In the fall of 1984 I started my sophomore year of college. I was still undeclared and had no idea what I was going to do with my life. In many ways I still don’t. It was in the first couple of days in that fall semester that I met Liz. She was funny and out going and we hit it off from the very beginning. In many ways we became best friends for a while. My first memory of her was with us sitting in a piano rehearsal room in the music building talking about musical theatre. We both loved it and we were sharing our love of some show of the time. There are many memories after that, but that’s the first.
From then on we were good friends. She didn’t know that I was gay, but I’m sure she suspected. I never tried to hit on her and was more like a big brother. In fact she was one of my little sisters in my fraternity. We performed in shows together. We studied together. We ate together. I helped her get dates with my frat brothers. She helped me sing better. Her grandparents lived in the town where we were going to school, so I spent many nights eating dinner there, studying there and even spent the night a couple of times. I even got my first speeding ticket driving her grandparent’s car. One summer we spent every weekend night together. There was a singing caberet at one of the restaurants and we went every week. We have been drunk together too many times to count. I flew on my first airplane with her.
I think one of the reasons we were so close is because both of our family lives were fucked up. Her very established and well-known father denied her existance. In fact he denied ever having been married to her mother. In town he was known as an never been married bachelor. Her mother was a bit of a control freak and was known to be a little difficult at times. I was dealing with a stepfather who hated me and a mother who would do nothing about it.
The years passed and eventually I graduated. My journeys took me to Atlanta where I would come out of the closet and realize that it was okay to be gay. I would come into my own there and start becoming the man I was going to be. During all this time I stayed in touch with Liz. I even went back the following year for her graduation. Eventually I moved back to Kentucky and began grad school at the University of Kentucky. She started the same year with both of us pursuing theatre M.A.’s. At the beginning of our second year together we were both looking for a place to live and so Liz, Jim (my boyfriend) and I moved into a three bedroom apartment together.
We got along great. We had parties together. We were in school together. For the most part things were fine. And then I came home one night to find that the mirror in my bathroom had been scribbled on in lipstick. In it’s own way it was shouting at me. It was hard to make out but there’s was something about why we didn’t take the garbage out. I thought it was going a little over board, but okay. I cleaned the mirror and then took the garbage out. About an hour later Liz came home. It took about 5 minutes to realize that something wasn’t right.
Over the course of the next several hours she had a severe mental breakdown. She wrote on the walls in lipstick. She began to slap herself repeatedly. She banged her head into the wall. She threw things. She punched holes in the walls. I went from being supportive to angry. She wouldn’t stop and I didn’t know what to do. If I had it do over again, I’d definitaly respond differently. After several hours of this with the rage just growing. I called her grandparents to come and get her. They couldn’t come. So I eventually called the police. When they walked in they saw the state of the apartment and what was going on. They took her away.
A few days later Jim and I had the argument of all arguments and our relationship ended. Within a week the entire living situation had gone down the tubes and I was packed and moving. I only saw Liz a couple of times after that. We didn’t speak. The last time I saw her we were driving down Richmond Road and passed each other. Neither of us waved.
A lot of time has passed since then. I’ve had my own emotional melt down, I moved to a million states, I’ve gone to grad school, I’ve had five boyfriends, my father died…life has moved on. Through the years I’ve often wondered what happened to Liz. I missed her terribly. I wanted to apologize for not handling her breakdown as well as I could have and not being a better friend. I wanted to find out how her life turned out. I wanted to reconnect.
There were a couple of times that I could have done this but didn’t. I was afraid that she wouldn’t want to talke to me and would tell me to fuck off. And so 17 years have passed without Liz in my life.
And then yesterday, I got a MySpace greeting from someone named Liz. It was out of the blue and the message was a little vague. It said, “Hey want to catch up. Liz.” From the word go I thought it was just like the million before I had received from Lily, Susan, and Mary. Sexy teens who wanted to “be my friend.” I denied Liz’s request to be my friend. But for some reason replied to the message she had sent me. I said, “Do I know you?” That it was it. And I went to bed.
When I woke up this morning I had another message from Liz. This one said, “It’s Liz ______ from ____________ . If you check my page you’ll see picture of my grandparents.” I was blown away. Never in a million years did I ever expect to hear from her again. I instantly replied saying please contact me and gave her my email address and my phone number. Around 1:30 this afternoon the phone rang and it was her.
We were on the phone for 90 minutes playing catch up. She had been married and divorced but got two wonderful children out of it. She’s now living in Clearwater, Florida (yet another reason to come to Florida and visit), she teaches public school. There were many other facts that we talked about. She was diagnosed with Bi-Polar disorder several years after the incident in my apartment and is now well medicated. She said her life is amazing now that she’s found a doctor and a prescription that works. I still can’t believe we talked. It’s been 17 years. And the conversation flowed just like it used to. There were no long pauses. There were no patches of not knowing what to talk about. It was just two old friends playing catch up.
Today was a beautiful day.