I was really hoping that I wouldn't have to write another entry like this for a long time. But here I am.
The first time (of many) I injured myself at school was in first grade. I was running around the corner of the building - on blacktop, of course - and hit some gravel. Down I went. I think I only skinned one knee that time (many times it was both), and the friction tore right through my tights (white - what was my mother thinking?). I looked at my knee, skinned with bits of gravel sticking to it, and started crying. I don't remember who got the teacher on duty, but as soon as I had gotten myself to the door, she was on alert.
Standing next to her was a short girl with a cast on her arm. "Erika," the teacher said, "this is Rachael. She's going to take you to the nurse's office." I sniffled and nodded, then looked at Rachael. She beamed at me and opened the door.
On our trip to the nurse (which was a bit of a hike for a six-year-old, since it was in the middle school half of our building), Rachael did the talking. She told me how she already knew where the nurse's office was because she was in first grade last year, but she had to take it again. She showed me her cast and kept smiling the whole way there. I'm sure she told me other things, too. I just remember that smile.
By the time we got to the office, I think I had forgotten all about my knee (unless they poured alcohol on it - FCOL, that shit stings!). Rachael waited for me while I got a band-aid and she walked me back to the first grade rooms. With one more smile, she waved and turned into her classroom.
Time went on, and I continued to run into Rachael (small school; it happens). Though she got teased a lot (didn't we all?), she never quit smiling. Sure, eventually you could piss her off (I think I only did that once; I'm a quick learner), but it was pretty rare.
I was never all that fantastic at making friends, since I'm terribly shy, but I hadn't had to think about it with Rachael. She just became my friend.
And we stayed friends for a long time. It wasn't until after a party at the beginning of my sophomore year of high school that we really started to separate, and I haven't seen her since I graduated high school nearly 10 years ago.
This week, she died. When I heard about it, I could only think of two things: scraping my knee when I was six and that party when I was 15. In a way, those were the beginning and ending points of our friendship. (Though I saw her pretty often after the party, things weren't quite the same, and we weren't the friends we had been.) After that, all I could think about was how I regret not trying harder to stay in touch.
I will, however, always have some great memories of Rachael, and for that I'm thankful. But now I'm starting to wonder who might be next...