Both the curse and the blessing of being a native is that while you benefit from the people a great city like Austin attracts, you feel claustrophobically rooted when they tumble away, scattering themselves to the edges of the next metro area that attracts them.
Indeed, my upcoming road trip will be equal parts hilarity, madness (mainly on the part of the one year-old dog we'll have in tow), and bittersweet. My good friend Christina (Chrisy) is leaving Texas for the mystical Washington, DC -- a place to me that has only appeared in images of marble, cherry blossoms and fine-quality suits. Chrisy came to Texas five years ago, hoping to save money for a trip by living with her parents, who had recently moved here as well. As a retired Army brat, Chrisy had no problem assimilating to Austin -- in fact, Chrisy was like a non-native invasive species, an exotic Burmese python snaking her way into the warm, evergreen hills. She's a conservationist, so I hope she'll understand why I call her a non-native species, in the best of ways. She knows they thrive and prosper.
She thrived here -- and I was fortunate enough to get to be a part of her time here.
The first time I knew of Chrisy was when we crossed paths at the Elgin Veterinary Clinc, when I used to take horses there during the day to be pricked with long, shining needles and injected with hyaluronic acid to cure their aches and pains. Chrisy was working at the time as a vet tech, yet another part of her plan to save money to travel abroad.
She was the only person at the veterinary clinic who had an easy, slow pace about her -- she was happy to pet a horse on the neck and wait for the next set of stocks to be available. Everyone else, including myself I'm sure, was always in a hurry.
The next time I ran into her was at a horse show later that fall, when she helped me load a fence into the bed of a truck. It was freezing cold, and she had on an Ohio State sweatshirt. We struck up a conversation, and she mentioned she was looking for a job in marketing. She called the stables I worked at a week later, hoping to network her way into a job at my mom's office. She didn't, but it didn't stop us from being friends.
I had recently undergone a bit of a life transformation related to my dear friend Shirikins, who had convinced me to move in with her. We were having a housewarming party and I invited Chrisy. She showed up at 10:30 PM, alone, ready for anything as long as it wasn't a shot of tequila.
I thought she had to be the coolest person I'd ever met.
From there, we spent more Valentine's Days together than either of us probably care to remember. We drove to Coupland Dance Hall and learned to two-step; tamed mechanical bulls and galloped horses at McKinney Roughs; we ate queso and drank margaritas all summer long one year. One time I drove with her to obtain a small furry puppy for her mom. She listened patiently when I bemoaned my past relationship to her, and didn't ever tell me I was dating an asshat until I was ready to hear it. I eventually did the same for her. We have fought like sisters and driven along sunsets. We've climbed Enchanted Rock, eaten bar-b-que in Llano, and seen Vanilla Ice play on 4th Street. One particularly lonely year, we had a date night where we reenacted our perfect date: we took a box of sangria and Milano cookies to watch the sun set over Austin from the top of Mt. Bonnell.
Acquaintances come and go, but there are only a few certain people you can talk about everything with, and Chrisy is one of them. She would go anywhere, do anything and say anything -- sometimes even to her detriment. But for as much as it could drive me nuts, it's one of the reasons I love her. And equally why I'll miss her.
This will be my second friend I've driven away with, only to fly back to my native roots a few days later. I'll have one on both coasts now, deposited neatly in their new land, digging in their heels and growing.
Good luck, Chrisy! And if you ever need some queso and a margarita, I'll be here.