A Little Fox To Watch Over Me

Today is a very hard day for me, and it always will be. Four years ago today, I lost my oldest and dearest friend, Lisa. I write about it every year, and I've been walking around with a perma-lump in my throat all day. I cried singing a Red Hot Chili Peppers song in the car this morning. It didn't even mean anything to us. 

Usually, I write about something funny we did or the hijinks we found ourselves in all the time (you can read about one of the most hilarious things ever here) but I want to do things a little differently this year. 

Her picture hangs in my bedroom and as I was looking at it this morning, I wondered aloud, "How did we even make it as long as we did?" We couldn't have been more different, but I have probably never been more bonded to someone in my life, and I'm not sure I ever will be. That's not a slight to my other very close friends, it's just I don't think you get more than one shot to have a relationship like ours that never made any sense, but weathered so many storms. We loved each other fiercely, and no one could ever figure out why we were as close as we were. Hell, we didn't know either. I think we just fit and loved that we could be completely ourselves around one another without a single judgment. We also had similarities in our home life, and it felt so good to have an ally in the world who 'got' it. 

When you lose someone, you tend to idealize the relationship you had with them. I could go on and on about our adventures, the language we made up... "Bangin away on Darla..." (said that yesterday and got weird looks) "Swilla bobbin and weavin..." "I will put you in a hardcore bitchtrap..." "Baja Panties..." "Don't blow a fuse out there, Spanky..." those of you who tease me about, Lexicon Von Jenni and start talking like me after spending a day together are really speaking Lexicon Von Leezy and JehNayNay. I still can't drive by a Burger King without calling it "Burger Queer." So many good times I could neatly knit into my yearly journey down memory lane. 

However, as idyllic as I can make our relationship out to be, every solid relationship has its bad times. Lisa and I had some bad times. Times so bad we didn't speak for almost two years. She was getting married, I was supposed to be there, I was against the whole thing and got on a plane instead. She was devastated and I was not sorry. That was the end of our friendship when we were in our early twenties. 

I was the one who caved and reached out to her. Our mutual friend, G, encouraged me to call her. She wouldn't take my calls. Lisa wanted less than nothing to do with me. I'm sure she missed me as much as I missed her, but she was way more stubborn than I was, the injured party, and wanted me to suffer a bit more. 

I wound up going to the children's hospital where I would run into her on her lunch break so she would have to talk to me. We didn't have social media back then, so things had to be handled the old fashioned way...primitive stalking. She came out the side door on her break, took one look at me, and CAME FOR ME. Hell had no fury like hers, and she wasn't afraid to kick my ass right there if she had to. I knew it, too, and I was scared shitless of her. 

We fought like cats for probably her entire lunch hour, and then it was over. I was forgiven, I genuinely realized what kind of pain being a righteous asshole can inflict on people, and we picked up right where we left off... married to the wrong guys. Something we would giggle about the last time I saw her. Those guys who almost broke us up were long gone by then. 

Our fights never got to that scale again, but that bad patch that should have destroyed us, made us even closer. Almost ten years after that, we sat in a Caribou Coffee and leaned on each other hard when we both decided to pursue our art full time and became each other's biggest cheerleaders. We were the epitome of the phrase, "We stick together side by each." 

Because of that, she always lives on in my work. She's Maria in The Secret Life of Lies, the airport scene in When You're Far Away is basically what happened when I left before her wedding, and when Some Die Just To Live gets released, she will be the inspiration behind the character, Ig. Side by each. She can't give the world her art anymore, but I can give the world her through mine. 

So while this wasn't the usual story of one of our hilarious misadventures, I wanted to share that the wonderful thing about these special relationships that make you a better person are not only the good memories, but the bad ones as well. We hurt each other over the years, but we also loved each other enough to forgive and move on. No pettiness, no keeping score...we subconsciously realized we were the safe space the other needed. That's what made the bond so tight. I love seeing her little notes to me come up in my Facebook memories. Filthy, hilarious, and lovely. 

When I moved in July, we were cleaning out all of the stuff the people who lived there prior had left behind, and someone wanted to take the little fox on my doorstep away with the rest of the junk. I asked them to leave it, because, "a little fox to watch over me," was my first thought. Lisa went by the name "FoxyGoat" in her art, and in that moment, it just felt right and I've been collecting foxes ever since. I chuckle when I think about how Lisa would feel about that. She used to dress up her cats and I can only imagine the kinds of costumes she would send me for my doorstep fox. Probably heavy on the nipple tassels and feather boas. 

Typically on this day, I check in with all of the peeps, open a bottle of wine, listen to our beloved 'mother' Madonna (we swore we were sisters, she was our mother, and Elton John was my dad/Ozzy Osbourne hers) and cry my face off all night. Tonight, though, I'm going to go out and celebrate her with friends. We're gonna raise our glasses, toast 'a REAL lady' and yell 'Baja Panties!" before we drink, then micromanage the server to make sure our meal is free of anything that interferes with our Blood Type Diet (she was obsessed), then sing NKOTB (again, she was obsessed) all the way home.

Hug your bestie today, guys. There will never be another Lisa, but I do have the incredible blessings of wonderful people in my life I also call best friends, and she made me a better friend to all of them. 

Jennifer Gulbrandsen