Friday, August 30, 2013

I Miss the Queen of Eagle River

Do you ever meet people and long after they're gone, you're still telling stories about the times you shared with them?

And by gone, I don't mean some lofty way of saying "dead" or "deceased," really, I just mean that the friendship dropped off the face of the planet for no real reason and now, for the life of you, you couldn't possibly imagine where they are on the planet?

Well, to me, that's Lisa.

This story isn't so much about me, but about us. But to understand us, you probably should understand who "me" was back then.

Picture it, Eagle River, Alaska, 2007...a gorgeous summer season... (I *heart* Sophia Patrillo, folks).

I was a single mom renting a tiny, tiny apartment for about $750 a month when I was bringing home about $1200 a month. Phew! Tight finances, right?

Boy Wonder and I were broke, but we had a tiny apartment decked out in citrus colors and he had a bunk bed with a slide that he used to fall off constantly.

My upstairs neighbor was a girl named Lisa. A couple years younger than me, with two kids of her own. She was outgoing (maybe a little louder than me, but I can dig it), athletic, and up for just about anything. She'd lived in Eagle River since the first grade and she managed to know everybody, young and old, in the entire town.

We were both complicatedly single that summer, and that my friends, is where this friendship gets funny. Lisa came out with me a few times and disappeared with an acquaintance I knew or a friend from MMA or jiu jitsu. When I would see the guy then next day, he'd have all manner of bruises on his arms and his face and when I asked what happened, he'd just sort of look bewildered and a little confused and never speak of it again.

She was intense and the "Mi Vida Loca" tattoo on her right bicep obviously wasn't there just for appearances.

On the weekends we didn't have our kids (we managed to get them to correspond most weeks), we always made some sort of plan for Saturday night. Since we were both on the financial struggle, it usually meant an enchanting evening at the Homestead  Lounge. An establishment lovingly referred to as "Homewreckers" by locals, and one that was attached to the planet's noisiest bowling alley, bingo parlor, and laundromat all in one.

Social center of small town Alaska, folks. (I loved this place.)

Nights with Lisa were never boring. She liked to drink whatever she could afford or whatever people would buy her. It ranged from Bud Lights to Kamikaze with all manner of well liquor that the bartender, some pervy dude with a Duck Dynasty bushy beard and who managed to greet her with a full-on mouth kiss every time she went in for a hug, threw in the glass. I wouldn't be surprised if the guy slipped her a roofie or two in there the way he pawed on Lisa.

Lisa danced to her own DJ most of the time and if the four foot-by six foot laminate wood dance floor was empty and some sort of Beastie Boys song came on, she was dragging me off the vinyl bar stool out on the floor.

But see, I have this rule.

I don't dance in plain sight. Ever. I don't dance with less than ten people to camouflage me and I sure as hell don't dance with a single other female. One who's flipping off the DJ randomly and inventing her own twerk-like, one legged jig.


That was Lisa. She'd finish the whole damn song by herself and only stop well into the next song when she was thirsty. And she was  mean drunk sometimes. Mean, but funny.

I had my days in the past when I'd have too much and get sorta angsty and either I'd cry like an idiot or I'd see some girl I had made up drama with and pretend to want to start a fight.

All hogwash, mind you. But that was me in my early 20s. I never said it was pretty.

But Lisa, man, she was something special...

She spent most of one evening leaning into some scraggly fella she knew a long time ago. She asked about his girlfriend while draping her arm around him and coaxing him into buying her another beer. These guys almost always had friends.

 Single friends.

Single, ugly friends with zero conversation skills and bad breath.

Some nights were longer than others when you were Lisa's wingman.

So at the end of the night, the guy is hardly able to stand on two feet and when he slides his hand down and gets a big ol' grab on Lisa's behind, all hell breaks loose.

When I say, I used to like to try and start fights, I really mean that I used to talk a little trash under my breath about some girl I didn't like.

When I say Lisa liked to start fights, I mean she'd take a big nasty swing, mostly at guys, and had to be dragged out of the bar kicking and screaming and usually with a fistful of the poor man's hair still in her hands.

I'd scramble and find our coats and her purse and dig her cellphone out of the bathroom toilet where she left it and find her outside smoking a cigarette, wondering where we were going next.


My favorite story with Lisa is one I still tell.

She showed up Sunday morning in my apartment looking a little ragged. Our kids weren't with us and she'd disappeared the night before with a guy she was seeing on and off. He lived behind us and was the sort of damaged individual that only a messed-up tour in the middle east can produce. Bottom line, he wasn't looking for his happily ever after like Lisa was.

She tended to get amped up emotionally when he was around and crazy stuff happened. That's why I usually home by midnight on those nights.

Anyway, she makes herself a cup of coffee and collapses on my couch. She's got on the tanktop she had on the night before, a pair of men's boxer shorts, and one tennis shoe.

"Where are the rest of your clothes?" I asked. She had a particular attachment to the jeans she'd been wearing the night before. They had a skull and crossbones bedazzled on the back pocket.

She shrugged. "Paul's probably."

"Don't you want to go get them?"

She sat up and looked at herself.

"I don't think we're speaking right now. Or we won't be when he wakes up."

Lisa took a long sip of the straight black, no sugar, no creamer coffee and laughed when I asked her why.

"We got in a fight and I peed in his closet."

It took a couple explanations until I understood that she hadn't mistaken his closet for the toilet. She'd actually gotten upset at the man for flirting with his ex and urinated all over his dirty clothes pile, work boots and whatever stack of dirty magazines he kept stashed there.

In a fit of rage, she'd unbuckled her jeans, popped a squat, and pissed on the man's belongings while he lay passed out in his bed.  To make it an even better story, she scratched out a note to him telling him what she'd done and why she did it.

She was my hero in many ways.

She moved not long after that summer and after hearing about an unfortunate DUI she got, friends saw her working at a doctor's office and going to night school. I never could track her down or find her online, and I think about her now and then.

Oh, and in case you were wondering?

She and Paul never reconciled.

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