I remember walking to the school bus stop with Matt. He was a very quiet, very awkward, dorky guy who always looked at me like I had two heads. I could never figure out if he loved me or hated me, but I was certain it was one of those two things. I never saw him at school, that or I never noticed. Once we got to school, Matt disappeared.
Jen started at our school in the middle of the year. She showed up one day at the bus stop. We were friends at first. She was goody-two-shoes and I wasn’t (I mean, not even close.) I think I scared her. I was reckless and fast and liked to be intimidating. She wanted to be good and smart and liked by every one. I wanted to be feared. Our friendship ended quickly.
Orchard Lane was one of the first places that I remember Elizabeth outside of school—although we spent most of our time at one of her many houses (more to come)—we spent a good deal of time in my room on Orchard.
The first time I listened to Duke Ellington, Felonious Monk, and Charlie Parker was with Liz. Her dad was a jazz musician (and professor at OSU) and she had been exposed to so much more music than the rest of us—sophisticated, real, before-our-time black-people, white-people, around-the-world, music. My mom was a great music lover too, American soul, blues, rock-n-roll. And I could certainly hold my own, but Liz’s parents were older and more worldly in so many ways—they had fights about jazz while drinking wine and chilled asparagus soup at the dinner table. I wanted that.
Music and books and each other were our obsessions. Liz taught me about Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Collette. I showed her Elizabeth Bishop, Kinky Friedman, William Carlos Williams, and William S. Burroughs. We would smoke pot and lay around in her room listening to jazz and reading poetry. We wanted to be beat poets or modernists in Paris or anything artsy and creative and elevated from what we were—high school girls in Columbus, Ohio.
We both studied and excelled in photography. We both loved to sing. Liz was operatically trained. I was not. We sang together and danced ballroom-style, just us—that wasn’t for anyone else. She called me Heddy or Hed-Mo, nicknames strictly reserved for my mother and grandfather. Liz was family. We fought like it too. Always pissed and jealous of intruders, on both sides—a new friend, a new lover, a boyfriend—anyone, who took away that time and space, was a threat—we quarreled like sisters or lovers.
We were not lovers, though people always asked. No, never sexual. There was an unmistakable power in our love that bordered on obsession that was almost romantic in the way that it was gigantic and consuming and possessive and like all things that young love is. It was hard to be with a boyfriend when my best friend was so important, so much more important than any boy could be. We needed each other so much then. Without Liz, I was alone.