Old Friends

If you're lucky, you may have a few people in your life with whom you always feel at home, no matter how much time may pass between visits. My college roommate Janaki, who came to visit two weeks ago, is one of those people for me.

On paper, we didn't have much in common, so I'm not sure how we were "matched" as roommates our first year at Trinity. Me -- small-town girl, daughter of a cattle farmer, with aspirations of becoming a novelist; her -- Hindu from Dallas, ambitions to become a doctor. But apart from a slight awkwardness when I told her what my father did for a living, we clicked right away, and lived together for two years (until I went to England and she became an RA), mostly in harmony. We were both studious, both a little naive, both more interested in talking about the crazy things that college kids tend to do than in doing those crazy things ourselves.

She was pre-med, I was an English major. While I read my way through Norton's Anthology, and stayed up til the wee hours writing papers, she had late-night study sessions with her Biology and Chem classmates. She told me about the beauty of molecular bonds (or something, I'm sorry to say I've forgotten the details), while I waxed rhapsodic about Hedda Gabbler and Yeats. We'd spend our Saturday afternoons at the library, then wander campus at night, dropping in on friends; or we'd go to TC's for tortillas and chips. Most of the friends I made at Trinity were people Janaki introduced me to.

Janaki was the first person to whom I said, "I think I may have to break up with High School Sweetheart," and the first person to whom I said, "I HAVE to study in England!" She told me stories about her visits to India, and about being a first-generation American, opening my eyes to a culture I knew little about. Back in 1991, she told me about the Internet, and email, and I said with a shrug, "What a waste of time. That'll never catch on!"

She wore a bracelet with a small golden bell that jingled when she moved.

Fourteen years have passed since we've graduated, and we still have little in common, on paper; she's a doctor in San Francisco, I'm a suburban mom. But we've kept in touch, and we always manage to connect. We talk about things we've learned about our fellow alumni, and the same things strike both of us -- Can you belive he married her? Did you hear what she's doing now? When she came to visit, I listened to her stories and felt like I was back in Miller Hall. When Phoebe refused to give her a hug, she laughed and said, "Just like a Renner!" It was as though no time had passed at all.

Even so, I hope that fourteen more years don't pass before we see each other again.


aimee said...

I remember when you told me Janaki's family lived near or was neighbor's to George Straight and they asked him what he did for a living. That was so funny to me!

I am glad you and her still connect. Those friends are rare and precious.