His name was Joe. He was my chief antagonist, and later my best friend. He was my brother.
Joe was my hero early on. He could find rubies in the sand like no other. I still see his little brown back scorching in the hot Tuscon sun, hunched over his knees as he poked through the sand, tweezing out little "gems". They may have been broken beer bottles, I really don't know, but we were going to get rich off our rubies.
He taught me to play marbles. We drew circles in the sand in front of our "mud hut"... now they call them classic "Adobes". He could finger-flick like no other, knocking my marbles out of the circle to capture them. I had the most beautiful shooter. He coveted it, but could never win it from me.
One night I let him look at it. I stood over him as he lie on the floor peering through his glasses at my wonderous green-swirled shooter. "I'm keeping it", he ninner-nannered. "You are NOT. GIVE it to me.... GIVE IT TO ME.... or I'll TELL...." With that, I wound up and slung my little 6 year old arm at him, letting loose my other shooter.
All Hell broke loose.... panic, mayhem, blood, shattered glasses, crying, screams, phone calls, strangers. Mom is in hysterics. Joe had recently had surgery on his eye. I think I killed him.
I hide under the bed as the doctor arrives, terrified at what I have done. "How did this happen???? I hope you beat that little girl". I still remember the doctor's words searing into my heart. But, heck. It WAS my best shooter.
He survived. It was only a surface cut - and miraculously no damage was done to his eyes. He gave me back my shooter.
In grade school he pestered me to no end, like the time he put salt in the lemonaide for my birthday party. Brat. In High School, I had to walk about 6 blocks to my bus. In the snow. Uphill both ways. Oh wait... it was Sacramento. Well, in the rain anyway. OK... and it was flat. Shut up... or I'll tell...... Anyway. Joe drove to school with his friend, Bobby. Right past me. Every day. 114 degrees??? "Hot enough for ya??? ...hahaha...." Zoommmmm. Pouring rain? "Hey, ya look like a drowned rat.... ha,ha,ha...." zoooommmmm. Jerks.
Bobby and Joe took me to the drive in once. I couldn't believe it. I had made the inner circle. They probably made me pay. 'ts OK. Waiting for the movie to start, Joe grabs my purse and tosses my wallet out the window. I climb out to retrieve it. Click. The doors are locked. The window cranks down a few inches. Just enough for the entire drive-in to hear "Get away from us... we don't buy that kind of stuff here, Lady. You should be arrested. That's disgusting. Leave us alone." Yeah... did I fail to mention what comedians they were? I don't think I went to the drive in with them again, inner circle or not. Bozo's.
Things changed when we moved to Santa Barbara my Senior year. Neither of us had friends in this new city so we turned to each other. We got into the lore of vampires, the teachings of the Mahareshi, love beads, paisley, the Moody Blues, and grasscloth wallpaper. We found out we liked each other. He was actually pretty cool, once he gave up pestering me.
By the time I turned 21 and could get into bars, we had learned to dance together. At 6'6" he was a perfect compliment to my 5'10".... we could really cut a rug. Our favorite joint was FUBAR's in Goleta. Friday nights we would park his little bug in the parking lot, with a jug of cheap wine, usually Ripple. Yech. We'ld dance night away, sneaking to the car to drink our cheap rotgut. The funny part was how I helped him troll for girls. Strangest thing, but we were pretty striking, both being so tall, and being such good dancers. Girls noticed him, but he appeared taken. He could safely make eyes with cuties (girls always like a taken guy), then approach them from a position of safety. "Aw, she's just my sister..." Worked every time. He felt I was good bait.
Then I married one of his best friends. I moved away from Santa Barbara, back to Sacramento. It killed me to leave him, but love called. He came to visit us a ton - a double header getting to see TWO best friends at one time. We had our first kids within 2 months of each other. He had the only video camera, so all my kid's videos were when we were together with his son.
8 years later we're at Disneyland. It's Thanksgiving day. Joe keeps searching for a payphone to call his doctor to find out the results of a biopsy he'ld just had. He had been wrestling on the floor with his son, and had an intense pain in his rib.
It was cancer. Turned out the tumor grew so fast it cracked his rib.
A year and a half later he was gone. The saddest moment, the saddest event, saddest loss of my life. My Sweet Joe. Our Baby Joe. He was 46.
As I have raised my girls, whenever they fought, I would threaten to tie them together until they became friends. I would tell them that I couldn't make them like each other, but I would not let them say mean things to each other. That they would remember the hurtful things they said into adulthood. And that one day, if they were lucky... if they were VERY lucky... they would become best friends. I would tell them how lucky I was to finally discover that about the most amazing person in my life. And that I would give anyting to not have WASTED the 18 years I lived under the same roof with him.
It didn't happen right away. They fought. But by Jr High things started to change. By High School it was diffferent. And now they are best friends. They love each other. They even dance together.