I met her by the poolside my first summer in college. She looked like a friend: long dark hair and a perfect bikini: black and white paisley with a vintage cut. She carried a bag she must have picked up from an import store. It slung over her shoulder and hung down past her waist. I spotted a pack of cigarettes fall out of it. I had just quit smoking. A long-haired guy followed closely behind her. He had a slight hop in his step.
Sometimes I feel like the least likely person to walk up to a stranger and introduce myself, but I surprised myself that day. I remember her smile when I asked her name. She pushed herself off the side of the pool and arched her back gracefully through the water before answering, “Christina.”
Later I would learn she was studying dance, and to my disappointment, that she didn’t smoke cigarettes, but was carrying them for her boyfriend, the long-haired guy with a hop in his step.
I pointed out my apartment.
“Stop by anytime.”
And she did, and I was so happy to have her as my friend, until my boyfriend , Manny, had a thought:
“It’s obvious. Come on! You’ve got to be blind not to see it.”
“Your friend’s got the hots for me.”
“What makes you think that?”
Manny laughed at me like I was a naïve child.
And so I avoided her; didn’t go to the pool when I’d see her swim from my window. Didn’t answer the door when she’d knock.
Manny and I ran into Christina and Long-Hair-Hop-Step shortly after classes started up again in the fall.
“I haven’t seen you at the pool lately.”
“Been working a lot. We haven’t seen you either.”
“We’ve been working at Ren Fair.”
“Was it fun?”
“Yea. He’s still wearing the hat,” Christina said sarcastically and rolled her eyes.
I had noticed the fluffy flamboyant velveteen hat Long-Hair was sporting and was glad there was an explanation for it.
After that, Christina and I became friends again. It didn’t take long until I felt comfortable enough to ask her if she had ever been interested in my boyfriend.
“You thought I was interested in HIM?”
“I don’t know, Manny kind of thought that too.”
Christina looked horrified, “Wait, what? He thought this too? Why?”
It would later be revealed that Manny thought all my friends had the hots for him, hence the end of my relationship with Manny.
Despite the distance and time, whenever I see Christina again, it’s as if we’ve never parted…and on an exciting note, she’s moved to Milwaukee for the time being.
Things are different now than they used to be. Instead of planning to go out dancing, we think about it and then say, “Well, maybe. I’m usually tired by the time we normally head out to dance,” as we sit on a curb that overlooks a parking-lot and eat frozen custard. Two scoops. Afterward, we shop for groceries.
I’m proud of Christina. She is true to her heart and has never given up on her dreams. She has worked hard to become who she is today: a dancer and an artist. This weekend she’s displaying and selling her work at the Starving Artist Show. Although I’m usually opposed to any event that carry the words “starving” and “artist” in the same title, I’ll loosen the reigns on my principles and visit her booth.
I missed having Christina around and will be certain to cherish the time I have her here before we part ways again, and the cycle will continue between two friends who met at the poolside at the prime of their youth, and the at trailhead of the path towards their dreams.
What makes a friend a friend? How do you know one when you see one?