Sister Golden Hair
The person who comes to me the most in my dreams is my best friend from high school. She didn't actually go to my high school--she went to the rival one, across town--but she was a member of my church, and we went to Seminary together. She was my size, had the same hair color, same cut, mostly. In a lot of ways we were similar, but she was shy, and she was rich. Maybe she wasn't shy so much as sheltered. But she didn't really have any friends from her school. I had nothing to lose; I was damn poor and from a trashy family and way out of my league as soon as my '76 wagon started up the long, gradual ascent up the way-too-symbolic hill to her subdivision. But we looked alike and dressed alike, and our names rhymed, and her family let me come on weekend vacations to their home in Palm Springs, driving through the brown, brown desert in their light blue Mercedes, drinking warm Diet Cokes and big slices of red cabbage (takes so long to chew! makes you feel full!) surrounded by the smell and softness of leather, listening to the newest musicals from London, Cats, and Starlight Express. They bought me my own copy of Miss Manners, and introduced me to the world of fine china (English or Western European ONLY! Never Asian; Never American; never off-white or beige; only, ever, purest white!)and gave me the opportunity to pretend that I had transcended my class. My mother resented the time I spent at her house, jealous, I guess, of my fascination with a world so far from my own, powerless to compete with what they had to offer.
What I had to offer, I think, was guilessness, passion. They liked that I was a reader, that I loved Bette Davis and Myrna Loy--they especially responded to my fluency in "The Thin Man" ouevre--and that I had what Mormons would call a "strong testimony"--that I believed in the church in a super-present, super-overwhelming way. If I could have spoken in tongues and channeled my ancestors, I would have. And I loved performing for her parents, working to convince them that I was of worth, even if my parents were divorced and my family was poor.
But her, I loved, in a pure, pure way. I thought she was the prettiest, sweetest, softest, quietest person I had ever met. I wanted to protect her. I wanted to be her. I wanted her, but I didn't know what that meant. I still don't know what that would have meant. I just know that being with her made me happier and sadder than I ever knew I could be. She got a boyfriend her senior year in high school, a younger boy, and we didn't see each other as much. We were roommates in college, and married our college boyfriends the same summer; we even shared a bridal shower. One of the last times I talked to her was when I called to congratulate her on the birth of her first child, and told her that I was getting a divorce. We talked briefly, a year later, when she asked me if what she had heard was true, if I had left my husband because I'm a lesbian. We exchanged a few cards after that, but have never talked again.
But she comes to me in dreams a couple of times a year. Usually we greet each other with joy in the dreams--it's been so long, we have so much to catch up on, so much we want to say. But we also want to look at each other, to soak up the other's presence after so much time apart. I always tell her that I've dreamed of this moment, that time after time I've dreamt I saw her again and that each time I've told her about dreaming about seeing her again and marvel, each time, as though it was really happening this time, that she's really there, that we're really seeing each other again. And each time I wake up disappointed, realizing that I haven't seen her, that this was just another layer in an agonizingly long string of dreams.
But last night when she came to me in my dream, she avoided me. I heard that she was back in town, and that she was walking through the same store as me, at that very moment. I ran up the stairs to see her, but she smiled stiffly when she saw me, and turned back to whatever she was looking at before I came up the stairs. I started in on my usual speech, about how amazing it was to see her after so many years, about how I had often dreamed of this moment, only to realize that it was yet another dream. She looked at me and said "this has to end. We both liked David Bowie, and we both went to the same church, but that doesn't necessarily make us friends." I stepped back, stung. And then I looked at how boring her hair was--thinner than mine, and a dingy brownish color. Her eyes were a pale blue, and kind of big, but her face was unremarkable. I remembered that I had pretended not to notice how bad her acne was in high school, or not to gloat when I made cheerleader at my school and she didn't make the squad at hers. She was nobody. She was my love.
I remember visiting her at home during a break from college, playing bridge in the kitchen with her mother, feeling like now that I was almost grown up, with a degree almost in hand and plans to go to grad school, I wouldn't feel so small in their house. Her mother, trying to talk me into dating the man I would end up marrying, leaned in and smiled her wide, wide, smile. I don't even remember what she was talking about, but I remember her words: "Oh there's never been anyone quite like you, Margo, darling." I remember getting what she was offering, hearing, for the first time, the condescension in her voice, understanding, finally, how much of a service she thought she had been doing, teaching me how to be "appropriate," exposing me to a world of manners and taste and elegance, and I recoiled--obviously not enough, since I married the boy, and kept trying to gain her approval for a few more years. That was the day, after a lifetime of trying to get them to like me, that I started to hate rich people.