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You know in the musical Hamilton when Aaron Burr is about to shoot Alexander Hamilton but instead the action freezes?
Hamilton is a NON-STOP musical until that moment.
When I heard the news that my high school Girlfriend No.2 died the other day, it was like that.
My senior year of high school, we were the Four Musketeers: Girlfriend No.2, Girlfriend No.3, Girlfriend No.4, and me. We hung out, listened to music, and talked in either my old Ford Escort or at No.3’s house. And could we hangout! Our love of listening to music bonded us, and we thrived on progressive or alternative mostly- the Cure, New Order, the Smiths… No.4 rocked my world by introducing me to Public Enemy and alternative hip hop such as Tribe Called Quest, too.
“We got the jazz, we got the jazz…”
Between the four of us, we had hundreds of cassette tapes, mix tapes, copies of each other’s tapes…
No, 3 had this big thing going on with Twin Peaks, so sometimes that ethereal soundtrack played. We loved Janes’ Addiction, and we saw them twice together. We could all agree on Janes! Depeche Mode abounded as well, in addition to Michael Stipe telling us about us losing his religion that year (but we real REM fans knew that there was so much more to a band than their hits!), the Pixies, U2, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and Cowboy Junkies. We entertained each other’s random tastes such as No.2’s love of Aretha Franklin and might have even wandered a little too much after the Queen of Soul’s show at Merriwether to see if we could get backstage, but that was No. 2 for you! We pushed the envelope, but when the guard told us to beat it, we did lol
We mostly hung out at the safe parents’ house of No.3- you know, that one home where teenagers could be teenagers? Where there was love and space for us. Not to drink and drug, but to be. To roam with freedom from her family’s kitchen to their living room to her bedroom and back again. Eat too much of their food.
“Creamy garlic! She’s making creamy garlic noodles,” No. 2 beamed.
Listen to more music. Tell ourselves and No. 3’s Mom we were bored. Call other friends to tell them we were bored. Or rehash the dances coming up soon or past ones. Or what Earth Day was like. Or being techies at the Apollo. Or our memories of New York City. Or about getting jobs. Or how horrific a recent spell of being grounded had been. We didn’t do anything much more special than a lot of teenagers, but this is us. And one of us is gone.
Everything in high school is such a drama, you know? It is like a play and we made our own musical.
Now Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton, they had it out for each other. We didn’t. But the odds were not in our favor, either. Our foes were ourselves. No. 2 and I, we fought addiction, alcoholism and family dysfunction. And I have particular empathy for her because of that. I wonder if she had mental health issues as well. I don’t know.
But I know that treating both my disease of addiction and bipolar is central to my recovery and living a good life.
Hamilton has a spinning stage similar to Les Mis to remind us that the world keeps spinning. Life goes on. But I will always remember the joy that No. 2 brought to our lives. She was so silly, animated, and lively. But like most comedians, there was a lot of pain which lies underneath.
“Oh. My. God!” she said at least once a day, just like that, to anything remotely surprising, good or bad. I can always hear her voice saying it, just like that: Oh. My. God.
We listened to Smithy, Morissey, Aretha, Perry, and Tribe sing, as does Lin-Manual a la Alexander Hamilton eternally:
“Teach me how to say goodbye.”
I’m not going to the funeral for some of the reasons I hinted at above. In honor of No.2 and the fun, rebel-rousing soul she was, I’m keeping my regular Saturday plans which included some fun with myself. Her death has born gifts already though: talking to No. 3 and No. 4 for the first time in about 20 years! We’ve been loving and laughing like we’re at the best wake ever! In recovery, I honor grief and her process, but my focus is on life, and there is no one like my friends to get me through that.
In the words of a dying Alexander Hamilton (and my dear No. 2 Girlfriend): “I’ll see you on the other side.”
Love to the angels.