“What in the world ever became of sweet Jane?/She lost her sparkle, you know she isn’t the same./Living on reds, vitamin C, and cocaine;/All her friends can say is, Ain’t it a shame?”
In high school, we’d joke that “Truckin’” by the Grateful Dead was about our friend Lisa. Lisa was the daredevil amongst us, but if Lisa went first, I usually went second.
Like the time she leaped off the steep side of Horsetooth Reservoir into the lake twenty feet below without checking the water level for bone-crushing boulders first. Crossing her arms over her chest, she jumped straight as a board into the water without hitting any rocks. When I saw her bob up to the surface, I jumped too.
Or the time we realized the friend who was driving us to the country party was pretty high on something so Lisa bailed out of the back door and I followed, tucking and rolling our way to relative safety. Lisa was fearless because she didn’t really care about the rules.
I couldn’t always keep up with Lisa, though, or follow her into the dark where life became a joke to mask some kind of pain. One day she stole some downers from the pharmacy where her mom worked and showed up at school laughing at nothing in particular. By lunch period, she could barely walk or talk. I was taking college classes in the afternoon so I brought her to campus with me, hoping she’d sit in the café and wear off the drugs with caffeine. When I got back from class, she was gone; I found her wandering the hallways and took her to my house to sleep. Her mother had turned her in to the police before and I wasn’t going to let that happen again. Self-medicating wasn’t a word we used back then, but it would have described Lisa.
Whatever became of sweet Jane? She didn’t even make it to our tenth reunion. She died of breast cancer, leaving her two-year-old daughter to be raised by her straight-edged sister, a secondary tragedy as far as I was concerned.
Lisa was my daredevil friend; she taught me to leap and then look and then leap again. I miss her laugh and her teenaged irreverence for rules that say “don’t” instead of “do.” We’re raised to follow authority, not question it, but sometimes I wanted to follow Lisa instead. What better time in life to have a friend like that?