my roommate in college, I disliked her instantly. (And the feeling was mutual). She was everything I wasn’t: calm, measured, curious, from a happy family, uninterested in makeup and image). Then, during the first month we roomed together in Butler Dorm on Mc Alister Drive in New Orleans, I fell in love with her. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say that for the first time in my life, I felt loved and seen by another human being.
I’d come in from a date and she’d ask me how it was, where we went, how I felt. No one as far as I remembered had shown that kind of interest in me and for the first few weeks, I thought she was pretending. I didn’t believe her. Why, I wondered, would she care about me? But she was so constant, so persistent in her interest and care, that she wore my defenses down. I finally started to let her in. To believe that she wasn’t pretending and she wasn’t going away.
She was my first real friend. And after fifty years of friendship (OMG. Fifty years. But seriously, I seemed to have so much more hair!), we are still best friends. We still talk in shorthand. She knew my father, knows my mother, brother. And although her parents have been dead for more than thirty years, we still refer to them as Mo and Flo (short for Morris and Flora, the quintessential Jewish parents. To wit: Flora would freeze turkeys and roast beefs for us, pack them in Jace’s suitcase, so that we wouldn’t starve back in New Orleans, although each of us had gained ten pounds in a flash during our beignet-eating contests at Cafe Du Monde in the French Quarter. I always won those contests, as I could inhale thirteen donuts in a few minutes, after which I’d emerge victorious, nauseated and covered in powdered sugar).
This photo was taken at the surprise birthday party Jace gave for me—a birthday I had made up because my real birthday, in August, was at a time when school wasn’t in session and I wanted to have a birthday when everyone was around. So we decided, she and I, that I could have November 13 as my birthday. She decorated the common room at Butler dorm and invited all our friends and we pretended (um, lied) for four years that I was born in November.
I did many firsts with Jace: got drunk for the first time on Cold Duck fake champagne, traipsed across Europe at five dollars a day (and ate an entire box of Baci chocolate kisses when I thought we were going to die on a small plane from Pisa so why not eat five pounds of sweets if these were my last moments on earth?), and processed what it was like to lose my virginity with Fred Bernstein. When years later, I wanted to crash Fred’s wedding, dressed incognito in a huge black hat, black long gloves and a dramatic Morticia Adams-like dress, Jace practically hand-cuffed me and kept me occupied so that I wouldn’t drive to Connecticut and beg him to take me back when the rabbi asked anyone to speak now or forever hold their peace.
Anyway, today is Jace’s birthday and I wanted to pay tribute to our friendship and to friendship in general. C. S. Lewis said that “A friend remembers the song in your heart and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words.” May be we all so blessed as to have even one true friend.
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