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    by Mardi Louisell

    *This is serial fiction

    In college, the woman looked up to a friend because she was smart, seemed confident and had a boyfriend four years older than she was. Her boyfriend was handsome, smart and funny. Also, her friend was a junior and she was a sophomore. At the age of twenty years, her friend had steely brown/grey hair; her beauty wasn’t a fashionable beauty but an unsoft Italian beauty, large breasts, long legs, sculpted face with chiseled nose. Her hair was cut in a stylish straight bob. Her friend stood as though she was about to tip over but that could have been the kind of heels fashionable at the time. Her talk, alternated astonishment and scoffing, ranged from the allure of a strapless dress to the philosophical challenges of life. “Wild,” her friend often said. “Fantastic. Isn’t life just too much?” For all these reasons, her friend seemed sophisticated. The woman felt privileged that her friend enjoyed talking with her. At the same time she worried that one day she might be the object of her friend’s off-hand scoffing.

    When her friend graduated, she married her boyfriend and taught high school. When she proctored exams, she assigned herself one philosophical problem to solve during each three-hour exam. This confirmed for the woman how smart, intellectual and focused her friend was.

    For the next thirty years, the woman lived 2000 miles away from her friend. The two didn’t meet but the woman sent Christmas cards. A few times in the first ten years she called and learned about her friend’s two children and lawyer husband. Her friend’s voice conveyed the same amazement and disbelief about her life as it had when she was a junior in college. For those thirty years, the woman had craved a friend like this, someone intelligent, witty, and fun, whose comments were unpredictable and who liked to analyze books as well as people. Although the woman coveted and searched for someone like this friend, she never found anyone. Eventually the woman resigned herself to going through life without that kind of friend.

    One day, through the internet, the woman found her old friend and contacted her. It happened her friend was planning to visit her city soon so they could meet. With excitement, the woman realized she wasn’t a junior to her friend’s senior anymore but a woman with life experience and considered opinions. The woman would tell her friend what she was working on and her friend would have an unpredictable insight; her friend would tell her about her students and the differences between their own generation and that of her students’. They might talk about poverty, global warming, their families, people from college. Her friend would tell her about her husband, now a judge. The woman would tell her friend about her artist partner. They would talk about philosophical issues, the ones her friend dissected when she walked around the classroom proctoring exams.

    They met on a popular San Francisco pier where sea lions honked and tourists bought locally-sourced and organic caramelized macaroons and grass-fed beef.

    “Pigeons are underrated,” was what her friend said. “No one realizes how beautiful they are.” Her friend then gave an update on her two children who had both become wealthy. Just as in the old days, her friend scoffed about this, though proudly. She rarely saw her son and implied it was what one should expect. Travel, teaching, shopping for designer clothes – the conversation wasn’t what the woman had dreamed of. She had spent thirty years imagining a meeting of minds about life’s difficult issues, maybe even death, in which her friend would appreciate her and she would appreciate her friend and they would learn from and admire each other because they were both intelligent.

    Although her friend continued to visit the woman’s city once a year, the friend never called again. Maybe the woman’s friend had never liked her? Maybe they wouldn’t have remained friends if they had lived in the same city? Had her friend changed? Had she? Did she imagine her friend’s brilliance or was her friend so brilliant the woman couldn’t keep up with her? What was so beautiful about pigeons? The pigeon in front of the woman’s house was eating her pansies.

    • Great story and I know women like this. If a friendship is not shared I say dump it.

    • Pigeons ARE underrated, but so is everything else….

        • Andrew

        • November 3, 2012 at 7:08 pm
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        Television and capuccinos are overrated.

    • I guess this friend fantasy falls into the category of theoretical perfections–one of the ideals that keep us going until we’re disillusioned. I love how you write about resources for living–it’s affirming even when they disappoint us in the end.

      • Jim

      • November 2, 2012 at 8:49 pm
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      I’m not sure if this is a story about friends or about a woman who never grew up – that is, learned to find contentment in herself.

      • Brenda

      • November 3, 2012 at 12:39 pm
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      I knew what was going to happen but didn’t realize how disappointed I would feel when it did. You are such a good writer, quietly planting those seeds and then letting them grow in our minds as we go along with you. Thanks!

      • vernal

      • November 3, 2012 at 4:54 pm
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      Their lives aren’t over. Maybe they will meet again. Hard to be with someone you have not seen in so many years. Might be better not to even try to talk. Like when I see you again Marti? It is likely I’d ask to look over the things you are writing while I have a good coffee. I could show you my work. Come at things more quietly. Talking is hard. I know this as a nurse…the first thing a tired person wants to give up is answering questions and trying to talk. Such a person likes to be read to. Words without the need to respond too quick….

      • Andrew

      • November 3, 2012 at 7:16 pm
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      This story closely resonates with the peculiar phenomenon of decades-long relationships based on long-ago actual and active friendships that, like the woman and her friend, are tenuously taped together through infrequent cards and other means of long-distance contact. Most baffling is to be told you are an icon in another person’s life, so you respond by sharing personal information and news via letters and emails and never hear a word in return, yet once a year your iconic status is reaffirmed through a card. Eventually you (or to be specific, I) give up and stop sending chatty letters into the void. For some people it is enough to honor a memory. But don’t call it a friendship.

      • Brett Mann

      • November 4, 2012 at 6:26 am
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      Mardi, this is a story about a woman of depth and moral seriousness who has managed to maintain these qualities. The financial and social success of her friend seem to have contributed to said friend’s drift away from the discussion of serious moral issues.

      The author is left lonely, the frequent fate of those who refuse to close their eyes to deeper things. Her friend’s fate seems less promising.

      • Sarah

      • November 4, 2012 at 8:02 am
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      This story on the complexities of what makes (or doesn’t make) a friendship work is so true. I like that you are exploring the topic and look forward to the next installment.

      • Elizabeth B

      • November 5, 2012 at 5:34 pm
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      Excellent piece and an interesting reflection about how what we mean to someone symbolically may not have anything to do with who we still are today. The friend may not be as deep as she once was but she may (or may not) be happy that way. Life has a way of changing people or making them more complex but our ideas of people we have idealized stay constant in our minds.
      Keep ’em coming.

      • ginny may

      • November 7, 2012 at 11:09 am
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      Love the piece. Just had a reunion with my high school girlfriends after 51 years and was surprised by many of them both in a good and bad way. People don’t seem to grow and change in the way you would have predicted.

      • Ann M

      • November 13, 2012 at 4:29 pm
      • Reply

      A lovely piece Mardi – succinct, enigmatic and full of wisdom about so many things – impressionable youth, feet of clay,the folly of hero worship – but typical of you it softens the blow with a comforting reference to some delicious food!

        • carolyn scott

        • May 19, 2013 at 11:04 am
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        Agree completely. A false impression about a person based on how they functioned in the segment of time and the setting where we knew them. Similar to memories we hold of people who die young. I think they become more perfect people over time, in our minds, than they really were or would have been if they lived longer.

        • Hi, Carolyn, thanks for the comment. How did you happen to come upon this piece? Are you a writer also? Best, Mardi(th)

    • I agree that “No one (or hardly anyone) realizes how beautiful they (pigeons) are.” I believe that each creature has its own, individual beauty, and deserves its place in the world.
      Yet, for whatever reasons, I am not capable of finding in pigeons the beauty of I find in Eagles. I feel that I am limited in that way, and I regret that.
      I think that the narrator is in my position, regarding her friend, that I am in regarding pigeons. Too bad.

      • Susan Blank

      • November 17, 2012 at 12:13 pm
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      I really like how you see into how our younger selves — insecure, looking for role models, easily impressed — keep right on living in our older bodies. And some of the sadness that goes along with that. I thought the pigeons were great.

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