Saturday, May 29, 2010

Carolyn Stories

I lost my best friend on May 29, 2003. The position, for all intents and purposes, remains unfilled.

This is Carolyn. She was almost 23. She was beautiful, sweet, and kicked serious ass:

Carolyn and I met in junior high. Here, she and Kyra are re-enacting the movie poster of the Charlie Sheen-Emilio Estevez opus, Men at Work while on vacation in Rehobeth Beach. This behavior is kind of why we became friends.

On paper, Carolyn and I didn't make much sense. I was a bookish, Type-A, spiritually ambiguous, painfully shy nerd who (at the time) knew nothing about music. She was a bubbly, blond, devout Christian who loved grunge and classic rock, and who struggled with academics, even though she was actually one of the wisest and most intuitive people I ever met.

But Carolyn had a unique, undeniable energy that just made her fun to be around. Which sounds like a cliche thing to say about someone who's died, but I think those on Team 215 who had the privilege of knowing her will back me up on that.

Carolyn had a way of turning mundane suburban exploits into adventures that we talked about years after the fact. And she had a way of articulating things that made my head explode. Everyone in my crew has a Carolyn Story, and can call up a bunch of Carolynisms.

She loved music, and loved to dance. She helped me out in both departments a lot. Her initial intervention: "Robyn. I love you. But you dance like a praying mantis about to eat its mate." This is what friends tell you. When there's no boys around.

She's also responsible for dragging me -- dragging me -- to my first U2 show, because I was reluctant to spend $80 to see "some old-man band." She insisted on going to the Elevation Tour, and it blew my mind, kick-started my musical awakening, sparked my interest in international issues, and eventually led me to abandon the journalism career path to move to DC and start doing PR for nonprofits. Arguably, all her fault. Carolyn's take: "Meh. Zoo TV was better."

And holy crap, did she love amusement parks. If there was a carnival in town, we were going to it and riding every ride until someone puked.

Dorney Park was the ultimate natural habitat. Because it also had a water park. I mean, come ON.

She also accompanied me and my pals Kyra, Melissa, and Meredith to our first unsupervised trip to New York in 1997. We thought we were serious hot stuff. We went to Planet Hollywood, you guys. PLANET HOLLYWOOD.

We also really liked haunted hayrides. Long after we were the oldest ones there without parents. It was just fun. Even that one time when the grim reaper surprised me and I accidentally kicked him in the nuts. Actually, especially that time.

She also helped facilitate my being friends with boys. This was invaluable.

And not taking yourself too seriously. I still miss her guidance there.

We actually became closer after graduation, after I moved to New York. Whenever I came home, she would be the first person I'd call, and I hosted her in my dorm a lot, once I figured out there was more to NYC than Planet Hollywood.

Then, one year, Carolyn got sad. And she struggled. And no matter what we did, or how often we told her we loved her and she could come to us with anything, she couldn't stop being sad. The last time I talked to her, I had just moved to DC and we made plans for her to come see me in June. I told her that now that I had my own place, she was always welcome to hop a train and come hang out if she needed to clear her head. She said she appreciated that, and she loved me. And she asked if I was her best friend. "Yeah, man" (because that's how we talked to each other). "Of course." That was May 23, 2003.

Six days later, at 10 p.m. on May 29, Kyra called me. "I don't know how to say this, but Carolyn just died." I gasped and asked "Is she gonna be okay?" Because that's what your brain does when you get a phone call like that.

I still think about her a lot. I imagine talking to her whenever I meet a new boy, or whenever I'm going through some hard stuff, or when I'm at a U2 concert. Her favorite U2 song is "Stay (Faraway So Close)." I cried when they played it live last year.

I hate how Carolyn's story ended. But that's not what I think about when I think of her. I think about how her favorite color was purple, and how she liked to go to the covered bridge and talk about boys, and how she loved lobster ravioli, and how she tamed the squirrels in her backyard, and how honored she was when we let her light the Chanukah candles, and how we got caught in a lightning storm and thought we were gonna die and when we didn't we laughed until we couldn't breathe...I have a lot of Carolyn Stories.

I just wish I had more. You guys would have loved her.

Dammit, Carolyn. Miss you, Carolyn. XOXOXO