And [You] Will Fix [Me]"Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand." ~Mark Twain, American author and humorist
I did that thing during this quarantine. The thing where you go into your car and scream and cry. You too? Don't worry. I'm okay. (So are you.) I'm dealing with a lot of side effects from the chemotherapy. Sometimes I start thinking, "Is this forever? Will this pain/irritation last the rest of my life?" And the answer is...maybe. I start panicking and lose sight of my blessings for a while. On one of my scream-in-the-car drives, I suddenly had the urge to listen to an old album I used to listen to in the early 2000s: Rush of Blood to the Head by Coldplay. At a stop light, I found the album on YouTube Music and drove until I had listened to every track. Music, as you know, brings so many memories. For me, this album brought back some miserable memories. But...I stopped screaming and crying because I realized something very clarifying: I'm here in 2020 looking back on a very difficult time in my life, which means I got through it. That too did pass.
I graduated high school in 1999. I left for Rowan University late that August and I have never felt more lonely. I was lucky enough to have been randomly roomed (depending on whether you believe in randomness...I don't) with Colleen Petersen. This post, however, is not about Colleen; she will get her own post. This post is about Colleen's best friend who also left her hometown of Bergenfield in late August 1999 to start school at Rowan University, my friend, Cheryl Capobianco now Cheryl Bormann. Colleen and Cheryl grew up together in North Jersey, but had the good sense to intentionally not room together when they came to Rowan. That way they would automatically meet two people. Colleen met me, her roommate, and I then met Cheryl.
I always attempt to motivate my high school students by telling them that college is one of the best times in life. And it is...in hindsight. College for me was time to act out all of the teenaged angst that I spent the previous 6 years building up. As Colleen and Cheryl would put it back in 1999: I was a hot mess. I was socially awkward and emotionally frayed. There is not a day that goes by, even now in 2020, when I don't thank God for these 2 women, who loved me through it all.
Once Cheryl and I spent a whole day cracking up. I have no memory of what made us laugh so hard, but it really doesn't matter. As an English teacher I conduct a popular assignment called, "Writing Territories" in which students listen to me talk about topics important to me. While I babble on about my life, I encourage them to write down topics that pop into their heads. They draw from those "territories" for the rest of the year. I always mention some of my favorite days. I have been teaching for almost 16 years, so I've recalled that day of side-splitting laughter at least 16 times. That laughter was so important.
I don't see Cheryl in person much now because she is in North Jersey being a super mom to her two awesome kids, while I'm down here in South Jersey with my amazing kids. But again, the distance doesn't really matter. Cheryl's influence in my life is obvious. We loved thunderstorms, specifically the first thunderstorm that indicates the start of summer weather. I still think of Cheryl when those ominous clouds roll in each year. We loved Buffy the Vampire Slayer so whenever I feel like I'm kicking ass, I think of Cheryl. We once ran through the streets of Philly in a snowstorm shouting, "Merry Christmas ya old Building and Loans!" so whenever I watch my favorite movie, It's a Wonderful Life, I think of Cheryl. We learned a whole dance routine in a hotel room above the casinos in Atlantic City, so whenever I dance, I think of Cheryl. We went to a Coldplay concert together and somehow got lost on the way home. It took us 3 hours. We laughed the whole ride.
Cheryl is far from carefree and yet she is somehow never overly dramatic. She forgives easily and lets things go, and what's left is her practical, honest, fun-loving self. For over 20 years now, I have considered her one of my closest friends and looking back, I remember the laughter, which considering my 20s is really saying something. And that is completely thanks to Cheryl.
Cheryl sent me tea, a mug, and card reminding me of several other hilarious times in our friendship. But...underneath the laughter and in between the lines in her card, are the moments when Cheryl is holding my hand, crying and screaming in the car with me. Our lives, mine and Cheryl's, have had some heartbreaking moments. We have seen each other through family issues, breakups, arguments, and panic attacks. And now she's seeing me through cancer. I know I will remember the laughter and that will be because of Cheryl. They say it's the best medicine, by the way.
I forgot the date last week on May 20th. I didn't forget her birthday, but I'm quarancrazy and just didn't realize it was still May or that I was still on planet Earth. Sorry, Cheryl! And sorry about that whole Sopranos thing.
Love and laughs. Mwa!