I talked to a friend yesterday. We were best buddies in high school, during grades eight to ten. We did everything together, all the time. There wasn’t one weekend when we didn’t sleep over at each other’s houses, not one day when we didn’t spend hours on the phone after school, no lunch break we didn’t hang out together.
We had the same hobbies, shared the same passions…well, almost.
Carol always loved horses and dogs, and I’m scared of horses (they are so HUGE!) and I’m more of a cat person.
She preferred rock music, while I was (in the early 70s) more of a Neil Diamond, Albert Hammond and Simon & Garfunkel girl, with some Joan Baez and Janis Ian thrown in. There may or may not have been a Barbra Streisand album or two thrown in.
I remember learning some English words from Neil Diamond that were definitely not in my text books, like “transcend” and “overhear”. It must have been around that time when I decided I wanted to know every English word there was.
Carol and I wrote stories.
Like most teenage girls, we had our secret loves, TV stars, pop stars, and we made up stories about them. Well, Carol made up the stories. I designed the “covers” and came up with the titles. And I watched her write.
I helped her make up the plots, and I did write a bit myself, but generally I was too lazy.
I didn’t see myself as a writer. Carol was the writer. She was the one soaring in her imagination. She was the one who brought wonderful sentences to paper.
Her novels had a plot, they had a beginning, a middle, and an ending, there were characters in them that seemed alive and real. Normal, living people, while the heroes I made up were always some kind of celebrities, famous, rich, and carefree.
You see, there was enough dreariness in my real life to want to keep it out of my dream world. I wanted to escape to nicer, happier places, like California with its eternal sunshine. The music business, creativity, those were my subjects, while Carol wrote about a family living on a ranch, with horses and dogs.
My people had to struggle with their creativity, with their loves, but never with money, and certainly not with animals. They didn’t even have time for a potted plant, let alone a pet, they were that busy creating and loving.
I lost Carol when we were in 11th grade.
She drifted off into the drug scene, and I went to Canada for the summer. When I got back, she was in a clinic, and I changed schools.
We met once more, about ten years later. I was married by then, my first son in pre-school. My husband and I stopped for a brief visit with her.
She was married too, had three babies, and was living in an apartment overlooking a factory yard, as far away from that ranch and the horses as you can imagine.
We never reconnected after that, until yesterday. She had found me on Facebook.
I called her on the phone, and we talked.
She told me she is a widow now, her husband died of a brain tumor six years ago. There were four kids, she had to raise them on her own, and it wasn’t easy.
The family lives out in the country, in an old farm house, with horses and dogs and cats. Carol doesn’t have a lot of money, but, she told me, she’s happy.
When she asked me about my life, I told her about my just published book, about the new contract I’ve just signed with Buddhapuss Ink, about last year’s book tour, and the one coming up next year.
“I’ll be going to New Yoek,” I told her, “And Salt Lake City."
There was a long pause.
“Wow,” Carol said, “I’ve never left my home town. We went on vacation once, but that’s it. I’m still here.”
She could hardly believe my life. She could hardly believe it when I told her I was a published author now, and my book was selling and getting good reviews.
“You lived our dream,” she said, “You’re going to all those places we were dreaming about, you are a published author! How did you do it? Where did you get the spark?"
There was no spark. There was only a lingering dream, a constant, soft pull I had ignored for most of my life.
It almost felt like the dolphin of my heart’s desire playing in the ocean of my life, sometimes breaking through the surface, but never long enough to make much of an impact.
I don’t know what changed.
All I know is that, on a gloomy day in November of 2008, I woke up and knew the time had come. Suddenly, with every fiber of my soul, I knew I had to write that book.
My hubby bought me a laptop, and I sank into The Distant Shore, forgetting everything else. Often enough, there was no lunch for the family, and no ironed shirts for my husband.
I was too busy writing.
And I didn’t stop until the book was finished. I had left the surface, and I was dancing with the dolphin. The moment I put that first sentence on paper was like jumping from a cliff into that ocean where the dolphins were waiting, and I was free.
I’m still down there, frolicking in the freedom of the sun-dappled water.
And I’m never coming back.