I met Anna in 1996, actually it may have been even earlier. We transferred to the same high school in Fall 1995. I know we became friends in 1996, because I emerged from being extremely awkward and introverted to deciding that at lunch I was going to go sit at the same table as all of the people I wanted to like me. So that's what I did. Anna (who my group of friends all calls Aines or Ainesy) was one of those people. We have stayed very close friends for the last fifteen years.
In high school, Anna and I and our group of friends hung out every single day. We had lunch at the same table and manufactured all sorts of drama. Ainesy and I have last names in proximity to one another, as well, so we had study hall together, and religion class, and probably other stuff that I can't remember as well. We used to throw elaborate birthday parties for one another during our lunch break, and plan all kinds of events. I remember once making a birthday cake for Anna on which I drew a bottle of Hot Damn! We were obsessed with cinnamon-flavored alcohol back then, getting drunk on Goldschläger and Aftershock, and, well, actually, we got drunk all the time on all kinds of stuff, so I shouldn't really single out the cinnamon-flavored stuff. I cannot even deal with how much crazy fun we had during high school and immediately after, hanging out at people's houses, going to this Mexican restaurant called El Pescador, going to the beach, throwing Halloween parties. It's too much to even try to recall all of this.
I've already explained the idea of the locals, so I won't go into that here, but since high school has been over, Anna and the other locals have become like family to me. I can't imagine going back to Los Angeles without seeing them, and the depth and power of our relationships to each other always come back immediately and movingly. We have had Christmas parties every year for many, many years, as well, and Anna almost always is the perfect hostess, lending her condo to the party so that we can have a reunion.
Have I mentioned she is beautiful and kind and loving and sensitive? She is a great sounding board for any problems, and is always encouraging, helpful, and supportive, going out of her way to do kind things for people, take care of her family, make sure that other people are feeling welcomed and happy. She is truly a wonderful human being.
When I moved to Tallahassee, I drove across the country with my friend Julie. The road trip lasted something like five days, and when we got to Tally, Julie and I were tired and trying to get things settled with my house and the whole thing was exhausting. I will never forget when, after our second long day in Tallahassee, Julie and I were sitting on a patio at a restaurant when Anna, Derek and Jaime walked onto the patio. (D and Jai are locals 3 & 4.) I have never been so surprised or confused or deliriously happy in my life. My three friends had flown across the country to make sure that I was going to settle nicely in my new home, to see where I live, and to let me know how much they loved me and weren't going to let me go. It was one of the best gifts I've ever received in my life and is one of my most treasured memories.
This last time in Los Angeles, I got to see Anna only three times, but all of them were fabulous. Before I left, Aines, D, and I went to see Eddie Izzard at the Hollywood Bowl, sharing a bottle of wine and just chatting about where we are in our lives, where we think we're headed, how we're going to stay happy and healthy and support our friends in their endeavors. Aines will always be family to me; she's someone I come home to, a kind of baseline, a steadying influence who knows me better than almost anyone. I love her so very much that I don't even really have language for it. I cannot imagine my life without her – we have been friends for half of my life: the best half. And I am so grateful for who she is, what we have shared, and what I know we will share as we grow older.