Tuesday, May 01, 2007

My time with Trouble

We've been discussing friendships here lately, so it really shouldn't have surprised me when this thought strayed across my mind:

I wonder whatever happened to Trouble?

Trouble is the nickname I've given a particular friend for blog purposes, since that's what she seemed born to cause.

Trouble was the night clerk at my first newspaper job right out of college. At 19, she was what you'd call a "wild child." Trouble was big all over: Tall and big-boned, with a big bust, a big mane of dyed blonde hair, big brown eyes, a big, beautiful smile and she was big on charm. We were a study in opposites, not only physically -- light and dark -- but personality-wise: She was an extrovert to my introvert, she was promiscuous where I was chaste; she was a rebel while I always followed the rules. Opposites really do attract. We became inseparable.

The characteristic Trouble and I did share was a love of partying. Thursday (and sometimes Wednesday) through Sunday we hit the clubs and bars. We lived 90 miles from New Orleans and were there often. When we went out, Trouble usually wore what I called her "club uniform": black micro-miniskirt, black blazer with no shirt underneath (the better to show off the black or red lace bras she preferred), and black you-know-what pumps. In my jeans and more conservative miniskirts, I looked like a nun.

In some ways, Trouble was good for me. I was 21 and old before my time. With Trouble, I became more adventurous and spontaneous. I slowly stopped worrying about what other people thought and got over my hangups about dancing in public. Who would look at me when Trouble was doing her thing right beside me? I became more comfortable with chatting up guys and flirting. We got tattoos together (this was before everyone and their grandmother had them) and I have great stories I could tell you: Trouble and me, front row at a Tina Turner concert. Trouble and me and male strippers (we became connoisseurs). Trouble and me in Panama City, Fla., during spring break.

But in more ways, Trouble was bad for me. We went on shopping sprees that put me in debt, mainly because I never even bothered to open the credit card bills. My work started to suffer; I would stumble into the office hungover, and once I wrote a story at 3 a.m., drunk. The partying we were doing every weekend? That's now called "binge drinking." We were often reckless; the end of a usual night for us was that the girl least drunk drove home. Thank goodness no one was ever hurt when we were on the road.

And Trouble? She was floating through life with no real ambition. Her night clerk job was part-time so she could attend school (she never went) and she lived with her doting grandmother, who existed in a cloud of denial. I would defend Trouble to my other friends, who were legitimately worried about me.

The truth? We were both messes.

After two years of skating around trouble with Trouble, my sense of self-preservation kicked in. I had repeatedly tried to reason with her about her destructive ways -- procrastinating about her education, foolhardy when it came to men, rarely sleeping, eating crap -- to no avail. I worried about my career and I was drinking too much. I changed jobs and moved away.

Trouble and I stayed in touch for years after. During one of her visits when I lived in Wilmington, she met her future husband while we were partying with Marines from nearby Camp Lejuene. Last I heard, they were still together and had two kids. When I left Wilmington for California, we grew apart and lost touch.

I'm not a particularly religious person, but whenever I look back on my time with Trouble, I literally thank God for keeping us alive and out of jail. We were young and foolish.

Some people are meant to be in our lives forever. And others are just ... Trouble.


Anonymous said...

Friendships like any relationship evolve and mature over time. Although the choices you made while with Trouble make you shudder now, they were your choices - and hopefully you have learned from them and are a better person as a result. Besides, it makes for a great story!

Anonymous said...

I was told when I was younger that the people who you know in your early twenties are the people that will influence you most in your life. You will be who you become with them. I've found it true so far. I got myself into a bit of trouble with them, and even though I don't speak to them anymore because we grew apart, I feel them with me, in every decision I make and the way I view life.

Anonymous said...

What a great entry. Thanks for sharing that honesty--the good as well as the bad. Truth be told, even the relatinships that end badly usually had something understandable....human...worthwhile about them.

We do carry with us our experiences from early memory and on... whether it jibes with our current personality or not.

It's good to thank God for the fact that you and other drivers were kept safe. I'd thank God that I knew and learned about what I valued from Trouble.