Sunday, October 14, 2007

When I Knew I Had To Face Another Day

I snapped on the radio as I left the gym this morning and found myself listening to Prairie Home Companion today (it was yesterday's broadcast). A woman was singing with Garrison, and the woman turned out to be Carole King. When they finished singing that song, Garrison offered to sing the next one with her, but, she said that as it was "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" that it would be better if Jerlyn Steele sang it with her.

Whenever I hear this song I think of Phil's best friend growing up. During our freshman year in Tacoma, A was attending a boarding school in New Jersey, and my relationship with A started as little notes on the bottom of Phil's letters , such as "PS: Samatakah says to say 'hi.'" Eventually I was writing my own "clever" notes under Phil's signature, and as the year went on we started mailing all kinds of stuff to A, like bottle labels and flyers for campus events.

(Toward the end of the academic year, Phil sent him an unhusked coconut by writing his address right on the coconut. A husked it and sent it back the same way).

As fall term went on A and I wrote longer messages to each other in Phil's letters. Over winter break A sent a Christmas card with a letter directly to me at home and we exchanged a lot of letters in January and February. In future years, I understood that February was my winter doldrums period, but during my first winter in the northwest I didn't know that, and just felt lousy, irritated and isolated. One night, I sat on my bunk bed and wrote the lyrics to "A Natural Woman" down so I could send them to A. I kept hitting "stop" on my cassette player between lines to make sure I had them all down correctly. I'm sure I felt like he was the only one I could "really talk to" because he wasn't in the midst of my college life, and that made me feel like I could be my "real self" with him. Writing him that letter did make me feel better.

I met A only one time, when he came to the Bay Area to scout colleges in the early summer. That was twenty years ago... I just realized that.

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