Sometimes, I wonder how much more my body can take. At some point, I’m just on auto-pilot, and at the end of my 16-hour day, I’m surprised I’m still functioning, considering I’m one of those people who tries not to take the same route twice (for safety reasons and to mix it up a bit).
Today is one of those days. In addition to physical stress, I am overwhelmed by a whirl of emotions, a reaction to pending changes in my life. I’m preparing to move (again); helping other friends prepare to move; finding new friends and some desperately needed R&R while working for a promotion at the first job I’ve ever cared for. Some may say I’m 27 – this is normal.
But with the additional management of a chronic disease, changes in insurance status, filing claims, switching doctors, acquiring new scripts for that coveted 90-day supply, it’s a wonder I accomplish anything. And as a side note, what’s the point in having an FSA debit card if I have to submit receipts, explanation of benefits, etc. every time I use it?
Rewind 10 years…
I sit on the swing set of a small park near my best friend’s apartment in Louisville, Kentucky. As the sun fades, the crickets come out. I love their sound as long as I don’t have to step near their ugly brown spotted bodies that used to roam our basement and give me daymares.
My best friend Maria and I agreed to meet here one evening in June, the summer before we left for college. She would stay in Louisville. I was destined two hours north for Cincinnati.
We met freshman year of high school waiting for our moms to pick us up outside the new building to our all-girls school. We started talking about politics and cultural events. We philosophized about life and love and by the end of the year, we had become best friends.
She was the first friend I actually talked for hours on the phone with. She was the first friend who knew not to call me before noon on a Saturday. She was from Mexico. I was from Louisville. We had nothing in common yet everything in common. We attended dances stag, tutored immigrants after school, toured the state with speech team, practiced salsa, and watched silly Lifetime movies on Friday nights.
She thought I’d end up with a Kentucky Catholic boy. I thought she’d end up with a rich divorcee. She introduced me to Isabel Allende; I introduced her to my novel attempts at writing fiction. I was blonde and medium height; she was brunette and short. I lived with a mom, dad, and two younger brothers. She shared a small apartment with her single mom and sometimes her uncle.
By the time we finished high school, she was practically a polyglot. After four years of Spanish, I couldn’t even call myself bilingual. We used to hang out in bookstores and learn new languages in the travel section. We loved to pass each other in the school hallway and say, “Gatta ci cova,” which means in Italian, “there’s something fishy going on.” We never competed; we just were. Anytime one of us was having a hard day, we would say, “Remember, I love you anyway.”
Her mom became my second mom; her home my second home. And this park near her apartment, my sanctuary. I brush my sandals against the dirt beneath the swing. I am wearing my typical khaki shorts and favorite Myrtle Beach t-shirt with a palm tree and the waves along a beach dotted in gold.
She arrives in jeans and a white, flowing shirt she brought back from Mexico. Her brown curls are hidden in a ponytail, but she walks confidently towards the swing. She’s always been confident, even that one time she was throwing up in the bathroom but refused to leave school until she finished her French test.
“What’s up?” She asks, sitting next to me. Now that school is over, I finally see her relax. Someone walks by with a golden retriever that is too busy watching squirrels to pay us any mind.
“I want to do a time capsule.” She smiles, looking down at me like I have something up my sleeve.
“I know, it sounds silly. But we’re 18, right? Who knows where we’ll be in 10 years? I’m still figuring myself out but wouldn’t it be cool to record all our dreams, all our likes and dislikes right now, and then in 10 years see how far we’ve come?”
I don’t say and see if we’re still friends? The thought would have never occurred to me. Okay, maybe it would? But before Maria came along, I never kept a best friend for more than a year. I don’t know if it’s because I didn’t trust them, or things changed, or I just wanted to play the field, so to speak. But even though we’d had our ups and downs, Maria had been my best friend for four years. I couldn’t imagine life without her.
So on that evening near the crickets and beneath the Maple trees, we created our time capsules. We sealed and dated them and promised we would not open them until June of 2015.
I still have that envelope somewhere, buried in one of the boxes in my parent’s basement. I plan to open it if I ever find it, not because I want to measure my successes, but because I want to glimpse at the idealism I used to cherish before diabetes came along, before relationships ended, before money mattered, and before life seemed so small.
I see Maria about once a year, anytime I visit Louisville. We’ve grown up; we’ve changed. What once molded us has unfolded, much like the crickets who quieted by morning. She wasn’t there when diabetes arrived; she doesn’t know the person diabetes made me.
I like that person (sometimes), but I also wonder what it would be like to revisit the mind of the girl wearing the Myrtle Beach t-shirt. At that age, I worried more about some guy breaking my heart than my body breaking me. First, it was my mind, and then my pancreas.
Though I’m now stronger and less vulnerable, less gullible, that teenager who used to like to write short stories by candlelight still lives. And she lives because of friends like Maria, friends, who regardless of a chronic condition, love her anyway.
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