Chandler, Arizona, United States
There's an old saying. If you don't want someone to join a crowd, you ask them, "If everyone were jumping off of a cliff, would you?" Well, I have. So my answer would be "Yes". True story.
Profile continued . . .
How I Met Your Mother, Pt. 2
with love from CRS @ 1:16 PM
this entry brought to you by probot, "shake your blood"
I lost track of Michelle in 1995 as I moved from El Paso, my home town, to Sacramento. I didn't have Internet access for a long time, and had no idea what happened to her. It was probably around January of 1996 and I was lying in bed-- with a girl, I should probably mention-- asleep. I woke up with a start. The girl I was sleeping with did not stir. I missed Michelle. I can't explain what exactly what made her giggle jump into my head, but it did. I got onto the old 386 computer, by then a very outdated machine that couldn't even play DOOM-- and I dialed into the forum we met on. Keep in mind at this point in time there was no such thing as "cable internet access", and I did not know of an Internet Service Provider in Sacramento, so I was dialing long distance to El Paso's ISP to access the forum, hoping to email her.
There was an email from her waiting. It had been months since I'd last talked to her. My heart jumped into my throat. "Chris, my dear, I don't know when or if this ever gets to you, but I'm moving." She gave me her address and phone number. I immediately picked up the phone and dialed. An answering machine picked up. I left a message.
It was four months since she'd written the email-- somehow the system, which warned it would delete emails after three months, did not delete this-- and there was no way of knowing if she even lived at the address she said she was currently at anymore. I called the answering machine the next day, and the next. After about a week of this I finally decided to give writing a letter a try.
To my utter delight, I got an answer back in a few days. She said she must have given me the wrong phone number, and was ecstatic to hear from me.
As time went by, our friendship moved from a phone and Internet relationship to a long-form postal mail and phone-call-once-a-month relationship. We would write each other constantly, our letters ranging from three and four page letters to giant, 30 + page, enormous tomes that would require multiple stamps.
Something else developed over the next few years. As a person I'm easily depressed. I'm sort of broken inside, I'm very sensitive, and I can slip into mental illness easier than I care to admit. When I was a teenager I was much, much worse, suicidally so, horribly so, and while I didn't shy away from expressing it, I wasn't what you could call a drama queen. I never threatened to kill myself even though I thought about it constantly. I never attempted it. I was a cloud of blackness and I pushed people away, but I wasn't someone who dwelled on it. I was angsty. More than other teenagers.
But when you're a depressed person and you find it impossible to relate to people, part of the problem is that you can't even relate to other depressed people, because they aren't depressed the way you are. I was suicidal, but I had friends who would constantly threaten suicide, which was obnoxious and I didn't know how to react to it. I hated myself but I had a sense of humor, would still constantly make jokes, and while maybe those jokes were darker than some people understood, they were still obviously jokes. Whereas I had friends who were black sucking holes who couldn't laugh at anything, let alone themselves.
Michelle was almost exactly like me, though. She needed someone to be there, like I needed someone to be there, but she wasn't a drama queen, she wasn't energy sucking, at least not any more than I was. I felt like she understood me exactly in the way that I wanted to be understood, reacted in the ways I wanted to react. Her comfort was always exactly what I wanted it to be, and she always said the same thing of me.
I've said before that I think someone who is crooked needs someone equally crooked to support them; that a crooked pillar only brings down a straight pillar. There are people who will tell you that is absolutely unhealthy, that two mentally ill people should absolutely not be together, and I guess I understand why they might say that, but for me, knowing someone who didn't relate to me in that way only made me feel like a puppy dog. I needed a certain kind of friend, and maybe a person could be that for me, but it felt needy and embarrassing for them to not need them back from me.
The end of 1997 came around, and we decided it was finally time to meet. It's funny looking back on it, because it felt like forever between that first phone call in El Paso between two teenagers, to now, two grown ups, me 18, just about 19, she 22, it was only two years and six months. If I didn't remember the dates specifically, I would have guessed at least twice that amount of time writing gigantic letters and phone calls once a month.
Michelle emailed me the amount of money-- in cash, by the way, neatly taped into a Christmas card-- to get from Sacramento to Phoenix, 78 dollars. I was to come Christmas Eve, 1997, spending New Years 1998 with her. Things would go wrong, and I wouldn't be able to get a ride back to the bus station. I would ultimately end up staying with her and her roommates for an entire month, without access to a phone. The month was strenuous, with Michelle losing her job, being evicted, and us barely having enough food to eat. We slept on a single twin mattress together, which we barely fit on, and it was cold. When I eventually got back to my home in Sacramento, my mom had filed a missing person's report because I was supposed to be back in a week and literally could not get a hold of her to tell her that I wasn't able to get to the bus station, which was actually in the next city over. The apartment we lived in had been flooded, the entire apartment drenched and soaking, most of our furniture missing, probably moved to another apartment, but I had no idea where. I had to find the driest spot possible and lean against a wall to sleep after having been up the previous 24 hours on a bus ride. Michelle and I had been through a long, stressful month, sometimes unhappy with one another, sometimes just plain depressed, and the last day I saw her she was upset at me, pissy about something or other.
Still, that December 24th, a month prior, I remember when I got out of the taxi in Gilbert, AZ, having ridden on a hellish bus ride on Christmas Eve, a terrible ride where a bus broke down, another bus driver didn't know how to turn the heat off and we all boiled. I walked up the stairs, found the apartment-- I could see people inside, and I could hear talking, and my having walked up to the door halted the talking inside.
I took a deep breath. I knocked. The door opened. There she was, wide-eyed, an incredible smile. "Chris!" she said. And she was upon me, arms open, hugging, which honestly I wasn't expecting because I was too nervous, I was expecting a pleasant hi and how was your trip before a nervous hug, but she was hugging me, really going for it.
"Oh my god you were supposed to be here yesterday!" she said.
"I thought I was supposed to be here on Christmas Eve," I said.
"No, you were supposed to be here on the 23rd! Oh my god, I thought you had just taken my money and I'd never hear from you again!"
"Do you really think I'd ruin three years of friendship for seventy-six bucks?" I asked.
"Well, no," she said. "No, I didn't. If I didn't, I wouldn't have sent you the money! Oh my god, I am so glad to see you!"
The following month was not perfect. But it was worth it. Even at the time, I knew: it was all worth it.