Friday, April 13, 2007

The Story of Tiffany

Very few people who know me personally haven't heard me tell this story, but I truly love telling it. It is the story of the most important lesson a friend has ever taught me.

I met Tiffany in college - we both lived in the "rich bitch" dorm (although in my defense, I didn't know that when I signed up to live there). She was roommates with Hilarie, who is worthy of several blog entries herself. Hilarie and I were good friends, as were Tiffany and I, but the friendships couldn't have been more different. Those two were as different as night and day - Hilarie remains one of the most beautiful friends I've ever had, and with great beauty usually comes some personal issues. Hilarie was no exception, despite bearing a striking similarity to Paulina Por...whateverthefuckherRussiannameis. Tiffany was also a beauty, albeit in a girl next door sort of way. Long, gorgeous brown hair, big blue eyes, the unmistakable aura of a girl raised in the right part of Houston (River Oaks). Refined. Mannered. Polite. Good breeding.

(By way of contrast, I'll never forget asking Hilarie if my ass looked fat in a particular pair of shorts, just a few minutes before heading out to a party. She said -- and I quote, nearly 20 years later -- K, are you going to do squats and drop five pounds tonight? No? Then don't worry how your ass looks like. You can't do fuck all about it right now. Looking good is a state of mind and if you think you look fat, you'll look fat to everyone.) It probably comes as no surprise to know Hilarie and I are still friends. And I have never since asked that question right before I go out.

In any event, Tiffany and I ended up moving to the same apartment complex during our sophomore year. Tiffany was the very model of anal retentive -- seriously, she and B would have been a great match in that regard. Her place was not lived in - it looked like a museum, especially her closet. My place, on the other hand? A loft - very hip, very lived in. We never hung out at her place - we were always at mine. We worked at the same restaurant at night and took classes by day. Tiffany had financial issues owing to her dad's declining bond business while I was (partially) supported by my parents. I had a solid safety net, even if I never used it. Her family, however, was in real financial trouble.

The financial issues became pretty intense and she had to drop out and work full time to keep her apartment. She didn't have a car, either, so there were transportation issues to boot. Then the depression came. She was prone to the "can't get out of bed" moments that I couldn't fully (or even partially) understand at the time. She basically lived at my place whenever I was home and that? Got a little exhausting. I began relishing my nights out with others (including Hilarie, who couldn't stand Tiffany), even though I positively loved Tiffany.

The whole thing came to a head that December, when her dad had to come to Austin to move her back home. She was really troubled and blue and the three jobs had exhausted her. She had gained 40 pounds, she didn't like herself and nothing was going right for her. She needed to recharge. When she left, I hugged her and promised her I would come to Houston the next weekend and see her. Truth was, I had no intention of doing that. I was secretly relieved, as she was ALWAYS at my place and I felt responsible for her happiness, which was elusive. I am generally a pretty upbeat person and had no experience with her kind of depression.* As they drove away, I actually felt lighter. No more taking care of Tiffany - emotionally, financially, socially, etc.

The next week, if memory serves, I called her (I think I got voice mail) and gave some utter bullshit excuse on why I couldn't come that weekend. I lied. I was so looking forward to my first weekend alone, with no obligations. I told her I would be there the next weekend, and the next weekend, I didn't call and dodged her phone calls. Knowing she would be mad and hurt, I didn't call her that weekend - or the next week. Which gave way to another week, then another.

That was December. I didn't speak to Tiffany for six months. I missed our birthdays (days apart), important milestones in our personal lives, etc. Tiffany didn't call me, either. She was understandably disgusted with me. I abandoned her when she probably needed a friend the most. It was a shitty, shitty, self-centered thing to do.

Come July, I was ready to move to WA. I was done with TX - we weren't a good fit, me and TX. It caused all sorts of family strife, but I decided to move "home" (even though I had never lived here for more than 3 mos at a time since I was 7, WA was home to me). I couldn't leave, knowing I had burned that bridge. I believe in friendship more than anyone I know. There are no sins beyond forgiveness when it comes to true friendship. I hoped Tiffany felt the same way.

I called her at work and when she answered, I said "please don't hang up. This is K. I owe you a tremendous apology and if you will give me a few minutes, I'd like to offer it." She said "hold on, I'm going in the back" -- she then worked retail -- and got back on the phone and said "okay, K, go." I said "Tiffany, I owe you such an apology. I valued our friendship and took so many actions contrary to that friendship. I have no excuse other than a failure of my character. I am so very sorry. You earned more consideration over the course of our friendship and I completely fucked up. I am sorry, I thank you for your friendship and I hope that one day, you will once again consider me a friend. I am moving to WA next week and couldn't leave TX without saying goodbye to the best part of TX. I love you and thank you for one of the better friendships of my life."

The line went quiet and I thought she might have hung up. She then said "Are you driving to WA?" I said yes and she asked when. She then put me on hold and came back a few minutes later, asking the dates of my travel. She said "Do you have room for a passenger?" I confess that this nonsap burst into tears and said "yes, for you, yes." To make this long story short, she flew to Austin, we went and watched Thelma and Louise (oh fuck off, I was young) and we drove to Washington from Texas, evaluating chicken fried steak at every roadside diner we stopped at along the way. It was one of the best experiences of my life. The pictures alone are great.

At one point during the trip, I asked her why she was there and why she forgave me for my unspeakable acts against our friendship. She looked me dead in the eye - this refined girl next door from Houston -- and said "K, you owed me an apology and you gave it the right way. No conditions, no excuses. We all fuck up, when it comes to friendship, we're allowed to fuck up. We have friendship. We will be friends when we are old, ugly and flabby. We're allowed to fuck up, so long as we acknowledge the fuck ups and talk about them. You fucked up, you apologized, I forgave you and we still have the friendship that we spent a long time building." She probably said the f-word more in that speech than she did in our (then) three year friendship.

I got it. I really did. You don't burn bridges, you don't draw lines in the sand, not with people you love. The relationship can change - that is to be expected -- but once you love someone, male or female, really love them? I don't think I can ever really hate them. Tiffany was the first person I called after I took the bar exam. That is probably telling on other levels, but I digress. I will always love B, too, even if right now? I'm pretty indifferent. Friendship is just pretty sacred to me. I don't burn bridges and I don't commit sins beyond forgiveness. Tiffany - this rich bitch girl from River Oaks? She taught me that. And there are few days where I don't remember that whole thing. Friends are the family you choose. I believe in that.

*I had a week in November, 2004, where I slept all the time and took five days off work. I finally understood the "don't want to get out of bed" thing. I had a similar experience in August, 2006. I didn't eat for days and was utterly unmotivated. I can't imagine battling that every day. I don't pretend to understand it now, but at least have some personal experience with the overwhelming thoughts of heavy sadness.

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