(About a 6 minute read)
I heard from Adelia yesterday for the first time in over six years. “Hi! How are you?”, her email said. Adelia, young woman of a thousand words.
She no longer lives in town so my chances of having a nostalgic beer or two with her in Red Rock Canyon this weekend are greatly diminished from the old days. She grew up in Red Rock before the City claimed it for a public park. Back in the days when Red Rock was a haven for outlaws.
Seriously. The Canyon was a patch of county land between Manitou and Colorado Springs that went largely unpatrolled due the fact neither city owned it and because of the inconvenience of its location to the Sheriff’s deputies.
The outlaws were not the horrible sort for the most part. Their reputation was largely based on fact that cannabis was illegal back in their day, but could always be had if only you knew one of Red Rock Canyon’s 67 citizens.
A mutual friend introduced us — must have been over 20 years ago. Adelia hung out with another girl back then who had the same last name as hers, although the two girls were not related. They were known as “Good Smith” and “Bad Smith”. “Smith”, of course is a fictional name here.
To put it delicately, it was the other girl who was known as “Good Smith”.
You see, the Good Smith was tender and sweet and had not yet learned to assert her views and opinions. Her motto could have been “Go along to get along”. A very sweet and pleasant girl.
To me, Adelia was just as sweet. She had no bad habits that I knew of except the all too often heinous habit of being female and in full and unauthorized possession of an opinion. Adelia was also drop-jaw gorgeous and thus doubly-frustrating for that certain category of boys and men who are intimidated by women with independent minds.
Which had a lot to do with my liking of her. Perhaps because I was raised by an independently minded woman, I am instinctively comfortable with such women. I feel drawn to them. They come across to me as comforting and trustworthy.
Adelia herself had a very different reason for almost instantly bonding with me. A very different reason, and very much a more tragic one.
Adelia had only had one truly best friend in her life. Only one person she could say anything at all to and still be confident that he would not judge her harshly for her eccentric takes on things. That was her mother’s boyfriend. He’d been in her life for years. And he had been about my age.
Adelia had especially loved their all night long drives across Colorado. It had been their way of finding the privacy to talk and talk and talk about anything. She and he had driven just about everywhere in the State that they could reach in a single night and be home by morning.
They had been doing it two or three times a week for years. His jobs as a handyman and occasional weed dealer had allowed them plenty of free nights together. They were more thickly bonded to each other than he was to her mother. He had loved her mother, Adelia told me, but he had confessed to Adelia that he sometimes felt he stayed with her mother for Adelia’s sake. Nothing wrong with her, he said, but she had grown a little tired of him. He had to carry most of the weight nowadays.
Adelia was so disoriented by his sudden death in a car accident that she had spent most of a full year seldom able to sleep without waking up the next morning wishing she had not, and too often her pillow was wet from having woken in the night only to cry.
Good Smith, Adelia’s classmate, had sensed or felt her grief, reached out to her, and slowly coaxed her back into a semblance of living. When I came into Adelia’s life about 18 months after the accident, Adelia all but actually tackled me in her hunger for a confidant – for Good Smith, though extraordinarily empathetic, had a very narrow range of responses to Adelia’s thoughts and feelings. Basically, her best friend had spoiled her for mature conversations.
Adelia was a gifted conversationalist. Her hypothetical questions were her trademark. One night a week or so after we met, she asked me who I would rescue from a fire if I had to choose between a teenage girl and my favorite president.
Without thinking how she might take it, I shrugged and said, “You, I guess, if you were the girl.”
“But why do you think I would be the girl in the fire?”
“Well honestly, it depends on who it is. I had to think of someone specific. So you’re right in front of me. I thought of you.”
“What if I fought you? What if I was hysterical and out of my mind, and I fought you?”
“Not a problem. I once fought fires. I can toss someone your size over my shoulder and carry you a hundred yards running. Or at least I once could have.”
“You were a fireman? Would you trust me with your back in a fire?”
“Yeah”, I said, “For sure.” I was thinking at the moment how comfortable and trusting I was with her and not really assessing her as my teammate in a life and death situation.
Suddenly she plunged her hands together between her legs as if they were cold. Her shoulders hunched forward and she bent her head over our table. I wondered whether she felt sick. But a moment later, I saw something spotting the table beneath her face. Tears.
She wouldn’t look up nor speak when I asked what was wrong, just shook her head.
The silence rapidly grew painful.
Then glancing up at me and quickly down again, she said, “No one has said they would trust me in a fire since my best friend died. People never say they would trust me, I don’t know why.”
She told me about her best friend that night. I had not heard the story until then.
Adelia and I never took any all night drives, but we began hanging out together at the coffee shop, taking in a movie and now and then, shopping together once or twice. And, of course, there was the hillside in Red Rocks where we went to split our six packs when we felt like drinking beers.
Once she disappeared without warning for about a month. When she finally showed up again, she had a boyfriend, and was waiting at the coffee shop for him to get off work at a nearby restaurant. “Can you believe it, Paul? We spent two hours in foreplay last night! Two hours!”
I was impressed when he arrived and began dancing gracefully with her on the sidewalk. They twirled away down the street to her car, and that was the last I saw of Adelia for another two months.
Things didn’t work out. He had turned possessive, began trying to tell Adelia what to believe and when to believe it. She could only put up with it for so long. Unlike most young people — boys and girls — her age, Adelia recognized she wasn’t going to reform him.
Until she left for Upper New York State to work for a start up company, she stayed single. She had no lack of admirers. At least not until she spoke her mind.
Adelia still lives in New York State. She’s married now and has a son who is nine or ten.