Monday, May 20, 2013


Her thing was writing down song lyrics. She would sit there, furiously scribbling in Geometry class in the notebook she carried everywhere, her frizzy hair bobbing at the back of her head like the comical phsyical manifestation of her runaway brain. She was so purposeful and I was jealous. She had a beginning and an end to her task at hand and she was going to get both places.

I don't know what lyrics she was copying. Megadeth, probably. Or Papa Roach or Powerman 5000 or one of those terrifying, screamy bands. Those were her thing, too.

She could never sit still. Her legs woulds swing furiously underneath her and I would think about all the miles she would have traversed if her toes had simply touched down one day. She was like that every day. Swinging; bobbing; writing; going nowhere.

One day in the spring of freshman year I invited her to church. She was the person who scared me the most at school and so, I reasoned, the person who most needed my invitation to communion. My evangelism back then was wholly focused on me - if I did it right; if I did it better than everyone else. It does not escape me that God still used it, or at least could have; and the sentiment in that truth is enough to make even the silliest moral failure an explosion of perfect, redeemed hope.

She said yes, and I know why, and I knew why then, too. Because it was unexpected of her. She was the truest kind of grunge - grunge for the sake of being grunge; not grunge so she could wear the clothes or get the boys. She hated institutions and the boxes she felt like she was put into, so she clawed her way out of every single one. In every decision she made, she calculated the exact opposite of what was expected or desired from her and did that. Wrote lyrics instead of the Pythagorean theorum. Said yes to an invitation to mass.

She wore black lipstick a lot.

Once she said yes I was thrust into a situation I had no preparation for, because even I had been suckered by her menacing demeanor into believing she'd never say yes. Again - the invite had been for me. A box I could check off; a grand, 'brave' gesture that would allow me to shout triumphantly YES, I DID! the next time one of the little "Taking it Further" excerpts in my Teen Bible asked me if I truly was willing to bring the gospel to the 'outsiders.' So I was terrified. I sang at my Catholic Church growing up and I was one of the Fishers. We were a pillar family in that parish and our hair was always combed and black lipstick would have never touched the edges of our familial sartorial consciousness.  How was I supposed to bring Gothy McFrizzball to mass?!

I agreed to pick her up from her house in the morning before the service, and she handed over her address with a smile that was both inquisitive and teasing. She was amused that she scared me. She was touched that I kept pressing anyway. She probably knew me better than I did, to tell you the truth.

By the time I pulled up to her house that sunny morning I was convinced I was in the midst of some kind of intense spiritual growth - which I was. I had successfully wrapped my head around the idea that I was about to bring a Marilyn Manson fangirl into the oldest Christian institution in the world and now I was proud of it; already egging on the old ladies I was sure would throw their judgmental glances my way as soon as we walked in. My evangelism totally trumps yours!

When I walked in, her mom greeted me with the same version of a kind, but mocking eyebrow-raise that her daughter had given me earlier in the week. The living room was full of smoke. So much smoke you could see it. The TV was on. Her mom pointed me to a back room and went back to the couch; pretending not to be interested in whether I bolted, but we  both couldn't wait to find out.

I opened the door to her room and she was on the floor, just lying there, in her pajamas, and she smiled at me. She didn't have any furniture in there. She was in a pile of pillows, smashed up into a corner. She looks tired; hungover. I was fascinated. I started thinking of "Black Baloon" by the Goo Goo Dolls. Did she do drugs? What did it feel like? "Hey," she said. "I can't make it today. Maybe next week." I said "ok" and tried to look as if I believed her. She was mocking me again, with that smile, but it wasn't mean. She was not telling me the truth but she wasn't lying, either. She was giving me an out.

For a few years after that, whenever school got really boring, I'd write lyrics. Really sad, cliches Lifehouse lyrics about loneliness and sadness and angst. I wanted to look like her in those moments; furiously writing something with the kind of purpose that normal, church-going kids apply to their Geometry instead. She was so intent, writing those lyrics. Those lyrics someone else had written.

I wish she had written some of her own. I would have loved to read them.

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