I don’t remember how we met, but it must have been at the school bus stop. We lived one block away from each other, but somehow had never crossed paths. I don’t even remember our first conversation. All I know is that one day I didn’t know Marta, and the next day we were best friends.
It was the beginning of the school year, and we were in the eighth grade. Back then it was called junior high school. Now they call it middle school. Anyway, Marta was a much more sophisticated 13-year-old than I was. She knew about make-up, nail polish, and read Cosmopolitan magazine regularly. Hence, she knew what guys liked and how to get a good one to notice you.
I was in awe.
I experienced a lot of firsts with her that year. She took me to Kmart and helped me buy make-up. Then, we went back to my house where she taught me how to apply too much it. I’d purchased a purple eye shadow palette with matching purple mascara and eye liner. I wanted to get the blue shades like Marta wore, but she said that since I had brown eyes and a darker complexion, blue would make me look fake and slutty. We certainly didn’t want that! So, purple it was.
She also taught me how to smoke cigarettes. A couple of afternoons a week, she’d sneak a couple of Winstons from her dad’s pack and we’d walk the few blocks to the creek. There, amongst the lush trees and clear, trickling water we’d light up and enjoy our smokes. Neither of us inhaled. We didn’t know we were supposed to.
Then, one Friday night, my mom gave me the okay to go to the Arvada Plaza theater with Marta. We saw “Deliverance.” It as the first time I’d seen a movie in a theater without parental guidance. I felt so grown-up! A whole new world was opening up for me — and all because of Marta.
On Saturdays we’d go horseback riding. I had my own horse, and the people who operated the ranch where I boarded him were kind enough to let Marta borrow one of their horses. There were many intricate trails and ditch banks to explore at the time. One even took us past an old graveyard enclosed with barbed wire. Many times, we’d discussed climbing over the wire to get look at the head stones close-up, but we never did.
One Sunday, toward the end of the school year, Marta came over to my house. She was out of breath and terribly excited. It seemed her father had gotten a job transfer to a small town in Wyoming. And the best part about it, she’d said, was that she’d be getting a horse. They’d be moving as soon as school was out.
My heart sank to my ankles. I couldn’t believe it. I thought we were real friends, but Marta was so excited and thrilled to be leaving me. It didn’t make sense. How could this be? What was I missing? It reminded me of when my family moved from the Chicago area to Denver and I had to leave my bestie Joanne behind. I too, was promised a horse, but I wasn’t at all happy about leaving.
So, I put on a brave face and pretended to be happy for Marta. At the same time, I began to distance myself and my feelings. I’d begun to build a wall of protection that to this day, few people manage to breach.
I don’t even remember saying goodbye to Marta, although I must have. We’d only been friends for a year, but I will never forget what her leaving felt like.
After she moved, we’d kept in touch for a while. Eventually though, the letters stopped coming. We’d both moved on with our lives.
Just a few weeks ago, I decided to try and find Marta. I Googled her name and promptly found her obituary. She’d passed away in 2015. It didn’t say the cause of death. All I was able to glean was that she’d been married and had a daughter. She had also owned her own beauty salon.
I’ll bet she was one hell of a beautician.
Rest in Peace, my old friend.