I first met Sophie when we were twenty-two. I was living with her cousin, a musician in the infamous downtown eastside of Vancouver. We were living the late night ‘glamorous’ artistic lifestyle. The best gallery openings were always one of our friends, the best parties started at one a.m. Poetry readings, indie films, too many cigarettes, tons of coffee, too much cheap booze. Various illegal things. Some people fell by the wayside. But in all, we hung out as a pack, promotive of each other, all of us feeling on the fringe of society. Very creative, very cool.
Then Sophie came to town. Pale blonde, blue eyes, clean-cut, good clothes. Piercing gaze. Sparkling with intelligence. Together. Smart. Too smart. In my thrift store clothes, with my crap hairdressing job, this confident, conservative, multilingual success set me to quaking in my fish net stockings and pointy toed skull boots.
God, I was intimidated. Could barely speak for fear of my farm girl accent coming out.
My chap and I took her out for drinks. Yes, I was appraised. Yes, I think she thought I was a dullard. The pointed questions and my stuttering responses mostly likely left her no doubt. Silly young punk or not, I knew when I was in the presence of greatness. I kept my filthy mouth shut.
Eventually late in the eve, we found ourselves at a speakeasy with a punk band playing. Of course I knew all there, so grabbing my plastic glass of overpriced warm beer, I beat a retreat to safe faces and left the cousins to themselves. An hour, two, later, one of my fellows looked over my shoulder at the mosh pit and with wonder and wide eyes said, “look at that.”
There was Soph, floating above a sea of mohawks, safety pins and leather, her $200 blouse filthy and untucked, letting herself go to the anarchy of the music. She stayed at the front of the stage for the rest of the night, elbows flying, head bobbing, cursing, swearing, screaming and shoving. She held her own.
Well. I fell in love. I may have even kissed her on the mouth that night.
The next day over hung over coffee, we bonded. I dropped my guard and a true friendship, honest and unquestioning, was born. Nothing off-limits, no judgement.
My fella and I broke a couple of years later. Soph said that didn’t matter. I was her family now, and always would be. I felt the same.
The trappings have changed. We’ve taken our lumps. Grown. Now we exist in children, mortgages, careers. The cars are better. The worries are different. But we’re not.
Some people stick. Thank god.