My freshman year in college I had a roommate who stayed out late, went to fraternity parties, flung clothes all over our tiny dorm room floor, and watched loud soap operas in the middle of the day.
Can you imagine.
We had a falling out that culminated with (me) screaming, (me) sobbing, (me) throwing things and (me) – god, this is so embarrassing – packing the television set up in my car and driving it back to my parents’ house several weeks before finals. I showed her, man. No more soaps for her (and no more X Files for me).
Poor thing. While she was busy being a normal college freshman, I was clinging to my goody two shoes. (I hate to say I also mean that literally. I only recently tossed out the pair of penny loafers I bought in junior high school and continued to wear through most of college.)
We were not two girls thrown together randomly by a campus housing computer program. We had grown up together. Our mothers were close friends who taught in the same elementary school. We spent countless nights at one another’s houses with my younger brother and her younger cousin. She was the first to know of my long-held secret crush on another teacher’s kid. I always knew of her myriad not-so-secret crushes, little childhood “relationships” she (unlike me) always had the courage to reveal. We drifted in and out of each others’ inner circles during junior high, growing closer again in high school. We thought we would be compatible roommates.
Close but not clingy. Complementary, but clashing.
But college freshmen are not so circumspect.
What I regret most about that year is how my exhausting self-riteousness not only prevented me from having any fun, it cost me a friendship and stopped who knows how many others from blossoming. Worst: it blinded me to how smart, giving and perceptive my roommate was.
Yesterday I had coffee with a friend who is among the most talented writers I know. He is paid to write advertising copy, but it’s the essays he writes (unpaid, on his blog) that knock you down. I asked him why he does it. “I have found that when I write, good things happen in my life,” he said.
I thought of my old roommate.
Just before Christmas, she sent me a message on Facebook. She had seen my blog and wanted some advice on starting her own.
People write blogs about all kinds of things. Food. Travel. Running. Their kids.
Based on what I knew through the grapevine of her current lifestyle, I assumed she’d be writing about something like that. She’s a marathoner, triathlete, a mother of two.
But she began her private message by asking me to keep her concept quiet for awhile because she hadn’t yet had a chance to tell all her family members.
The purpose of her blog, she explained, would be to encourage would-be organ donors to go through with their donations. To get tested in the first place. To not be afraid.
For in a couple months, she herself would be donating a kidney to her uncle.
She had come to her decision during a run.
I met her for cocktails at the Oak Bar in the Hermitage Hotel. That bar is within walking distance of both our offices, but we had not seen each other in more years than either of us could recall. (Maybe since our weddings 10, 12 years ago?)
I recognized her right away, and not because of Facebook but because of the same reason I would have if the internet had never been invented: From the time we were children, people have said we resemble one another.
Angular features. Brown hair cut in wavy layers. Athletic build.
We caught up.
She shared the story of her decision to donate a kidney. She did not need any blogging advice.
I shared the story of my divorce and friendship with my ex-husband. I appreciated her encouragement.
We talked about our parents, particularly our mothers. We talked about old teachers, people from our home town, and old classmates. We talked about our careers, things we want to do in the future, our friends and our kids. We are both runners and cyclists, and we talked about that. We are avid readers and talked about books.
Indeed, we talked about our fall-out in college. But it was brief, and with both shame and a sort of paternal tenderness for who we’d been then.
We left a couple hours later feeling very warm.
She underwent surgery after the holiday season and was supported mightily by her family and friends.
She has now recovered enough to begin running again. Her uncle has removed the dialysis equipment from his home.
They are new people for having had this experience.
Her blog has been well received by those who know and love her, as well as other transplant patients.
She and I have kept in touch, including a lingering lunch this week.
This isn’t my story in the least, but there is a lesson here beyond my old roommate’s courage to give her kidney. That is both of our willingness to revisit our friendship.
When time is the healer, opportunity is the attending nurse.