I woke up this morning remembering an event that was pretty significant to me back in the seventh grade. I was on the cheerleading squad at my middle school which I admit was a pretty strange place for me to be. I had tried out the year before because my friend Rose was doing it. It was really just something to do, and I was surprised to be chosen. Lacking in self confidence and social skills, I had never gotten to hang out with the “cool” kids before, and cheerleading allowed me that for the first time.
The following year, seventh grade, when try-outs came around again, even the girls on the current squad had to try out with everyone else again. I wasn’t too worried because I had a year of experience now, and had learned some cool gymnastics tricks that I didn’t know the year before. Anyway, everyone knew that if you were a seventh grade cheerleader you were pretty much guaranteed to be picked for next year’s squad. However, the cheerleading coach decided that she wanted to add another dimension to the try-outs that year. She came up with some questions, and each of us trying out had to meet with her in her office and answer two of them. These questions, I suppose were to help her decide which of us had the character traits she wanted on her squad. I can’t remember what my first question was, but I remember the second one clearly. “If one of your friends found out that she had a terminal illness and was going to die, what would you say to her?” I was floored by this question because I have a terrible time talking about emotional subjects, and of course I was only thirteen years old. All I could think to answer was “I’m sorry.”
My answer didn’t meet the coach’s expectations and I was cut from the next year’s squad.
Little did I know that five years later I would meet the best friend of my life and that she would be slowly dying of Crohn’s disease. She died when I was twenty (she was 22), after three years of friendship. I don’t think I ever told her I was sorry. I never believed that she was going to die. I snuck her potato chips when she was in the hospital and not allowed to eat, I layed in her hospital bed with her on many occasions watching crappy t.v., and I got used to her getting off the phone with me in a hurry when she had to rush to the bathroom. I told her she still looked great when her cheeks were puffed up from steroids and helped her decide what color to dye her hair that she kept cut very short because it fell out from lying in the bed so much. I don’t know if I ever knew she was going to die and I am not sure if she did. I know that I definitely didn’t live our friendship out like she would and neither did she. There were no good-byes. One day she was alive, the next day she had a heart attack and was gone. It’s been nearly ten years since she died, and about 18 since I got cut from that squad.