Wednesday, September 19, 2018

She Left Scars - Part One

On my left wrist, there's a crescent-shaped scar that is the exact size and shape of Jessica L. Eakins's pinky finger nail.  I don't remember what I did or said to deserve that wrist "stab" I received in middle school, but I do remember laughing later when she said it was going to leave a mark. She was right. 

Do you know what a scar actually is?  It's an area of fibrous connective tissue that replaces your skin after an injury.  Connective tissue.  If scars are ultimately about connection, than Jess gave me several.

She was my first best friend.  She was the first person I ever invited to sleep over at my house... and she peed her pants that night. To be fair, she was headed to the bathroom in the middle of the night when she got startled by my entirely black dog.  The dog came running down the hall to greet her, and since she was walking around in the dark, all Jess heard was a jingling sound appearing to come out of nowhere.  If we had been at her house instead... I might have peed too.  I wouldn't say that first sleepover was "scarring," but it's definitely a memory that connected us.

Many years later, Jess "came out" to me in high school.  I can remember the layout of the classroom we were sitting in, I can remember her turning around in her seat to tell me... and then I can remember how she recanted her statement with a "just kidding" soon after.  What I can't remember is what I said in reply.  I'm sure it was an extremely unhelpful "Okay..." or something of that nature.

When Jess "came out" again (for real this time) our freshman year of college, I wish I could say that I responded in a better fashion.  Instead of showing her the love and support she needed, I made it all about me.  All I could think about was how this revelation changed our relationship.  How many times I'd changed clothes in front of her, innocently shared a bed with her, talked about guys with her... it all felt so different now.  This relationship I'd had for nearly my entire life felt *unfamiliar* all of a sudden.  And I hated it.

My reaction to that time in our lives feels like a scar.  Like a blemish on a friendship that was mostly smooth sailing.

Don't get me wrong, we were still friends after that.  Eventually something clicked in my head, and I found myself standing in the "Lesbian Fiction" section of Iowa City's Prairie Lights Bookstore trying to find her a present.  I can't remember what I selected, but I do remember I read about half of it before I gave it to her.  I marked my place with a post-it note saying that I was sorry it took me so long to reconcile her "true self" with the memory of our shared childhood I had frozen in my head.

Later, when she found my note, she told me two things: the first was that I needed to know that all lesbian relationships were NOT like that book (ha!) and the second was that she always knew I'd come around eventually.

Even with her encouraging words it still feels like a scar. A scar that won't heal.  Mostly because we can't talk about it.

Jess died during the spring of my Junior year of college.


(End of Part One.)

No comments:

Post a Comment