(For those of you who only tune in once in awhile, I’m doing something new here. Each time I post a story or poem or musing about India, I will also post a story about a person in my life who I love. This one is dedicated to Carly Thomas.)
June 16, 2009
I met Carly Lindberg in the autumn of ‘97. We were both freshman at the University of Washington, and we had been accepted into the Delta Zeta sorority. We shared a room with eight other girls, and Carly and I each occupied our own corner. Technically, the room was just a place to keep our things, because as freshman, we slept in bunk beds in big, dark rooms called “porches.” Those porches were terrible. They were in the basement, so the windows were at the top of the room, and the lights were always turned off, leaving the place in gloomy darkness. One night when it was warm, someone left one of the windows open. The was the last time she ever did it, because sometime during the night, a homeless man, or perhaps a drunken fraternity guy decided to take a piss on her head. Unluckily for her, she occupied the top bunk, her head situated near the open window where he stood and let the contents of his bladder fly. I often blamed those porches for my impressive spring quarter 0.0 GPA, because they were always dark, so I never woke up. I would rise at noon, or one, or two thirty, long after my classes were over.
In those days, Carly and I were best friends and worst enemies. We and our other outcast roommates would bond fiercely over illicit bottles of Mad Dog in the closet before going out to fraternity parties and dancing the night away. We felt that we were constantly being persecuted in the sorority. We set a record for being sent to the Ethics Board more times than any other girls in the history of the chapter. We went to Ethics for sneaking boys into our rooms, we went for smuggling beer into sorority-hosted dances, we went for hazing our “little sis’s,” we went for starting food fights that left the formal dining room’s walls stained and splattered. I suppose we were little troublemakers. We were finally, ingloriously thrown out in the fall of our sophomore year.
By that time Carly and I had grown even closer, living in absolute squalor together during the previous summer. Then, we had occupied a tiny room in the basement of the fraternity across the alley. Dirty dishes were not cleaned- they were thrown out the window. Nights were not sober- we lived on Malibu and Coke. Laughter was never in shortage- we found each other hilarious. Some of my favorite college memories center around the wild days and nights we spent together in and outside of that room, and Carly will forever be imprinted on my mind as a gorgeous brunette in a tight white wife beater, with warm-up pants on, and her glossy hair tied back in a knot. She didn’t give a damn about anything, and she got me into more trouble than I care to remember. Of course, she would say it was the other way around 😉
Nowadays, our friendship is much different. For one thing, it’s been many years since we’ve lived in the same city. After college, she moved to the other side of the country and spent several years on the East Coast. She met her current husband there, a man I hardly know, but love anyway. He is an extraordinary gentleman, and he puts up with Carly’s antics beautifully 😉 After the East Coast, she and Alex returned to San Francisco, where they have been ever since. She has worked in non-profits and for Planned Parenthood, as her fever for justice and equality has never been satiated. She has always been politically informed and active, encouraging us to inform ourselves, make a difference, and VOTE!
Carly is the girl that always remembers birthdays, and always sends a card that makes you glow. She can have a tough exterior when she needs to, but inside, she has a heart of gold. Her birthday sentiments always pierce to the core, and more often than not, bring me to tears. She sees through to the heart of what is good and important in people, and she is wonderful about calling it out. Carly’s little notes have lifted my spirits for years, and I am always amazed that she remembers me so diligently.
She is also funny as hell. Oh my god, that girl has had me laughing and squeezing my legs shut more times than I could possibly count. Her sense of humor comes in every variety, from biting criticism when it is most needed, to wry observations about the world and the people in it. She is sharp-witted and she picks up everything, and often, turns her observations into humor. I hope she doesn’t kill me for sharing this (and I doubt she even remembers it!), but several years ago, a few of us went up to visit her at her parent’s house in Bellingham. I was in a sour mood that weekend, and little was making me smile. I think I was suffering from a bout of the break-up blues. We all went out that night, and Carly and everyone else got tossed. Our cab driver pulled through Jack-In-The-Box late that night for the obligatory grease bomb to the stomach. After we got our food, Carly turned back in her seat and demanded that Kelly share her curly fries. Kelly is much like Carly in the haughty humor department, and she instantly refused, going back to carefully picking the choicest fries out of the carton. “Now, Kelly! Give me a curly fry NOW!” Carly demanded. Kelly continued extracting fries, and refused to give in. The cab driver was looking over his shoulder in amusement, and Alex was patiently balancing Carly on his lap as she twisted and turned in her seat. “Kelly,” Carly began again in a very threatening tone, “If you do not give me a fry RIGHT NOW, I will bite you on the VAGINA!!!” Everyone else in the cab was too drunk to find that statement hilarious, but the cab driver and myself burst out in laughter. I couldn’t stop. I laughed and laughed as I replayed that line in my head, and for the rest of the evening, I felt better.
Over the years, Carly has shown herself to be a consistent, supportive friend. For some reason, though we don’t talk often, she is the one I find myself turning to first in some of the most critical situations in my life. I have done this several times, pouring my heart out to her over the phone or in a letter, sure that she will understand and support me. And she always does. In those moments when I need her, she seems to straighten up, dig deep within, and come out with a wisdom and calm that she often disguises with her carefree lifestyle and her bawdy humor. She always offers me exactly what I need, and I get the sense that beneath her exterior, there is an iron will and a strength that will get her and the people she loves through any difficult situation. When I was meditating in March, she and her sister came into my head with what seemed like inordinate frequency. I see Courtney even less than I see Carly, but those girls were with me the entire month I meditated.
Sometimes you can’t explain why someone is so dear to you, or why they have such an impact on your life. On the surface, it is perplexing that Carly should be so important to me. I met many people in college, and lost contact with them without a second thought. But it goes deeper with Carly, and she lives in my subconscious as much as a sister or a friend I have known for many, many lives. Though we seemed to lose regular touch in the years that she was away (with the exception of her lovely birthday cards), I am happy to say that it feels like our lives have begun to overlap more and more as of late. Strangely, this hasn’t happened in the normal sense, as we are still on opposite sides of the world, but I hear from her more often, and I get in touch with her more frequently than we have done in a long time. Several months before I left on this trip, I was surprised to get a text message from her one morning- I don’t think I had ever received a text message from her. It said something to the effect of “I had a really creepy dream about the sorority last night and now I’m in a funky mood.” That text was all the more surprising because I had also had a strange, repetitive dream about the sorority that very morning. I never dream of the sorority! Perhaps that astral link re-established a connection between us that has been blossoming ever since.
I love you Carly, and happy, happy birthday! Welcome to thirty! Let’s love it!!!