February 11, 2010 at 1:07 am (In So Many Words, Reviews, The Whim) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

(Book Review meets a Life Review)

Jasper held my hand as we eyed curtains at Dillard’s. I said “Oooh” and she “Awed” a moment, and then continued on. Bustling through the food court on the second level, she stopped and looked at me and began to giggle, “We know our way around by food and draperies. We’re fat old women, Andi, fat old women whose husbands are either dead or really, really rich and having an affair.”

We had continued walking and I tried to picture that, looking into the window of some overpriced clothing store geared towards people our age… the twenty-one and almost twenty, actually more for the sixteen to twenties to be correct. I looked at our slender bodies, linked together at the elbow as we walked hurriedly through the one place we despised equally – the mall.

What would it be like to have a really, really rich husband who was having an affair? Probably because you were overweight and did know your way around the mall by the food court and the draperies, a little too well. That would be awful.

A man on the sidewalk told us we had beautiful eyes as we burst out of the palace of materialism and into the warm autumn sun. It was too hot outside to be November.

In the car, we probably played Bright Eyes. Jasper was obsessed with them. Jasper was “obsessed” with everything she liked. She didn’t just like The Nightmare Before Christmas, she had a collection of Jack dolls. She didn’t just like Bright Eyes, she had to go to all their shows. She didn’t just like men, she had to devour them – and Jasper needed a good ‘wing man’ (one like myself). That’s how I found myself going to shopping malls with her arm in arm, listening to songs like “Lover I don’t have to love” as loud as the stereo would go, and hanging out at karaoke bars on Maple Point.

November 17, 2006, finishing one of the many books I dived into post college-graduation, Narcissus Ascending, I sat stunned by how reminded of Jasper I was. I felt like Karen McKinnon took a year of my life and hyperbolized (if that’s not a word, it should be) it into two hundred and twelve pages.

Jasper would catch you with her eyes; men fell towards those thick dark lashes batting around the intoxicating green of her iris. I’d watch her then touch their arm while saying something witty, rude, seductive, or maybe all three simultaneously. Before they knew what hit them, they had caught her scent, rich perfume, hair product, and what my virgin self assumed was sex. It was a good scent, a teasing scent; years later friends would mutter to themselves or to each other in crowds, “I thought I just smelled Jasper.” She stays with you, a sexual assault on all your senses at once – I don’t remember seeing anyone meet her for the first (second, third, fourth…) time without seeing their face express just that feeling.

With Jasper, there usually came drinking, drinking to be with her, drinking to get away from her. Many of my liquor experiences I either associate with her, or I blame on her, I blame my blaming on being histrionic. She would like that, me letting her be my bad guy, knowing that its what I do as to not dismiss her from my life entirely; even if I never speak to her again, she would at least have my guilt. She’d say something like, “Oh Andi, its because you’re histrionic like me. Here, I’ll blame you, too. Let’s blame each other, it’ll be fun.” We’d make a joke of it or something, and tell people in each other’s presence, maybe when introducing or being introduced, “This is Andi, I love her, she’s wonderful, I blame her for all my problems. We’re both histrionic.” Or vice versa, “This is Jasper, I love her, she’s awesome, and she’s the bane of my existence.” Everyone would laugh and find it funny, because we’re crazy enough to find that funny, and everyone else would be drunk and have no idea what we were talking about.

In that way she conquers us all, becoming her own legend. If she read my book, which she would if it got published, she would hate me for these words, call me up, disown me as a friend, call me a bitch at what I have done to her, saying she didn’t think I would say something like that about her. Or maybe, she’d do the opposite, call me up and tell me she loved me and thought my book was wonderful. Either way she would really love it, knowing that the world now knows who she is, she would tell stories about her bitchy friend who wrote about her in her bitchy book. If she ever did get mad about anything I wrote, she’d probably call back later and want me to explain, forgive me without saying the words and love me all over again. She would be proud. So, I have to be honest. It would be easy to say she’s like Callie, that she’s that screwed up and leave it at that, and it would be easy to pretend I’m Becky, capable of walking away.

But Jasper is Jasper and even if I can’t be around her all the time like I was then, I’ll still always love her somewhere in the strange corners of my heart. I needed her friendship then, I needed her so I could still be the good one, the tease, and the better person. My sister even told me that after she met Jasper, told me that I needed her because I don’t like things being my fault, because I needed to get a mean streak out of me, but I didn’t want to be responsible for my actions. I let Jasper lead. I handed her the reigns for almost a year. And then I was done, and when I was done, I was able to say I had done those things because of Jasper, even if it was only half true, even if it wasn’t true at all.

My friend Danielle thinks I read her wrong, because I’m usually good at knowing people when I see them. I didn’t. Jasper was exactly what I thought she was, and I was narcissistic enough to want her to be my friend because of it. Just like my first boyfriend, who wanted me around because it made him feel better, in the end he knew things couldn’t go on that way because in the end it just makes everyone feel worse. In the end, we all realize we’ve been narcissists at some time or another, falling in love with our own reflections – or the reflections we created for other people to see.

We’ve grown up since then. I married my love, she married her’s – and no they are not cheating on us and we are not fat old ladies shopping for drapes. But I can’t see drapes without giggling or hear Bright Eyes without sulking, and we still call each other every few months to make sure that one isn’t up to no good without the other.

Karen McKinnon’s book still sits on my shelf. I’m quite certain I’ll never read it again, but I like having it around.  Buy it here:

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