for the love of Little Rock, Arkansas
I have this friend who is brilliant, charming, pretty, hilarious, and a self-admitted total adrenaline junkie, but she's trying to kick the habit. She works for the International Committee of the Red Cross. Right now she's in Sudan. Yup, Sudan. Where something like 80% of aid workers leave after under a year of service for stress-related illness. I guess war zones are like that. I keep coming across news articles that describe Sudan as "hell on earth". (Maybe Kofi said it first?)
Last year she was in Haiti. When she'd come home for a visit, and we'd ask what it was like, and it would all obviously be too much to describe in a couple of hours - the logistics, the situation, her impressions and experiences - and no one would want to push for too many details because for God's sake she was on vacation.
So we'd get little snippets, like how she was friends with a kindly family who lived down the street, how the woman who helped around her apartment was an incredible cook who worried about how skinny my friend was becoming, how the office flooded once with a foot of water, how she'd sometimes have to adjust her route to work depending on where there were snipers and kidnappings.
Because her last name is Rock and she's sorta tiny, I call her Little Rock, Arkansas. Can you believe I was the first person to come up with that? Add that to the long list of things that are wrong in the world.
She and I are both in transition phases of our lives, where we're taking cold clear looks at our choices leading up to now, looking at what worked and what didn't, and figuring out how to start walking in a new direction, toward our heart's desire.
Last fall she was home for a few months between ICRC postings and we spent a lot of time together at a cottage she rented. She got me hooked on Lost, Season 1, which was one from a tower of DVDs she'd acquired for intensive mental vegetation purposes as part of her post-adrenaline collapse/relaxation fest. I don't have cable and didn't even know about Lost.
I was really sleepy this one afternoon that we were hanging out, so she offered to make dinner and insisted that to relax, I watch the first episode. Um, so maybe 30 seconds in I wasn't tired anymore. I was flooded with adrenaline from the opening plane crash sequence, and my heart was pounding. Then I had to borrow the whole season from her and get caught up. But because I had to wait a few days to get it from her, I read ahead a bit online, because I needed to know just a little of what happened next.
When I confessed what I'd done, she said (smiling and in her famous fake serious whisper, slightly falsetto and with a little tremble for dramatic effect):"Oh Roo, never read ahead, never read ahead."
I'm trying to remember that now, her wise words, that as I open up to new paths before me and feel a little scared doing it, and I want to know what happens next. I can't read ahead, I must never read ahead.
This whole damn thing might be scripted for all I know, but I've got to accept that I just barely know my fucking lines, there's no understudy, and the audience is using the darkness of the theatre to make out in the back seats or play Texas Hold'Em on their cell phones.
Come on back here, Rock, when you get a chance, and we'll turn this show into a delightful long-running farce. I'll make dinner this time. You can watch Lost, The Complete Season 2 on the couch, ok?