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
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.