Thursday, September 01, 2005

Stars and Street Numbers

The universe will not be thwarted.

That we met the first time seems an accident. Nancy lived miles away and went to a different school system. We were 7 years old and in the same one-week swim class. She learned to swim. I faked it and passed.

After the last class, we walked out together, and she offered to have her mom give me a ride home. I remember the feeling. It was knock-me-over impressed. Any seven-year-old who could offer a ride—without asking permission—was inconceivably powerful. I was only a little nervous that she might be just showing off.

We got to her mom’s car, and it was more than all right. Her mom greeted me with a smile. She said she was happy to meet me. Nancy explained that she had offered a ride, and her mom asked me where I’d like to go. So I recited my address as I would when I rode home in a taxi.

“I live at 727 Main Street,” I said.

“You do?” she said, her eyes got huge. “I live at 727 Monroe Street.”

To seven-year-olds, this was an amazing alignment of stars. It still amazes me. Within days I had forgotten her name, but her address was burned in my brain.

Years later, I must have been 9 or 13, Campfire USA had an event at the National Guard Armory one Saturday. It was a few blocks from my house where the river separates residential from city. The “carnival” offered something to do that afternoon—booths with crafts, games of chance, and the typical assortment of baked goods for sale.

The booths were run by kids and their group leaders. Tickets to play were sold at the door. Where kids worked no money ever changed hands. I was much older before I knew why they did that.

I don’t know how long I stayed at the fair. I don’t remember whether I had met a group there. I remember I had two tickets left, and I found a lineto do something . While I was waiting, I watched the crowd. At one point, I checked the line behind me, and Nancy was right there.

“I know you,” I said. I had grown. She had to be 6 inches shorter than me now.

“You do?” she said looking closely.

“I live at 727 Main Street.”

“I live at 727 Monroe.”

I sort of remember us saying our names. We must have talked about some other things. I have a vague memory of making up some nickname to tell her. I don’t know if that’s true, and I’m the one who remembers such things. Nancy tells everyone that about us.

Eventually my turn at the booth came. The game involved going behind a big curtain-like screen. After I lost I came out. She was gone. Things were how they’d always been. I walked home. I don’t recall thinking much about it.

When I was about to turn 17, I was out with a friend, Diane.We were two kids looking for something to do on a summer night. We weren’t having fun, but we weren’t going home. It wasn’t that often that I got the car. So we would tool around until we had an idea, even if it took all night.

“I know,” Diane said, “Let’s go see my friend, Nancy. Turn left on Monroe Street—the next corner.”

I thought, “So this is Monroe Street.” I started trying to read the house numbers in the 10 p.m. darkness . . . 542, wrong side. . . 621, next block . . .

“Turn in that driveway,” Diane said.

“Wait,” I said, stopping the car in front of the house. “What’s the house number?”

“What do you care? It’s the right house,” Diane said with an impatient tone that said I was crazy to ask.

“Just look,” I said trying to see past her.

“727,” she said, “Satisfied? It’s the right house.”

“You bet it is.” I said. I pulled the car in the driveway. We walked in the back door, which was the custom at Nancy’s house. Diane and Nancy said their hellos, and just as Diane was about to introduce us, I interrupted.

“I know you. I live at 727 Main Street.”

My friend, Nancy, most people say she’s not a bit like me. . . .

We started laughing that night and hardly stopped to breathe. For years after, we were inseparable, making our mark in quite remarkable ways.

I never thought about who I was with her. We were way too busy figuring out who we were going to be. Then we became those people we’d chosen, and we picked up where we had started. Once again we were weaving in and out of each other’s life. Now we remember each other's names and know we’ll be back again. Maybe that’s what those first hellos had been about, practice for a life of being friends.

How lucky can you get?

Stars and street numbers lined up for Nancy and me.

—me strauss Letting me be.


Yuna said...

Wow.. what a wonderful story... my best reading of the night... So, you guys still hang out? I know monron street too... often passing by when I was traveling on N Michigan Ave..

I was thinking about writing how hard to find a compatible partner/friend/even rocking climbing buddy.. and I am hoping a miracle could happen... Yours sounds like a miracle... Wonderful writing!

ME Strauss said...

Thank you, Yuna,
You bring such energy!

Yes, we still hang out and have done so in more than one country. We have sons the same age and for a while we lived very close to each other.

Hang in there.

As I said, the universe will not be thwarted.


Tanda said...

Liz, PLEASE tell me you have considered writing a book (of any kind). I would buy it and then I would buy some for my friends/family.

/Hoping you'll think about it...


ME Strauss said...

Thank you so much.
I'm thinking on it. Send me an email and tell me what you would want it to be.


Extempore said...

Hi, this is my first time here and I just wanted to say this is a lovely story and really well-written too! :) Will certainly be back!

Do come my blog when you get a chance.

ME Strauss said...

Thank you, I'm delighted you enjoyed the story. I'll be by soon.

abeer said...

I guess incidents like these make us really believe in destiny. Somewhere, somehow, more often than not, our future seems predecided. And thats a comforting thought. ;)

ME Strauss said...

Hello abeer,
I'm glad the story heartens you.

I don't think of it as predecided as much as helped along by the stars looking out for me. :)

Either way, it is nice that good things happen despite us.