Memory has been causing my writer's block - too many memories, not enough time. Or, not enough structure - it seems cheap to me to just write down a story that I've been thinking about, when I haven't actually been thinking anything about it. How many people want to know the frequency with which I bought and consumed yellow box cake with hot pink sprinkles on to in high school?
Well, I'm hoping a lot. Because self-pity doesn't seem to be getting me out of this dry spell, and the only other tactic I can think of is word vomit. So below, I'm going to relate the story I've been mulling over most often, and then hope for the best.
My high school was fairly homogeneous, not too much racial or ideological diversity (although we did still vigorously attempt to be the world's noble policemen through participation in such clubs as "Creating a World of Difference"). There was, however, a sufficient mix of decent Christians (like many of the kids I took honors classes with) and willful atheists present, such that our interactions had the occasional opportunity to snap, crackle, and pop.
One of my good friends, during my senior year, was a girl named M* She was (and likely is) a devoted Catholic, though this didn't really interfere with or color our daily interactions. At first glance, M* seemed to fit the stereotype for a sweet little church-going girl, but she was much more interesting than that. Intellectually curious, theatrically risque, and kind beyond measure, I have to say that my interactions with M* were one of the great and pleasant surprises of that year (surprising only because she transferred to my school that fall, not because she was Catholic. Technically, so am I. If you take my baptism as the word of God).
M* and I took an AP Psychology class together senior year, a class that was taught by one of my favorite teachers (she was a tart, sarcastic, totally awesome person, and was distinctly horrified to learn that I liked Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Shows what she knows!), which consisted quite frequently of heated debate.
At least, the debates were supposed to be heated, and I remember them that way, though I'm sure that a great many of them actually fell into the more lukewarm category of "class discussions." Regardless. One day, I walk into class and flip my textbook open to the page noted on the board. The topic for discussion was Doctor Kevorkian, and I immediately pointed this out to M*, because I thought it was interesting. The textbook noted how many people strongly opposed Kevorkian's practice of assisted suicides for terminally ill patients, and just as I was reading a sentence about his imprisonment, I noticed M* shaking an angry fist.
I immediately mapped her reaction onto my experience, and assumed she was angry about the jail term.
"I know, right?" I said.
"Doctor Kevorkian is a bad man," she said (it's quite likely she phrased the thing more delicately or articulately. But it was almost 6 years ago, so come on).
As a liberal high school student in a liberal area, I had rarely been so directly confronted with an opposing position on such a complicated subject as 'right to life' or 'right to death.' The two topics bled into each other, as M* and I carried on what I must imagine was one of the most respectful conversations about Kevorkian, and later abortion, that has ever been held between a self-assured pro-choice teenager and a faithful pro-life classmate. After twenty minutes or so, we realized that the entire class was silent, listening to our discussion. Blushing, we shut up.
I'm sure that neither M* nor I changed our mind as a result of this conversation. But it sticks out in my mind as the moment when I realized - really realized, not just said that I understood - that there could be two well-reasoned sides to a debate, and that I could respect someone who passionately argued for a belief contrary to my own.
A few more, loose, memories of M* - going to a tea house in Seattle with her and the aforementioned psychology teacher; putting on makeup in front of a tiny mirror in Ashland, OR; M* praying back stage before a play with another girl of the same name, a tough but fragile-looking girl for whom so much hinged on her faith in God and her country that she punched a kid who bad-mouthed George Bush, and left - in tears - a history class (again, taught by the same teacher) which covered Christian atrocities during the Crusades.
The second M* may not sound as delightful, but I assure you, she was. I miss them both. I hope they're doing well.
*I'm protecting the innocent again.