03 March 2008

IOU: Gina Tomato

We met back in sixth grade on a joint GT field trip. After the morning's chemistry presentation, we all congregated at the Burger King across the street, where Gina introduced herself with her signature effervescence, and in response, one of my friends whispered loudly to me, "She's so irkatating, don't you think?"

It was all downhill from there.

Gina and I mutually annoyed each other throughout junior high; she was a bit too peppy for my taste, and I was a bit entirely too self-absorbed and immature and capricious (especially with the boys) for everyone's taste.

But.

Sophomore year Gina and I landed in the same graphic arts class, and as we scanned the room of goth/hippie/stoner faces, we both determined each other our best bet and banded together in our shared normalcy. It was, without question, the best thing that could have happened to me.

The brilliant thing about arts classes is that while your hands are occupied screen-printing, your mouths are free to gossip and smatter, and your brains are free to think, "Funny thing, I really, really like this girl." Or at least that's what my brain was thinking.

We started hanging out together, not just in graphic arts but at lunch and on Friday nights, and over the course of that year I learned that Gina is one of the most effortlessly hilarious people I know. She's also compassionate and wild. An exceptional listener. Wise in a way that steadies me.

I learned that this is what a best friend looks like.

I was more than a little regretful that we'd lost all those years flitting around at the periphery of each other's lives, but grateful, deeply grateful, for the possibility that lay ahead.

Gina saw me through the next few harrowing years, and while she regularly diagnosed me "psycho" for staying with the dude tied to my turmoil, she also understood what it meant to unravel at the thought of leaving him.

What else can I tell you about her? She'd help me spy on strangers in the next car over and discuss their obvious subterfuge in our exclusive code. She was fashionable and tiny and could sing like Pavarotti on estrogen. She had a thing for bubbles and knee socks. She penned zany, poignant poetry--and trusted me enough to let me read it. She glimpsed the dark, wretched corners of my life and didn't once run away screaming. She was a little bit of God with skin on.

She was my friend. And I'll spend the rest of forever richer for it.

12 comments:

Kimberly said...

That was beautiful Nicole...no...not just beautiful. There was a lovely intensity to that...I got swept up.

You are an artist and a writer both.

jen said...

Wow. I hope she gets a chance to read that.

I wish you'd been around when I was wading my way through my tortured artist high school years. I stuck out like a plain average sore thumb amongst all my goth/jock/drama art class friends.

Anonymous said...

Nic..., (hey, remember when you used to want 'Cole as your nickname?)
There are so many ways I could respond to this that it's taking me 20 minutes to write. You bring to remembrance a side of Gina that sometimes I forget. Well, no, actually I didn't even realize was there. Funny what we choose to see or not see. Thanks for this. It's impacting me more than you know--like all your writing normally does.

By the way I had to look up two of the words, and that in itself made me laugh, not to mention, after finding out the definition, that made me laugh more! Do you know the dates in June? It'll be so MUCH to see you! Yes, an adjective can be a noun.

Love you, Anonymous...

Eva said...

Nic-I have 2 words for you: GET PUBLISHED!!!!!!!!!!!!! You are amazing with words no lie! Have you read Middlesex? Anyway, I digress. You are fantastic and Gina is a lucky lady. Smooches, Eva

pickles*and*co said...

You have such a beautiful way with words. You take me there every time. I suspect that Gina Tomato is pretty darn lucky too, to count you as a friend!!!

janae said...

I agree that you should get published. I have honestly never met anyone that can express themselves so well with words, as you do. Isn't it amazing that some people we don't like based on a glimpse end up as our best friends in the world???

Wenderina said...

All of your posts are wonderful, but this one was special. "A little bit of God with skin on" - I love that.

Princess of Everything (and then some) said...

WOW!

I want to be a friend like that.

Princess of Everything (and th said...

WOW!

I want to be a friend like that.

pickles*and*co said...

You have such a beautiful way with words. You take me there every time. I suspect that Gina Tomato is pretty darn lucky too, to count you as a friend!!!

jen said...

Wow. I hope she gets a chance to read that.

I wish you'd been around when I was wading my way through my tortured artist high school years. I stuck out like a plain average sore thumb amongst all my goth/jock/drama art class friends.

Kim said...

i loved this. and now i'm a bit sad because i want a friend like that today, you know? going through hard stuff in life can be so very lonely. thanks for the reminder that the intimate friendships we had back yonder are still available to use today. they just take a ton more work....