Be Mine, Sister Salvation
I was eighteen. She was twenty-two and we both waited tables at the same high-volume theme restaurant in downtown Atlanta. Her name was Carla Mazer and, sweet Jesus, I was in love with that girl. I don't mean that I had a passing crush or a case of puppy love. No, I mean I was obsessed in the way only a hopelessly romantic, fresh into the grownup world, college freshman can be.
She was slender but powerfully built with flashing eyes and a raven hair that she would sculpt like plasticine. She had a unique combination of quick wit, sharp tongue, lazerbeam glare and martial artist's posture that made many people viscerally afraid of her. Though hugely articulate, she rarely made public conversation, such was her distaste for explaining herself to people she considered her intellectual lessers. Though normally carrying a Vulcan-like reserve, on the rare occasion that she did smile, the lights in the room would dim in comparison to her glow.
She was, or perhaps has become in the remembering, the gold standard against which I measure all other women.
Most importantly to me, she was the first Woman, with the capital W, who ever paid attention to me. We were never romantic and, as badly as I wanted it at the time, it would have been strange for us to have been. She was, however, the first adult woman of romanceable age to treat me as an equal, to be interested in me as a person, to acknowledge me as a fellow adult. She recognized in me a kindred spirit, worth knowing and worthy of knowing her.
She took me to my first goth/fetish club. She appeared in one of the first play-scenes I ever witnessed. I did my first whiskey shot with her. She was the one who bullied me into overcoming my reservations and hitting on a stranger for the first time.* She turned me on to much of the music that now defines my taste. I can say without reservation that I would not be who I am now had I not known her then.
I'd not seen her, nor spoken to her since the twentieth century.
Last night I went to a reunion event for the denizens of that long-defunct club to which she introduced me. She was there and she didn't recognize me at all. This is not so strange as I look nothing like I did a decade past and old acquaintances often have to look twice before realizing who I am. When I said her name and looked in her eyes, though, there wasn't even the tiniest flash of familiarity.
I was never, not even back then, under the misapprehension that our relationship was anywhere near as significant to her as it was to me. There was no presumption of reciprocity. To her, I was a casual work friend that liked industrial music and could be counted on not to be a dick in mixed company. To me, she was a earthbound demigoddess who held the keys to everything alluring about adulthood. It's no surprise I have distinct memories of her while she remembers me not at all.
It's for the best, I suppose. She's not the person she was. She weighs at least half-again what than she once did. She seems to stay quiet, not because she's bored by her company but because she has nothing to say. Her eyes have lost that flash. That sense of quiet aggression that captivated me and terrified everyone else is simply gone. She didn't just get older; that's unavoidable. No, she let herself get old and she let the woman I adore fade away in the intervening years.**
As wonderful it is to have a reminder of those times, of those days when one of my very favorite people helped me learn who I wanted to become, I think I would have preferred not to have re-encountered her as all. I suppose it's for the best that she didn't recognize me. I didn't really recognize her either.
* Said stranger rejected me but that's not the point.
** Strangely, though, the stranger Carla once badgered me into approaching was also at the event last night. She has aged much more gracefully and is still patently uninterested in me.