I met Janice the first week of my sophomore year at Towson High School.
She rushed into English class from art class, holding a large drawing of a rabbit.
Being fond of rabbits, I took note.
“He’s wonderful,” I said.
“I just can’t seem to get him right,” she answered.
My mother was an artist, and I dearly wanted to be one too. At sixteen, I’d figured out, finally, that I had no artistic talent. Janice’s rabbit was exquisitely drawn.
More beautiful than I, Janice had china doll skin and saucer brown eyes that gave her a whimsical yet intent expression.
She spoke in a whispy, quiet voice. I was louder, sometimes shushed by teachers for my talking.
But talk Janice and I did.
On the phone. In class. At lunch. In the hall. Weekend sleepovers. Notes and letters.
About school, family, theater, other girls, art, fashion,music, books, boys, and more.
For my birthday, she gave me a teddy bear, a proper one with honey brown fur and jointed arms and legs. We named him Bear. Years too old, some would say, for teddy bears, we had a glorious time creating Bear’s quirky personality.
Our school book fair that spring sold an edition of Robert Frost’s poems. In Janice’s copy I wrote, “Frost says ‘Nothing gold can stay.’ We’ll prove him wrong.”
Frost was right, and I’ve spent years trying to figure out how Janice and I allowed our friendship to end.
Senior year, she became distant, withdrawn.
She hinted of visits to a therapist (a much bigger deal in 1972) and seemed in various moments to be distracted, angry, sad, or disappointed with me, life, school, the future.
Instead of talking to her, asking questions, attempting to help, I grew frustrated and let her go.
Forty years later, I now understand that my role in the ending of the friendship was selfish and my silence cowardly.
What about you?
Do you still experience twinges of sadness over a lost friendship?
Any attempts to find that friend?
My plan is to look for Janice. I want to find out, among other things, if she’s still drawing rabbits.
Top Photo: Me, wearing glasses, and Janice. We’re holding my cats Martin and Peter.
Bottom Photo: Bear on a bookshelf today in my family room.