Next month I’m heading to North Carolina by way of Myrtle Beach for a conference. I built in some time to extend my trip so I could swing through my old stomping ground. It’s always so bittersweet to head back.
Rocky Mount is where I found myself (oddly enough), I began my career, learned to love and learned to write. There are so many friends and co-workers who helped shape me. Most of them are no longer there. But there are always a few who, no matter how much out of my way it is, are well worth a visit.
Jenny – oh “my friend, Jenny.” The sweetest soul and first “grown-up friend” I ever knew. She was like a big sister to me. I was just a 23 year-old kid and she was pushing 30 with a toddler and a husband. She seemed like she had it all together. Now I know she was probably just figuring things out for herself. But even as a busy working mom, she always gave me her time. Whether it was washing clothes at her place and watching Sex in the City, or crying into a heap on her kitchen floor after the intern broke my heart, Jenny was always there.
At work, she listened over smoke breaks and countless lunches at our favorite Mexican restaurant. We didn’t have our own work e-mail accounts back then, but we did have Internet access. I remember J-Crew had an online store and we would fill our virtual shopping carts with items no journalist could afford and compare items. “Oh look, I only ‘spent’ $650!”
At my wedding, I made her my assistant because I could think of no other person who could keep me as calm as Jenny could. And just when I was about to have an oh-my-god-my-family-and-the-entire-universe-is-watching-me melt down, Jenny took me around the side of the house and handed me a cigarette and book of matches from our lunch spot and told me everything was going to be ok and I was going to look beautiful and the day was going to be perfect.
She’s the kind of friend I can send an e-mail to every 10 months or so and know that it’s ok.
Last week, I sent a brief note saying, “Save your lunch hour on April 27 – I’m coming to town after a conference.” Her response: “YYYYYEESS. El Tap.” (Our favorite spot.)
And that’s it. I know she’ll be there and maybe she’ll be so sick of El Tap because she just had it three times in a row with co-workers, but she’ll go there for me and we’ll sit in our usual spot and even if I’m no longer smoking, I’ll probably have to have a cigarette or two while we catch up on things. (She recently had a baby girl!) And I don’t care if I have to drive 2 hours back to Fayetteville to catch a plane. I’ll just be so glad I spent some time with her.