The Lucky Losers

Libby and I met around age 14 and became inseparable, two refugees searching for a comrade. We devoured and endlessly discussed adult fiction, made our own clothes (everything had to have fringe), rescued animals, and got into trouble but never hurt anybody. We were used to taking care of ourselves—I think we were born tiny adults, like a couple precocial quail chicks. Libby lived with her parents who were always at each other’s throats, and a sister who was mean as a snake. We had a lot in common. Maybe fewer cops showed up at her house, and maybe she never had most of her hair ripped out, but her sister once dented a silver tray on poor Lib’s head.

We were sort of pre-Goth. We walked or hitchhiked everywhere, stayed out all night, got on buses to New York or Boston—we had a lot of freedom in those days and neither of us wanted to go home. In 9th grade my mother sent to me to a Catholic girls’ school to break us up but it didn’t work, we met every day after school. I lasted a year there, then went back to regular high school where we somehow made it through together. After high school I bummed around the US for a year by myself, but when I came back it was like I never left. We moved in together and shared clothes, money, boyfriends. We drove around the country whenever we had time off, exploring back roads from New England to Appalachia. No cell phones, computers, video games, VCR, or cable TV. No answering machine or microwave. Instead, we worked, read, traveled, camped, partied, danced, and talked to each other nonstop.

When we were 23 Libs met a guy and fell in love, got pregnant, married, and moved to a southern state for his job. It all happened so fast—I cried and cried, grieving in a way I had never experienced before. The day I watched Lib’s old Dodge that had carried us on so many adventures disappear into a grey blur, I knew I would have to learn to be a friend to myself. It took many years and many mistakes.

I visited Libs but the magic was gone, she was now a devoted wife and mother but a stranger to me—in all the years we spent together we never once fantasized about getting married or having kids. I wrote letters, she didn’t answer. I never saw her again. Her kids are grown up now, maybe she’s even a grandmother. But the Libby years are still sacred—I still dream about her and I’m thankful for what we had, as I believe she saved my life.

Note: The name is changed but the story is true, written as therapy and maybe just to set it free.

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34 responses to “The Lucky Losers

  1. Life’s a trip is it not.

  2. We all need a friend like Libby in our younger years. I think it’s only inevitable that things will change as we get older. Pity that change means a loss of strong bonds though.

    • I never even thought about it not lasting forever as it was, and it’s not possible to keep up something that’s no longer there without phoniness. For me anyway. I know a lot of women can’t wait to hold babies…but that’s not me.

  3. Hi Debra,
    That’s a wonderful story and one I can very much relate to. My “Libby” was “Chris”: a name I still respond to and which I’m sure he would were he still alive. I lost my Chris not to marriage but death. He passed away over 10 years ago now at age 43. I knew him from when we were both 4.

    It is a grieving and loss that matches no other. Not pets nor people match a “brother” (or sister) you have by choice.

    Thank you for sharing Libby with us. I wish you well. 🙂

    – Bob

  4. I envy this, even though it had to end. I never had a friend like that. You’re very lucky to have had her.

  5. You paint a great picture. You two must have had some pretty great adventures.

  6. Writing is a great tool for whatever is ailing you! Great story, I see myself in you and Libby. I have searched for my friend on-line but I haven’t had any luck just yet. But there is always tomorrow.

  7. I cried a lot while writing this, but it helped to get it out. Thanks for writing.

  8. To remember what was always make one want to cry. Beautiful writing. I too, had a friend who went away. Maybe one day i will write the story and cry too.

  9. Thanks Francis, it’s not possible to be positive all the time. Sometimes you gotta cry.

  10. I felt like crying while reading it. It’s a great writing. Wish I could also write my experiences and feelings as beautifully as you have done in this post..keep going…

  11. The most heart wrenching thing was that there was a time when I would have signed a guarantee in blood that it would be forever. It’s the private jokes, the secret language, the quirky behaviours that become joint rituals. And no words can fully capture what it was, not ‘friendship’ or sisterhood’, more an intertwining of souls. Was it me? Was it her? I think it’s time but I also think it’s a fiction that soul mates are forever because nobody stays the same forever. I read this post at work and had to leave my desk afterwards. Revisiting the loss of my own Libby in the tides of time is harder to feel than the loss of any ex-boyfriend. This was an important post, by setting your story free it seems you opened a channel for others to set their own stories of Libby Loss free too. It’s just too strange to face that someone that you’d let in so deep they’re carrying around a part of you is someone you may never see again.

  12. Empress, thank you for interpreting what is so hard to define. I was more affected by this loss than when my own parents died. In reality, nothing lasts forever—but our splintered hearts are another story, hanging on to fragments kindled by a million nuances that make us remember our joy and relive our loss, over and over.

    Please write about your Libby.

  13. But don’t lose these memories, they are important part of the fabric of your life. Just the way you write this story let’s the reader know that this was fundamental to who you are.

    I know its strange, but the past is also part of the present. I try to live in both simultaneously.

    Thanks for writing this, beautifully written.

  14. I couldn’t lose them if I tried, and I sort of have tried. I live in past and present simultaneously too, but not by choice. Except for a few people, I’d prefer most of my past be wiped from my record…

    Thanks for writing.

  15. I think that all of us have one, or several relationships we wish could have ended differently if, if, if! So many regrets fill our hearts.

    I’ve only had a few friends in my life until now that I could honestly define as a friend. And you Debra are a true friend. Who else would understand someone like me, and still like me.

    Your Pal,
    Lives with Dogs

  16. Betty Lou, Mary Elaine, Ramona, so many Libbys and all the same – down the aisle and out of your life. Occasionally we would meet for lunch after they were married and they had become strangers (no more “I” pronouns in their talk, now they were all “we’s.”) There was just nothing to talk about. At 18 I knew with certainty I would never be married – I was born with about 500 screws loose and could not help being prococious, gifted, wackadoodle, eccentric, idiosyncratic, high energy, verbal and in general everyone’s idea of what’s wrong in the world. I feel strangely comforted seeing Charlie Sheen and Moammar al-Ghadafi on TV – at last someone apparently loonier than I. Back to the married pals – you get used to it as time passes. Many cat lovers are like me, and my own cats dont mind at all. Great blog.

  17. Thank you Ann.

    For me, it was just this one. When you don’t fit into the mold, it’s very hard to make friends with girls, don’t you think? When I was young I was terrified of being expected to get married and have children and cook. Thank goodness I never let anyone talk me into a life I would have been miserable with. I’ve had a few husbands, but they can be divorced. You can’t divorce your kids. Nothing against moms, we need them.

    Even now, there are women in my town who won’t speak to me because I chatted with their husbands at a party. So insecure and jealous. Sheesh.

    You should have a blog…you have a lot to say.

  18. Bless you Debra for your perception and the tremendous compliment you have paid me. Wow, I’m really high from it!

  19. I’m very serious Ann. I’m always asking older people to tell me about their childhoods. I have learned about outhouse maintenance, lack of toilet paper, how they dealt with menstruation, bathing, etc. I have many questions. I wish I had asked my own parents these questions, especially since they were very poor and survived the Depression, but they died before I had the questions. This has been a lifelong regret for me.

    One lady told me on her wedding night, her mother said to her: “Sex is something you’re just going to have to deal with.” And that’s it—no other information. How terrifying it must have been.

    At some point there will be no people left who remember what it was like to live in a world with few comforts. There are many places in the world who still live like this, but I’m more interested in America.

    Your experiences may be totally different—but it doesn’t matter, I still want to know. Especially since you had the guts to reject the status quo. You are unique.

  20. I recently interviewed a woman in her 70s who was brought up in rural Indiana with no plumbing. She said she still can’t take a bath to this day (as opposed to showers) because as a kid, she was last in a long line of children who shared the bathwater, and by her turn, it was filthy. They had to haul it and heat it. Her mother made her underwear out of sacks, can you imagine how miserably itchy that was?

    Toilet paper was Sears catalogs, and your period was managed with rags, which were then washed and used again. No wonder they called it the curse!

  21. In response. First of all, thanks to childhood, I have PTSD bigtime but cope with it. As long as I remain contempo in looks and dress and attitude, and avoid any of the music, films, etc. of the 1940’s, I will be OK, so much good stuff going on NOW. How it was….lessee, we were wealthy, no physical hardships, neither the war nor the depression touched us. However, the phony morality of the time, the stifling and suffocation of all questioning, the crucifixion of anything and anyone different, got to me early. No orgasms for women. No sexuality at all for women, except the kind you use to guarantee a secure future. Being raised by servants, one of whom (female) molested and abused me 5 years. She stayed on because “it was my imagination,” according to my parents. Did I mention they could not stand me? Scapegoated outside the home and inside it, pets given and taken away. Becoming mentally ill at 10. Coping with wretched relationships and jobs I couldnt hold all thru my adult life – and Debra – this is what I want you to hold on to – until my 50s when I found what “family” really meant (not DNA), found my work, found cats, purchased my first home, ran my first marathon, and a bunch of re-e-el good stuff. More about the “family” comment in another post. Just believe me, the good old days sucked royally and not all hardships are physical.

  22. Dear Debra (got it wrong the first time, apologies!). Is it okay if I envy that time? How much I wish I were there! Your precious rare soul speaks through these posts. We are two decades apart in time, and miles and miles away, yet I feel I have met you somewhere before. I have never seen (or experienced) such close friendship, so I can only imagine you two kindred spirits…there must be so much peace in there, so much of a ‘home’. And I know its value because I have never felt at home anywhere. This post made me realize how rare genuine people are – and how truly rich your hard life is. Keep the gem in you shining, always.

    • Red, I envy those two young ‘unplugged’ people too, it’s a precious time of life and when it’s gone it’s gone. I never thought of it as peaceful but compared to the harshness that followed, it must have been. I have never been as free to do as I please since. Thank you for your beautiful comment and for making me realize how lucky I was to have that. I know you have a sensitive soul so you’ll excuse me while I go have a good cry…

  23. I’ve learned that people are only lent to you for a wee while, much like dogs or cats. Eventually you have to give them back …in the end, I guess, it’s always just you.

    Ships that meet in the night and steam together for a time, then go their separate ways?

    One thing I’ve learned: You can never go back.
    Can’t be done.
    Progress if lucky, stasis perhaps, but go back, never. Someone covered it once with four words: ‘Strangers when we meet’ and Hollywood uses the theme a lot, for very good reason.

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