When I met Sarah Jo I was 19 and she was 17. I think. Memory is a slippery bitch, especially when you’ve sustained a lot of trauma and drink a lot. We were young, I know that much. I hated her almost instantly. She was cute and talented and everyone liked her. I hated that the most; that everyone liked her.
We had too many friends in common not to be something like friends though. And I tolerated her existence with as much grace as I could muster. Which is to say: not much. I was sullen and mean. At that point in my life I was broken but not hopeless. Possessing just enough hope actually, to make me even meaner than I already was. I was a sad thing, malnourished and overwhelmed by a life I thought was terrible but in fact was must middling at best.
Years later, after an exhaustive decade in the wilds of the Lower 48, we made contact again. Bonded over crafting and a shared history of douche bag losers and the love of a small town we’re both too big for. I came home, tail between my legs after a break up. I wanted to write ‘bad break up’ just now, but it wasn’t bad. It was anti climatic if anything. It was the inevitable conclusion to 7 years of ambivalence.
I came home.
She’d always been here.
And just like that we were friends. Soft at first. Still finding footing in the well worn tracks of mutual friendships and that common history. Stronger later, furious even. I clung to her in that first year home like a woman drowning. I was terrified of everything. I was sad on a level that can’t even be quantified. There was no reason for it, but I was fucked up bad.
She was this beacon of light at the end of the tunnel. Settled and secure, though scarred herself. A few years younger than me, but already so self assured. Confident in a way that isn’t grating. She is talented, in several ways. Everyone likes her still. I don’t hate that like I used to. I learned from it this time, mimicked her patience with people I find obnoxious. Mimed her ability to make small talk to strangers. I haven’t mastered it, I probably never will but sometimes I can fake it for a few minutes. Brush away the overwhelming sense of awkward that I’ve been burdened with my entire life.
Sarah Jo is anything but awkward. She is the kind of woman who can wear a stupid hat and everyone thinks it looks cool. She is the girl who walks into a bar and half a dozen people turn to her like flowers to the sun. She has this easy demeanor about her that must have been hard fought because no one, no one, is that cool by default. The people who appear that way have that fatal flaw of being insincere. Sarah Jo is sincere.
To say our friendship is without fault is dishonest. There are things that still don’t fit right. I still cling more than I should and she is not enough person to go around for all the greedy hands that would grab at her attention. I often feel like her wayward shadow, there but not there. Only noticed when it’s gone. I stand to the left of her stage almost always, basking in her light and trying to catch up to where it is she’s already been.
For a girl who never left, she’s managed to out live us all.
(This pretentious and probably purple prose brought to you by painkillers and the unfortunate malaise I get every Sunday evening. The sentiment is real though, Sarah Jo is the shit. This is the first in that series of “Human Reviews” I threatened to start writing. Maybe they’ll get better. Maybe not. For now I’m just experimenting writing in a style other than my regular overly casual one.)