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My Crazy Friend
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My Crazy Friend
Different as night and day, yet drawn together as friends.
My Crazy Friend
They called her ďCrazy DebbieĒ behind her back, and everyone who knew her figured she had a mental problem. Debbie never hid the fact that she took nearly every kind of antidepressant and tranquilizer they made back in the Ď70s. But for whatever reason, one that I couldnít figure out, the pills didnít seem to help her. She had a short temper, would argue a person to frustration, and had to have things her way. In my book, however, that didnít make her a crazy person. We were still friends.
She was unique in that her personality didnít match her appearance. On the inside, her mind lived in a world of its own Ė sane one minute, insane the next Ė but on the outside she was beautiful. Debbie used baby oil and iodine as a tanning lotion and every summer her tan would be golden brown in only a few weeks. I envied that. My fair skin never tanned. I was an embarrassment to the tanning lotion industry. The sun seemed to penetrate every kind of suntan lotion I bought, leaving my skin a lobster red and leaving me in a blistering pain. In the five years that we hung out together, I never saw Debbie with a sunburn.
Although her teeth were sometimes stained from cigarettes and Cokes, she still had a beautiful smile. Her eyes were hazel and lacked the wild look that some crazy people possess. At least I didnít see it. Instead, they laughed when she laughed. The rest of the time they watched the world.
She wore makeup every now and then, but her complexion was flawless. She didnít need a thing to enhance her looks. She was gorgeous without it. If I had walked into a room without makeup, someone would have asked if I had just gotten out of bed or something to that effect. I needed makeup to make me look like I had tried to start the day on a positive note. Debbie, on the other hand, didnít need a thing.
Her parents owned the restaurant where I worked as a cook, and she visited the kitchen every day. She would sit on a table in the back of the room and make conversation with anyone who would talk to her. Someone always brought her a Coke when she arrived. In the 70s, smoking was still considered sociable and allowed in food establishments, so Debbie chain smoked while she visited. A lot of other people smoked too, but not like Debbie. She couldnít get the next one lit fast enough. Sometimes I wondered if she could talk without a cigarette in her hand. I never picked up the habit.
She made most of the other cooks uncomfortable, but not me. They would glance at the clock, trying to figure out how long it would take before she got bored and left. I hardly said much at work, but I didnít have to. We hung out after work and she was always reminiscing about the great time we had. It was a time in our lives when nothing mattered but having fun, and although I wasnít special in any way, Debbie had a way of making me feel special. To this day I wonder why she chose me as her friend.
A little more than halfway through our five-year reign as bosom buddies, I knew Debbie was having problems. She was in the hospital quite a bit, usually on the psychiatric ward. Each time she was released, she would joke that she had to be careful what she said or they would ďplug her into the wallĒ again. Her phrase for the shock therapy they gave her. Regardless, she still had problems.
While riding around in her car one day, she suddenly decided that the disc jockey on the radio was talking directly to her. She circled the radio station a few times before I convinced her to forget about him for a while. Then she told me I was her best friend and she would do anything for me.
ďIíd even kill someone for you,Ē she said.
Well, at that time I didnít have a soul on my hit list, so I thanked her and said if I came up with anyone Iíd be sure and let her know. It was at this point, I knew she needed help. But that didnít stop me from hanging out with her. What did stop me was my new husband. We met at work, married a few months later, and moved out of state. That ended my hanging out with Debbie. For the first time in my life, I was being responsible.
I went back to the restaurant about six years later and she was there sitting in the back, Coke in one hand, cigarette in the other. Her eyes had dark circles around them and the laughter that once shown through her eyes was gone. I wondered if she still watched the world. She invited me to hang out with her while I was in town, but it never happened. Somehow I felt guilty for her appearance.
Itís been 17 years since Iíve seen or talked to Debbie. I heard she was finally committed to an institution, diagnosed with schizophrenia. Her hair, once shoulder length and shiny as silk, was now all grown out and turning gray. My only regret is that I never told her how much fun I had hanging out with her. Crazy or not, we still had a great time.
Who would have guessed that after all these years, Iíd be telling this story to my shrink. He doesnít think Iím crazy for reminiscing about a friend from the past. I donít think Iím crazy either. I mean, yes, I have anxiety and depression and I take pills, but itís a chemical thing. You canít catch it from someone. Besides, itís cool to admit having depression these days. Itís not cool to smoke though. My crazy friend Debbie is probably in the institution today because she smokes. Iíve not told anyone, but I think she could get out if she would quit. My doctor says he might be able to arrange it so I can see her again. Maybe even visit for a few days. I wonder why he would do that for me?
She and I are so different.
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© 2001 Cathy Pal
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