A Random Image
 

Jett Superior laid this on you on || March 13, 2010 || 11:13 pm

Just ’cause you’re the one shagging around the pompons, it don’t make you the cheerleader by default.

I met her one morning in the stubbornly hazy late summer. In the sea of grins floating above the popped collars of pink polos, I imagine we both stood out; she because of the bolero hat pushed way back on her head, me because of the stoic look on my face (“These people have known one another since the cradle, Christ.”).

I sat with my back to the cafeteria table and my posture on the defensive, genuflection never having been my style. She made a beeline whose trajectory through the crowd suggested that I was her aim. Everyone knew her, everyone gave their hellos, she paid them all mind enough before moving on.

“Hi,” she stood in front of me, shake-ready hand thrust outward and down, “I’m Catt. You’re new here?”

And that’s how I met my best friend.

I could tell you about how I lost her, about how I clicked on a random blog off of Blogger’s splash page one day and it turned out to be hers–a cancer journal, of all things–, about the roadtrips or the barfights (“How is it these things get started over you and I! always end up getting punched in the fucking FACE??!”) or the amazing hours spent comfortable in one another’s presence; I could talk about the jarhead she fell madly in love with, about her astoundingly failing out of college, about the eighteen months or so between the time I met her and the time we became fully inseparable save for showering and sleeping.

But what I’m going to tell you about is how bloody fucking honest that girl was, and how one crazy-earnest act of bravery on her part taught me every last thing I might ever need to know about social activism.

So I met her and for a while we drifted in and out of one another’s periphery, social circles barely overlapping; I hung out with a group of upperclassmen whose French class I had haphazardly tumbled myself into and she hung out with either the artsy kids or the holdovers from her Catholic elementary school childhood.

It just so happened, though, that Catt and I both had younger sisters who’d found themselves seatmates in school and had become easy friends. It also happened that our families had chosen the same Southern Baptist church to attend. She was the only person from school that I had anything at all for there in that church, so we stuck together on outings and in Sunday School. We learned enough about one another to know we had some basic similarities (fathers in the military, early learning at the hands of nuns), but in most respects we were about as different as night and day.

Still.

One week I called her up out of the blue and said, “I’m going over to the base this weekend to pick up my cousins. I know you’re seeing a squid that’s stationed over there, so I wondered if you might want to ride along.” She did, and we were not apart too often after that.

It was two weeks before I called her, however, that she did the thing that rocked everyone in that church back on their heels; it was then that my admiration for her took a great leap up out of my chest and became a thing all its own, urging me to consciously decide to be Catt’s lifelong friend even as I sat in awe of her flaming glory.

It was a nice enough church up until that particular Sunday, at least in my eyes. It was certainly much more relaxed and ingratiating than the one I’d moved from. I felt like when someone offered kind words at the new church, they actually meant them and weren’t concealing, with those pleasantries, a dagger that had my name etched onto it. It was a little more Jesus-forward and a little less God Is Just Itching To Smite The Fuck Out of You, You Shameless Sinnerly Girl You.

The hymns were sung, there were prayers, the plate was passed and more prayers and wait, what’s this? Is this the Rapture? Because, you know, the Baptist church does not deviate from the formula. Jesus must be parting the clouds just now, yeah? After that batch of prayers we’re supposed to be told to sit down and the piano player goes to that front pew and the preacher gets red for an hour (during ball season), hour-and-a-half. But that Sunday is when we were told to sit down and the pastor called up the music minister, a lovely man with a sweet smile and hair that was trying to sneak away subtly (even politely) so as not to embarrass him overmuch.

The music minister began to tell us how he had been caught unawares by the devil and how he was there to correct a grievous error; he had apparently lost control of his home, he said. He wanted to confess to us that his daughter, age seventeen, was pregnant. He was resigning his position as music minister immediately (the choir behind him looked like they’d been thrust into the midst of a great trauma that they were in no way equipped to deal with, all slack-jawed and gape-eyed) because of the great sins that were present in his family situation.

“My daughter has something she wants to say,” the man told us, and gestured for her to take his place at the front of the church. He left her standing there all alone, the whole population of the building a terrifyingly rapt sea of Sunday best in front of her.

The me of today still pictures her, so lovely, standing there sick and beautiful all by herself, not even substantial enough to obscure the big bible that lay open on the table behind her. The me of today wants her to open her mouth and sing in a strong voice. The me of today wants her to begin talking about the young man she chased into passion with, her eyes softening and her head dipping slightly as she tries to find words that adequately convey a love that can’t possibly give rise to sin.

But the music minister’s daughter stood there so pained, so shamed, that she may as well have been naked in front of the entire congregation. With great effort and blazing face she choked out her apology to the church, citing herself as no kind of worthy example to her peers, an abomination to her elders. She would go away to carry her child, give birth to it elsewhere. She was so sorry, so so so sorry, oh I, I don’t know what else I could ever say, I’ve let my family down and I can’t ever make this right, I’m….I’m.

It was an eternity I didn’t think we could ever traverse and I was so engulfed in my own morass of emotion that I didn’t even pick up on the first hint of what was happening to the left of me there in that pew. We were sitting three rows from the back, so when Catt stood she didn’t mess around with trying to be civil, she just wanted to be heard. And glory was she EVER heard.

“As one of the peers that was referenced, I’d like to weigh in on this matter. I love that girl. LOVE. What went on here today, how you tortured her, makes me sick. IT. IS. WRONG. All of this is wrong!”

I thought Catt’s mother, one pew up from us, was going to fall apart bit by bit, leaving Catt’s daddy and grandmother to carry stray arms and ears and whatnot back to the house to fix her up. She was a woman of convention, one of tiny stature, sizable hats and a great ability to haul back on a choke chain.

“I don’t care if Jesus himself grabs my hand and drags me here: I will never, ever set foot in this church again. You people are foolish and cruel.”

With that, she slid past me, turned out into the aisle and pushed the double wooden doors open ahead of her. Sunlight came screaming in from the foyer and Catt was on fire as she opened both glass doors and liberated herself from unfeeling expectation. She stepped right on the neck of her mother’s staid attempt at bringing up an Uppity Southerin Lady on the way out.

When church ended, I meekly handed Catt’s bible to her father. Catt’s sister had never seen her mother’s face quite so pinched, and she was afraid for what life might be like at home in the coming days. I don’t know myself what happened there, because I never asked my best friend about it. I just know that she was true to her word and declared herself no longer a Baptist, thank you very much. When she died at age thirty three she and
God were in the middle of a standoff.

If I were only allowed to tell the world one thing about Catt, it would be that she resides in me, as she helped to form a good chunk of the woman I have become and had much to do with shaping what aspects of me that others deem valuable. Ultimately, Catt’s the yardstick by which I measure potential partners-in-mayhem and those to which I’d bare the absolute guts of who I really am.

We sat side-by-side at our high school graduation, holding hands so tightly that my knuckles ached. Here and now, though, long and loud, my heart cries out.

I loved her, I love her still, and cannot wait to hold her hand once again in heaven.

12 worked it out »

  1. Seaweed 3.15.2010

    You left me nearly speechless, once again. Nearly, but not complete because I do have to say thank you for letting me know this about your best friend, and about you.

     
  2. redclay 3.15.2010

    ‘”I loved her, I love her still, and cannot wait to hold her hand once again in heaven.”

    Think I got this tattooed on my eyelids.

     
  3. tysdaddy 3.16.2010

    My God.

    Stunning . . .

    This is faith, my friend . . .

     
  4. V. 3.16.2010

    I like coming back here because I get to remember how good you are.

     
  5. Chris Robinson 3.17.2010

    Oh, damn, you made me — she made me — weep. How I admire those who rise to defend victims from the heart. Your friend was lucky to have you (but you don’t need me to tell you that).

     
  6. Aunt Baaa 3.20.2010

    Wow. Thank you for sharing that story. You friend was, is an amazing person. Thank you for keeping her spirit alive. We could all us a little more Catt in us. I will always remember this story of a fierce spirit willing to stand up and be counted, no matter what the consequences.

     
  7. mommymae 3.20.2010

    i’m so sorry the world lost such a beautiful person, but so happy you know her soul.

     
  8. Coelecanth 3.26.2010

    You see, sometimes I struggle, and when I do I tell myself silly things. Things like: I’m not going to go read Jett’s stuff, she’s just too damn good at kicking me in the emotions. Somehow I forget that she also makes me exclaim “Fuck yah!”, out loud, at work.

    I so very sorry that your friend is no longer with us, the world needs as many people like her as it can get. I’m going to take the tiny little piece of her awesomeness that you gave us here and keep it and nurture it and share it.

    Thank you Jett.

     
  9. Whit 3.28.2010

    Beautiful post for a beautiful person. Damn beautiful.

     
  10. Christie 3.30.2010

    Sweet Jesus, I love that girl. Your writing is beautiful and heartwarming. Thank you for the memory you shared. it reminds me why I’m no longer Baptist and thankful that there are/were people in this world who would also stand up for the injustices that can occur in “churches”. The faith and conviction she showed seems to be only seen in the young anymore. everyone else is to worried about appearances. If only there were more Catts in this world. Thank you for sharing.

     
  11. Jettomatika 3.31.2010

    Three beautifuls from the phenomenal Whit Honea??

    Welcome, Christie-from-Kansas.

     
  12. Holmes 4.8.2010

    I’ve been to too many churches that were too damn culty, and your friend was damn badass for standing up and doing what she did. Incredible. I hope her boldness made a few of them question the manner in which they’d chosen to worship their god. Love it.

     

RSS feed for comments on this post.

(you know you want to)