Friend's Sudden Move to the Straight and Narrow Causes Disappointment

A few days ago, I felt an urgent need to contact a high school friend with whom I had not spoken in at least two years.

As I tried to compose a friendly greeting to type into the instant messenger’s empty dialogue box, I vaguely began recalling the details of her life as I last knew them. I could remember a handful of lifetime turning points that I knew she had hit during our years without contact.

I couldn’t wait to hear what paths she had paved for herself, and which bridges she had burned along the way.

After transferring to San Francisco State University from my hometown’s community college, my friend sent me a brief e-mail two years ago describing how she met a man who was sweeping her off her feet — all the way to Ireland.

According to the note, she was head-over-heels for her soul mate, and she would be settling in Ireland for an indefinite amount of time to remain a part of his life. She didn’t think twice about putting school on hiatus, or about disappearing in Europe with someone she had known for only a month or so.

She was one of my most carefree companions. Her life was shamelessly novelesque, and I wanted the juicy update that I knew she would happily hand over. As I typed my lame but trustworthy greeting, “”Hey — it’s been a while,”” into the dialogue box, I had no idea what to expect from her.

I admit that perhaps that is what I always relied on her for — a fast-paced, impulsive lifestyle of which I was a part only because I was a part of her. It was always a win-win situation — I remained safely guarded from the consequences of such a lifestyle by surviving solely on the meat of her stories, rather than enjoying the fruit of such adventures firsthand. Call me bland, but I decided to move meticulously after suffering through a few bad choices of my own.

When I met her during my freshman year of high school, I was an awkward and shy 14-year-old with more lust for the nonconformist, pulp fiction life she led than my timid nature would ever allow me to embody. She was one of the best storytellers I had been lucky enough to listen to, for one key reason: Her spark and flair were genuine.

Everything from the attempted overdose at 13 to the seminude photos she posed for at 16 were documentable events that she never admitted to thinking twice about, but which she laughed about on many occasions.

Enthralling me from the start with such stories, I faithfully listened to my friend throughout high school. I listened to the details of an inexplicable divorce that she refused to let scar her, I listened to the makings and breakings of several flings with the boys who drove too fast and did too many drugs and invariably failed to keep my friend entertained.

I listened to her laugh at her mother’s reaction to her tattoo and piercings, and I listened painstakingly when her jaw was wired shut after her dentist recommended that she have her jaw broken and realigned. I listened to her scoff at those who badmouthed her for getting her nose “”realigned”” while she was already under the knife for the jaw procedure. I listened to her dreams and goals of being an erotic dancer, a child therapist, a photographer, and a counterculture-loving San Franciscan.

Meanwhile, I was going to class from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. I was putting in time with yearbook and student government and volunteer-needy retirement homes. I was meeting my A through F requirements. I was taking my Advanced Placement courses.

I was not living or dreaming outside the box like she always had been — I was happy just listening to the live version of her oral history.

Needless to say, when I messaged my friend the other day, I was feeling those old, stinging hunger pains that gnawed at me throughout high school — my almost voyeuristic thirst for the latest chronicles. Until last month, I’d been reading about the media, welfare laws, and campaign finance reform all year — no wonder I was drooling for the next chapter of her racy saga.

Racy, however, the next chapter was not.

My friend, after replying to my greeting with excitement, quickly reported that she recently found God through Christian worship, she had learned to speak in tongues and heal people through the power of touch, and that overall she had experienced a complete “”reformation.””

Well, I can’t accuse her of letting time turn her into a bore.

I grimaced as I watched her text pop onto the screen. What was difficult for me to swallow was not that she is Christian now. Rather, the devil was in the details of her story.

She described a weeklong religious retreat at which the thick presence of God at a three-hour prayer session inspired her to wail aloud, roll across the floor and to speak in tongues — or babble in baby talk, depending on your stance. She also described how a woman suffering an injured ankle was called to the stage. My friend then felt the urge to touch the wounded limb, and when she did, the sufferer was healed.

Healed!

My friend has changed.

She is now the textbook stereotype of the prophecy-spouting religious fanatic — she told me that my house, because it was built in 1908, might have demons and must be anointed as soon as possible. She also believes premarital sex is a sin, that drugs are equivalent to Eve’s apple, and that the Bible should be read literally — and of course, those who don’t treat it as such will rot in Hades.

She is someone I never would have opened myself to, someone I don’t find intellectually unique, someone I would never wait and wait to hear from. Now, I’m struggling to reconcile her two identities, to make sense of who she was versus who she is.

I have no idea how I am going to find closure to my love affair with her life. I was trying to maintain ties, expecting that things would be as they once were, but time, space and religion just won’t let me preserve my moment.

I feel as if I’ve been dumped. Yet, the more I mourn, the more I realize that this is what happens to high school friendships once you move away to college. This is life.

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