that we couldn’t get out. And it was cold there. That was the year I tried smoking pot for the first time. Not with Becky, of course, she was such a good egg, but she was there after I smoked it, and was an excellent guide for me when I was that stupid. She had some laughs about it. I remember dropping a full, open can of soda on the floor of her room and marveling at how many slo-mo flips it did between my hand and the linoleum. After that, she walked with me to the Stop-N-Shop for munchies, no doubt thinking that on my own I’d be too stupid to find my way back. I do remember her laughing at me though. She was more amused than not, I think.
Even though I dropped out of school after that year together, she and I have kept in touch for these two-plus decades.
In the early days, the letters were exchanged frequently, and there were even gifts for birthdays and Christmas, though as the years passed, that part of the tradition waned. And that was fine with me. I just loved getting a letter from her in the mail, seeing that postmark made my pulse quicken. News from the world of Becky was always a wonderful thing.
She got married. She had two beautiful daughters. I moved a dozen times. The letters kept coming and going. I finished college finally, got married, had my own kids, and got my whole life in order. We’ve seen each other a few times since I left Indiana. Once I rode the train to her house, not far from Chicago. Another time, she and her family met me in South Bend and we all had lunch at a Denny’s. Another time, I was in Chicago and tried to get her to come up and meet me, but her husband wasn’t too keen in the idea, and the reunion never happened.
It’s weird to miss someone you’ve hardly seen in the last twenty-odd years. Sometimes, after the Chicago thing, she’d go silent if I mentioned I was coming within fifty miles of her. Don’t know if that was because she couldn’t or wouldn’t be able to meet me, but once the threat had passed, she’d write again. A couple of years ago, I made a suggestion that we go away together, like to someplace tropical, like a momcation, just the two of us. Silence followed from the other end.
Last I heard, she had finished her courses and was getting certified to be a teacher. That was more than a year ago, I think. I’ve written a few times, but there’s been no answer. I’m worried. Is she okay? Is she just too busy? Is it over?
Mostly I’m worried that she’s not okay. I hope she’s okay, just too busy to write. But I think this is the longest she’s gone without sending a note in more than twenty years. I miss her. I have lots of friends. I’m not hurting for friends, but I feel like her friendship is the most enduring of my life, which is only one of the myriad reasons why it is so dear to me.
Every day when that mail comes through the slot in the door, I search the postmarks, so far in vain. It’s never really been our thing, but maybe it’s time for me to pick up the phone and call?