Never in the history of mankind, via the Internet, has there been more access to words and more words, pictures and more pictures, people and more people, than at this moment - it's a bit overwhelming, but not quite all-seeing and all-knowing. Case in point:
Many, many years ago, after a grindhouse movie, my long lost film-girl and I were doing a bit of impromptu autocrossing in my old Mini thru a local suburb while trying to find a particular Mexican restaurant - I was young and foolish, and she was young and funny, egging me on, giving me wrong directions - when we went 'round a corner and almost ran over a little girl standing on... the sidewalk. I was going way too fast and loose, and the curbs were rounded rather than edged. I said "Shit!", and did the most stupid thing you could do - I stepped on the brake, and went into an almost fatal trailing-throttle oversteer. I spun twice, and somehow avoided a parked pick-up truck, ending up half on a lawn. I reversed, and cranked her around, left quickly and more than a little embarrassed. This episode was the primary reason I changed my driving habits around town, and I still remember the look on that little girl's face. Chills me even now.
The entire time we were spinning, my "navigator" was laughing so hard she couldn't speak - I got a little pissed off, and yelled at her. I was shaking, and after I was well clear of the place I had to stop and calm down. This was one of the scariest moments of my life, and all she could do was laugh, so I told her what had made me spin, and suddenly she sobered up - she hadn't seen the little girl, and thought I'd just lost it. She didn't talk to me while I got back on the road, lost ourselves once or twice more, found the goddam Mexican place, watched me eat, left, and were half-way to her drop-off point in a mall. We were going thru another suburban hell, and she was looking straight ahead, with these funky old-lady sunglasses from somewheres, lit a cigarette, and took a long drag. I looked at her quick, and she didn't even turn her head, she just flicked the cig out the window - she knew the rule - no smoking in the Mini. I slowed down 'til we were just idling along.
"You shouldn't have told me," she said so quietly, "I almost killed somebody, Rob."
She was rarely this serious.
"Shit, I almost killed her, you were just along for the ride," I said.
I was a little scared for her - she was really serious.
"No, we were both fucking around," she said, "and if you'd hit her... I couldn't have lived with myself. I've never felt so responsible in my whole fucking life. Dammit, I hate growing up that fast. Stop the car."
"You're not getting out, are you?" I pulled over quick beside a Circle-K parking lot.
She opened the door and retched on the sidewalk - I realized that was why she didn't eat. I'm so effing perceptive, huh? I always scarf napkins from eateries, and she took one of the Mexican ones and wiped her mouth carefully. I started down the road again.
"Thanks." She looked out the window for a while. "When are gonna we get freeways in this fucking town? I hate having to go through all these neighborhoods just to get anywhere."
She hadn't smiled or laughed for more than an hour, which really started to make me nervous.
"When I was little, I loved riding thru these places - I used to wish I had a million lives," she said, "so I could live everybody's life, just to experience 'em all. We'd be driving through someplace like this, and I'd wonder what life was like inside each house, if there were other little girls, living other little lives, without sisters, or brothers, and with different dolls, and books, and maybe even a pony. I wanted a pony soooo bad. I can't say I've ever ridden a horse to this day. I was pretty hopeful, back then. I didn't know how bad things could be. Then I grew up a little, and everything got more and more difficult to handle. That's when I started making everything a joke."
We pulled into the Christown parking lot, where she planned to meet her parents for a ride, and I shut the motor off. We got out, she lit another cig, and leaned against the Mini's white roof.
She looked at me now, "Remember when we met in fifth grade? I was new there that year, and you were, too, right?"
I just nodded.
"I was pretty annoying, everybody told me so. I must've been overcompensating something fierce. The school I used to be at was smaller, and I was, like, one of the cool people - twist parties, sleep-overs, I was a class officer. Now I was nothing.” She grimaced, “Girls can be so vicious, and I didn't know anyone. Did you get that feeling?"
"Yeah, some. I got lucky - Scouts and Little League kinda team you up, but even then I've always felt a little left out, too. You weren't in the Girl Scouts or anything, I seem to remember.”
"Hmmph. I guess I'm too weird for that stuff. Somehow I can't imagine you in a baseball cap." - I was a long-haired outsider-type by that time. She cracked a grin at that, and I relaxed a whole lot right then. "When did you turn into a weirdo - was it after hanging around with me?" She actually laughed again. All to the good.
"I always read too many books," I told her, "and I learned too much. Blame the libraries - you know the high-school didn't have 'Catcher in the Rye', but they had 'Mr. Roberts' - that's where I learned what "shacking up" was!"
"Don't get any ideas, or I'll tell your girlfriend." She looked at her watch, "Well-p, the wonderful mother and father are probably inside the mall looking at clothes rather than looking for me. I guess they're lucky I wasn't wiped off a sidewalk, do ya think?" She went serious on me then, "If you ever want to shut me up, just mention that little girl, and I'm liable to start crying. I'm so thankful we didn't kill her today." She really was shook. "Thanks for the movies, Rob, I'll see you next time."
She walked into the mall without looking back.
Needless to say, I never mentioned that episode to her again. I liked her way too much to ever do that. Driving with her to the movies was a tad more sedate after that, and soon after she moved away, with no warning. A complete break, as was her want. I never quite got over that part. We were close friends with an interest in film and edgy things, and as I’ve posted before, she memorized many lines from bad movies and would shout them out during the "boring parts" of foreign and 'B' movies at the grindhouses. The word "eccentric" was invented for her clothes, as in borderline sex-worker one day, and earth-mother the next. She never drank alcohol that I was aware of, but lived on cigs, iced tea, and hot coffee with me around. Small and quietly sardonic, her nickname "Mouse" among her few girlfriends was possibly due to her mouse-brown hair, which she wore in a kinda parted Bettie Page cut, the first and only girl I remember seeing do that for years. She was way more cutting edge than me, I guess.
We never hit on each other - she knew my heart was meant for another, and I never could penetrate her other persona. She completely split her life into compartments, and I never met her family, even though I knew her for years. She smoked only when out with me, which she knew I disapproved, but her parents prolly woulda punished her hard if they knew, and she was nicely careful not to in my car - usually. She always smelled like rose water, which she believed disguised the smoke smell from her Mom, I guess. Although not quite plain, or quite pretty, she looked good in a sundress on an Arizona spring day, and her bangs danced on her forehead in the wind when we did the twisties. Every so often I Google her name or image, but even with the explosion of info, no hits. She has vanished utterly, but I'll remember her wish as a little girl - a million lives to live. And maybe a pony, too.