I remember it well, all too well. She was my best friend in high school. She was the alt chick of all time. She was Michelle Smith. And now, standing there in her cap and gown, she was the graduate, the valedictorian, the woman who knew where she was going in life and what she wanted when she got there.
"Michelle," I began, my voice catching "I'm going to miss you. You were the only one who didn't leave me alone all those years ago when I first got here and for that I'll always be grateful. You have been, and always shall be, my friend." We embraced and the tears flowed like water. She looked lovely, her raven tresses flowing down her back, her makeup just enough to make her look like a fine lady of the afternoon not a loose lady of the evening. I disengaged from her and stepped back. I was supposed to have been with this graduating class but I hadn't played the school's game and was thus held back twice, once in 7th grade and once in 11th. Therefore, my beautiful friend was graduating and walking out of my life forever. Or so I thought.
"Farewell, dear friend." Michelle said, tears welling up in her eyes.
I'd begun working at a small grocery store in West Alexandria, 'Carter's', and I had just discovered the joy of the Internet. I realized, much to my amazement and delight, that through this medium I might be able to find Michelle after all those long years. I knew she'd gone to Tyson University and so I tried to find her address on their site. But I kept putting the wrong three letters at the end of the URL. I had tried net, com and org. None had worked. Then, one Friday night, while at my parent's house, I heard my father watching a Tyson college hoops game on the television. The college president came on during the commercial break and said if anyone wanted more info to go online. He gave the address and I nearly jumped for joy when he ended it with the three letter ending I'd failed to use; edu. That was it! The next day, on my lunch break, I went to the library and went directly to Tyson's page. There, among the list of alumni, was Michelle's name and address. I wrote it down quickly, headed to the local card shop and got a simple blank card. In it I poured out my feelings about how I'd missed her and how I hoped she was well. She didn't respond quickly so I sent another letter. This time she responded with a letter of her own, A letter I have to this very day.
In the letter she described her life as exciting, with trips and adventures. I often wondered how she could afford to have those adventures but I never bothered to ask. Just getting to hear from her again, after four long years, was heaven. She suggested I go to Mardi Gras the same time she did. I wish I had, as I've never been. But, I was always one to throw cold water on a hot situation. She also mentioned that she'd be leaving to live in California later that year. From that point forward I grasped at straws. I set one of my clocks on California time. I subscribed for two years to the San Francisco city magazine, praying I'd catch a glimpse of her face. Anytime I looked west I thought of her. Then, I gave up. Years had passed and no word from her had come forth. My friend, my friend, why had you forsaken me?
Years had passed and I felt as if I'd never see her or hear from her again. Finally, after decades of silence, I came across her again. While sitting with my mother at her dialysis, to ensure that she'd go through her whole treatment, I looked for Michelle again. This time, miraculously, I found her. My joy was boundless. I had found my dear, dear friend after years of searching! She was on 'Hookedup'. I joined to be close to her. After I discovered that she lived in Austin Texas I grabbed a seat on a Greyhound bus and headed west. I was going to see her again!
"Michelle!" I cried as I literally jumped off the bus into her arms. She couldn't speak for the tears, but, thank God, they were tears of joy! We just held each other for what seemed like hours (actually, it was 10 minutes). I released my grip when I noticed a rather mature man looking quite put out. I leaned in and whispered in Michelle's ear. "Who's the man?" She laughed, and my tears flowed again, for truly, she still had a laugh like ringing bells.
"That's my husband. Honey, come here and meet my dearest friend in the whole wide world." The man, looking rather dignified, came towards me, extending his hand in friendship. I took it and I must say, there was no dead fish there.
"Greetings! Any friend of my wife's is a friend of mine!" He had a rich baritone voice and an extremely friendly manner. He also seemed extremely well off as he wore a Brook's Brothers suit tailored to fit him to a T. In fact, both Michelle and her hubby seemed like life had been very, very good to them. As we headed to their BMW to head back to the home place, I sent up a prayer of thanks to God for His blessings to and care of Michelle after all these years. Nothing could have been better than finding out that she was alive and well. She was happily married and, as we entered the driveway of the old home place, I saw she was very well-off and truly loved by her hubby, who had her ensconced in a mansion. She was strong, she was invincible, she was the woman I remembered and more besides. Praise God for His indescribable gift of Michelle, healthy, happy and whole!