Saturday, March 11, 2006

bye, bye Gertrude, love Bonkers...

In a horrible, horrible tragic car accident, I lost a very dear friend from my childhood.
Anita Cardoza
November 10, 1976 - March 8, 2006


We met in 6th grade. I had just moved to Lewisville from Amarillo and was in for a huge culture shock. Since this was my first year in middle school, I was able to experience, for the first time ever, switching classes where there were new students and a different teacher for each period. You can imagine my surprise to see the same face following me to each classroom, except for one (Honors English - me, Regular English - her...she could've been in Honors, but chose not to be). During lunch, she smiled at me and invited me to sit with her. Not knowing anyone else, I wad completely grateful for that small gesture. I eagerly accepted and we became instant best friends. We were virtually inseparable over the next 4 years. Sharing secrets, having sleepovers, learning to shave, getting our periods, staying up all night talking about boys, meeting halfway between our houses (she lived on the North end of Westwood, just past Fox, I lived on the South end, near Bellaire...each home nestled cozily in a cul de sac.), getting grounded--but not from each other, sneaking her a telephone so we could chat late at night. She taught me about plucking eyebrows and painting nails. She had such a wonderful artistic talent and oh that laugh! We used to laugh ourselves silly, we'd cry. It was especially funny when we'd be laughing so hard and she'd snort. It was a rarity, but precious when it happened. I called her Neeters, she called me Bonkers. We played sports together, played MASH (you know that "future" game where you pick who you're gonna marry, where you're gonna live, etc...), we planned our Quince's together, and it was she who really inspired me to write a book. I was looking forward to the day where I could present it to her to have her read it. I was certain she would see a lot of the main character's inner strength because it mirrored her own. And then one day, we were ripped apart when I learned I had to move away. I was devastated. She spent my last night in Lewisville with me. She, Michael, and I went to Vista Ridge Mall to see Encino Man. The movie let out so late and we got picked up by the mall security. The dropped us off at the Holiday Inn across the street (that's where we were staying), which is no longer there. Michael went home and Anita stayed. I held her for a long time and then I had to let her go. I just waved and waved when I the car pulled away, somehow thinking that the harder I waved, the more she'd know how much I'd miss her. My parents flew her up to Lubbock to surprise me for Spring Break and I just held her and cried and cried and cried. I couldn't believe she'd come all that way just to be by my side. We had so much fun that week! We even made up this silly little skit when we got a hold of my parents video camera: The misadventures of Gertrude and Hildegaard. We had so much fun dressing up and being silly girls.
After that point, we kept in touch, but we slowly drifted apart. We always came back to center to find one another whenever we would talk on the phone. We'd send letters or call on birthdays, but even then, as the years passed, it happened less frequently. That's the problem with distance...it not only separates physically, but emotionally too.
After college, I took a job in Dallas. I looked her up and we picked up right where we left off. Or so I thought. We talked frequently on the phone, but never once did we meet up for lunch or shopping. We didn't even make it to that movie like I thought we would. We were different people. We had different interests and we were at different places in our lives. I loved her dearly, but she seemed like such a stranger to me. I'm certain that's how I appeared to her too.
I last spoke with her nearly two years ago. I called to let her know that I'd gotten engaged and I was getting married. She responded with a "don't do it." But then again, that was an Anita response. Half serious, half joking...always hiding what she really felt underneath. I'd been meaning to look her up this year. That was one of my resolutions: to make connections with those that had become estranged. I'm so grateful for MySpace because I've been able to make some of those connections. Unfortunately, it was not in the cards for me to make that connection with her while she was still alive.
I went to the viewing today. I have to give the funeral directors credit for their efforts. It must be difficult to make someone over whose face has been mostly ripped apart. Her head was swollen, she was missing an eye, and they had to reconstruct her lips. It was late, nearly 1AM on Wednesday EARLY morning. She'd left a bar and had been drinking. I don't know if she was drunk. The bartender said she'd only had 2. She was on her way to meet someone. She exited and that area they are doing some pretty major construction. From what I understand, it was poorly lit. She lost control of her vehicle, and was immediately thrown from her car. She was not wearing a seatbelt. She died instantly. They never found her purse or her cell phone. It may have been blown away, deep in the construction zone because there were high winds that evening. By the time the family learned of the accident and went out there to look the next day, construction work for the day resumed. They speculate that it had already been bulldozed and buried under the dirt. In the funeral home, peering from the corner behind all of the people and the many, many beautiful flowers she received, I could tell her body was a person, however, up close you could see all of the teeny tiny sutures on the face. I knew something wasn't right. It wasn't until after the fact that I learned what happened to her features. Curious that her hands weren't on display. That's when I learned that they'd been ripped apart during the accident and she didn't really having any hands that remained. Those wonderful, beautiful hands...lost forever.
I miss her laugh. I miss her sarcasm. I miss her wit. I miss the way she used to flare her nostrils to make me laugh. I miss the way her long nails (and they were real) used to rat-tat-tat on surfaces. Her fingers were so dainty, ladies hands, so delicate. Her lipstick was always perfect...she'd work to get that perfect cupid's bow on her top lip. She had become such a fierce realist. Sometimes hard to handle, but you appreciated her honesty. She once told me she was like a clown. Always laughing and joking on the outside, but underneath all of the makeup, she was sad. She had plenty of inner demons she needed to deal with and she knew it. She struggled with them most of her life, constantly trying to find peace. She kept them so closely guarded and I feel guilty for not pushing harder to let them out. I'm so sad and a piece of me feels empty knowing she's not here.
I love you, Anita, and I hope to see you again some day. I'm happy to know you've found your peace.

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