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Always Something There to Remind Me
On the way to the restaurant to see a high school friend I hadn't seen in nearly three decades, Prince's "Let's Go Crazy" burst from my car-radio; it came out less than a year after my high school graduation. On the way home from our dinner, Naked Eyes' "Always Something There to Remind Me" came on; it first aired during my senior year, around the time my dad (z"l) died.
If only I had had the comfort of a cat back then. One sits on my lap now, kneading a thigh with her pin-prick claws and drooling a little on my keyboard. Maybe I'd have felt less alone back then if I had had such a friend.
"I'm sorry you struggled on your own," my friend said with tears, pooling in her darker-than-I-remembered eyes; she wore big, rounded-square '80s glasses back then.
Her tears made my eyes well.
My friend said this after telling me that she had wondered how she would have reacted had I told her of my lesbianism when we were in high school. "I'm glad you didn't. It would have been more complicated. It might have seemed too intimate for me to know then. I'm not sure I'd have known what to say or do."
Earlier in the day, my oldest friend, who I've known since I was three, and I took a walk. "[My son's] drama teacher is gay....You know how we know? This is such a great story about how far we've come. There was a parent-teacher conference, where the teacher was talking about going to church and about having two kids. I figured he was trying to make people feel comfortable."
"Maybe," I nodded.
"Well, I came home and asked [my son], 'Is Mr. Xxxxx gay?"
"Yes," he said.
"How do you know?"
"Because before their most recent play, he mentioned that his husband would be coming to the show."
My friend turned to me and said enthusiastically, "Isn't that great, how he was normalizing it?"
"Wonderful," I answered and heard her exclaim a couple more times about how the drama teacher was "normalizing" being gay.
It's normal, just not the norm, I want to correct her now...and then I say to myself, Why do you have to have such a big chip on your shoulder? Your friend is trying, and she does not live in your world. To her, "normalize" doesn't seem like a word that would sting. I wonder how often I've said something inadvertantly racist to her; her kids are biracial.
Still earlier in the day, I stopped by a another childhood friend's family's retail store, but my friend was not there, but her mother, and her older sister, who I had not seen in 33 years, and who looked just the same, but adult, both were there and caught up with me.
"I see your mom all the time, at the JCC, swimming," my friend's older sister said. "How was India?"
"It was great, and challenging, since my partner's female and homosexual activity is jailable --"
"Yeah, but probably not enforced," she said smoothly.
"True, they haven't enforced it in some years, we were told, but still, it made for some tension. Have you been to India?"
"No," but it turned out that she had been to Indonesia on vacation and I wondered how we had gotten from what seemed to be -- more often than not -- our God-forsaken, Modern Orthodox Jewish elementary school classrooms to these comparatively exotic locales.
The "God-forsaken" reference related to how I felt at the cruelty of some of my classmates.
"Well, you look the same," I said as I was leaving.
"Little Sarah Siegel!" she responded.
"I was never little, remember?"
"How tall are you?"
"Five foot nine and a half," I said.
"The perfect height for a gown," she said looking around the store and smiling.
"I had to wear one once," I said.
"Hopefully, you understand that I love how women look in gowns, but they're not for me."