Mkay, y’all. Prepare yourselves. I’m gonna do something completely unheard of in this blog. I am going to cover issues so serious they should be the topic of a therapy session… only I’m not going to take them seriously in the slightest, because emotions freak me out.
Get it? It’s funny, because I do that all the time.
One hundred years ago, I met Gail at the Battle of Bud Bagsak*… wait. No. It was ten years ago at the Hometown Mid-High and we were in the ninth grade. It just feels like a hundred years ago, because… well, stay tuned.
* Yeah. I looked that up.
At 15, Gail wore the same grey sweatpants and oversized blue t-shirt with flip-flops every single day, rain or shine, and it was around this time I had begun my “overall phase.” Gail had fake teeth that she nervously clicked and neither of us wore make-up. We were social outcasts with smart mouths and rocky home lives. We met in Yearbook class, stereotypically enough.
Awkward 15-year-old Me: “What the hell happened to your teeth?!?”
Awkward 15-year-old Gail: “Well, I was at this party… and this guy had these piercings.”
We were fast friends.
As kids, our pastimes included telling Gail’s parents we were at Key Club meetings and taking photos in the middle of nowhere. We sat in her bedroom floor making collages of scantily clad women, because we thought it would be funny to convince her parents we were lesbians. I used to alter her report cards to raise the low grades and lower the high ones so her parents would never expect more than average and ground their strong B student for getting a low A. My mother never even asked to look at my 4.0 report card. We wrote blogs and did crafts. We fantasized about how we’d both meet country boys, get married early, and have babies. We’d escape our toxic parent/child relationships and our lives would be perfect. No matter what, though, we were always each other’s shelter from the storm and there was nothing we couldn’t tell the other.
Then things got… weird.
Neither Gail nor I had ever been kissed when we got our first boyfriends at 17… within months of each other. For realz, our first real dates were the same movie. Logically, we each lost our virginity around the same time, though Gail much sooner, due to the opposing magnets in her kneecaps.
We each got very serious very quickly in these relationships, so boys and sex were a brand new thing for us at the same time. Then came our second semester of senior year. You see, while most of our white middle-class classmates were excited for graduation day and the cliché Felicity college years, Gail and I were both just… uniquely lost. Her parents had made it clear that she was to move out if she wasn’t attending college and that they were neither going to pay for her college nor give her the information she needed to receive loans, because they didn’t want her taking on that kind of debt. My mother had… well, she was gone. She’d moved to a town about two hours away to live with her boyfriend and my ex-husband was living with me in her house. She brought by gas and grocery money, screamed about how messy the house was when she left a child alone for months, and then she’d be off. Gail and I both had zero guidance… no clear plans. So, instead of feeling elated when we threw our caps in the air, we were just terrified.
As summer took hold, Gail and I drifted. Gail was my maid-of-honor, but we both got so busy, we didn’t have time to maintain that high school relationship. About a year and a half later, though, I randomly called her and we chatted like we were 15 and stringing our own necklaces in the floor. It was then that we started to catch up… and realized the odd similarities in our lives.
Just a year after I married my ex, Gail married Shane, the rebound after her first boyfriend. She’d clung to him when her parents had made it clear she had to leave.
I’d clung to and married my ex-husband when my mother had left.
Gail and I struggled to pay the bills on our own as our husbands refused to work. Oddly enough, neither of us ever discussed our near identical marriages at the time. As close as we were, we still hoped that the next morning, they’d magically become good and competent men, get out of bed, go to work, and help support their families. In the meantime, if they could stop abusing the pets (mine) and looking at child porn (Gail’s), that would be super, too. Gail once told me that she didn’t mind that Shane was only working at Blockbuster, because at least he was working. I once told her that it didn’t matter if I didn’t trust my ex. You get different things from different people and there are other people I trust. I just needed him to work. Our best case scenarios involved minimum wage jobs they’d actually keep and no trust or security… ever. Once they grew up and stopped mistreating their wives, though, we couldn’t very well have our best friends and families hating them, could we? Besides, at this point we wouldn’t have to worry about money anymore, because we’d be pulling in millions harvesting fairy dust from a rainbow!
So, as we’d done when we were kids, Gail and I clung to each other, sharing the occasional breakdown. Then Gail got pregnant.
Me: “So are things better with Shane now, or…”
Gail: “I don’t want to talk about my marriage. I want to talk about my baby.”
Then I got pregnant.
Me: “I’m not ready for this.”
Gail: “It’s good that you know that, because raising this little girl is the hardest thing I’ll ever do.”
Then I lost my baby in my late-first/early-second trimester.
Then Gail filed for divorce.
Then Gail lost Grace at eight months old.
It was at this point that we’d begun to think our life parallels were… startling.
Then Gail was raped at a party.
Then I woke up one morning, unsure why I was naked and the sheets were clean.
Then I filed for divorce.
Gail ended her first relationship since her divorce.
We both took up dating again… navigated the treacherous waters of online romance, of boys who don’t call back…
Then we got jobs in our desired fields within months of each other.
What the fuck?
At this point, I could pretty much be attacked by a polka dot pink kangaroo and Gail would know to be on the lookout.
So, we decided some time back, that these similarities were just too bizarre. One of us has to be fake while the other is left rocking in the corner of a psych ward, eating her own lips, and mumbling about the other. The debate has now turned into exactly who is the real one.
Every time we say something in unison, we’ll try to beat each other to the punch with “I’m the real one!”
I think I make a pretty strong case for why I’m real, though a good portion of that case is “I’m me” and that has yet to convince Gail. But I’m always first damn it. I had the boyfriend first, the abusive marriage, the miscarriage. I just inflicted these things on my imaginary friend Gail, so I would have someone who could relate to me. As I vomited on the side of the road on Thanksgiving night of 2010, weeping about my ex-husband leaving the dog tied up so long he dug a hole through the floor until his feet bled, Gail held my hair… in my imagination. I was really just projectile vomiting in a padded room, because the new medication didn’t sit well.
In the last two years, my life has completely lit up. It’s been wonderful. I have great friends and can financially support myself. I didn’t eat free popcorn from my job at the movie theater all through last summer. I know why the mattress is bare. Soooo… after I found a job with the library system, Gail got her job, which she fully intends to turn into a career. After I got an apartment that my ex-husband wasn’t breaking into to steal from me nightly (after the divorce was finalized), Gail moved out of her parents’ home, where she’d been living since Grace’s death. I’m not sold on the idea that having a man in my life will improve it, so I’ve inflicted one on Gail, in the form of Terry, to test it out. I’ve even sent us running in completely opposite directions in regards to gender roles, so I can experiment with both. I regularly say “the boy does that” while Gail changes a tire or pees standing up.
I actually did have an imaginary friend once. The Jolly Green Giant lived in my parents’ ceiling light and only visited me.
I make a pretty convincing case here. I’d bet even Gail is starting to believe. In the meantime…