I had my doctor's appointment today. The doctor tested my blood for Lyme's disease, took more blood to see if I'm lacking proper vitamins, and sent me to get a spinal X-ray. He also poked me repeatedly with a wire and rapped at my joints with a hammer.
All and all, a fantastic way to spend a morning.
Driving home, I thought of my friend from sixth grade, Jody. She lived in a house that smelled like stubbed-out cigarettes. Her mother worked nights as a nursing home nurse. Her stepfather was a drunk and had Multiple Sclerosis. Jody hated him. Jody harbored a secret crush on Oliver North (yes, that Oliver North, from the Iran-Contra affair), and once gave me a glass full of whiskey. She told me it was apple juice, then laughed when I spit it out.
Jody wore her neediness like a sandwich-board sign. She desperately wanted to be popular, and would laugh a little too hard when Hayley or Erica made fun of Charlie, the kid with the flopping, deformed hand. I knew that, if given the opportunity, Jody would sell me out instantly to ascend to that popular clique.
My entire family hated Jody. You have to understand that my family doesn't hate anybody. But when Jody grabbed a spray bottle of bleach and aimed it at my brother's eyes, my mother raised her voice and told her to get out of her home.
Jody didn't know that there was bleach in the bottle when she aimed and fired, but she did understand that the only way to feel good is to relentlessly attack, attack, attack. My brother--younger, a bit dorky at the time---was as good a target as any.
You may be wondering why I was friends with her. I was friends with her because I had been to her house. Her stepfather would sit in a fuzzy orange chair, nursing something that was decidedly not apple juice. Occasionally, he would call to her in a slurred, ravaged voice, "Joooooooody! Hand me the remote." She would hand it to him, and skitter away like a jumpy puppy.
Jody had a flair for the dramatic, and knew the power of words. On more than one occasion, she told me that her stepfather abused her. I told a teacher; nothing happened, as far as I know. I always felt suspicious, though...how could a man who was unable to walk or speak hurt Jody?
I remained friends with Jody out of guilt, knowing that her home was dark and lonely, and that she wanted, more than anything, to feel special. I don't think I helped Jody---I wasn't popular, and I didn't stop her stepfather from living in her home.
Over time, I found other, nicer, less damaged friends. When Jody decided to move to Washington State, to live with her father, I felt like I had taken a sixty pound backpack off after a long, arduous, hike.
I heard that her stepfather died, and I was glad.
I haven't thought about Jody for years, but today, when the doctor told me that MS was one of the many possible diagnosis, I went right back to that dark, terrifying living room.
I pray that Jody has found peace.