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At an early age, I realized that there are many different kinds of people in one’s life- specifically in the friendship category. There are friends grown from mutual experiences, friends of friends which are adopted, and then there are friends of convenience.

Laura Robert was one of the last sort. She and I were in grade school together at St. Andrews. She was a prissy thing, one of those girls who coyly stood off the sidelines of the kickball game and jumped when the action got too close. She only played hopscotch or talked with a friend at recess because she didn’t want to get her clothes dirty.

I viewed her with abject disdain and some relief; we could be friends because (at eight years old) I was sure she would never have any of the boys interested in her. I, on the other hand, was always the first or second girl chosen for the team, a high honor. I was even picked before some of the boys. I firmly believed that in order to win a boy’s heart, you had to compete with him first. And win.

I knew back then that Laura was a different animal from me and I could tell she would become like her mother, which was her nature; yet for me, some place very off-kilter. Laura’s mother was exotic, with dyed big black hair and black eyeliner tht reminded me of Cleopatra or some Egyptian somebody. She wore flat thong sandles and caftans and had numerous dinner parties. She was beautiful in a surreal sort of way.

When I was eight or nine and went to their house, Laura and I were relegated to the basement, which had been refashioned into a playroom and some extra bedrooms. As a child, I couldn’t decide if I was in awe of this bizarre space or terrified of it. I remember giving her mother credit for creative maneuvering of her offspring and the frustration of not being allowed upstairs during their festivities.

That summer of my 15th year was filled with new adventures because I lived in New Orleans with my father and his family. Additionally, the driving age was 15, and all of my childhood friends were now free to go out on their own.

In New Orleans, it rains like the tropics. Monsoon-like storms can come and go within minutes or stay for hours. It can catch a girl off guard, especially if she’s not prepared. Especially if she forgets that the city is below sea level and prone to flooding.

Laura and I hadn’t seen each other since we were 10, but as summer can be long for a teenager, and one can only hang out with her eight year old kid brother so much, I called her up. We decided she’d pick me up and we’d go to the newly renovated zoo.

I remember it was a hot day and, as always, the zoo was packed. We left the car in elephant parking, closer to the eagle intersection than the owl, each section denoted by a picture on a street light. Whatever the whimsy for parking designations, just know we were REALLY FAR AWAY.

We paid our entrance fee and headed for I don’t remember, but it was once again, REALLY FAR AWAY.

The thing about real friends, people you have a connection with, is that you pick up where you left off. Laura and I really couldn’t find a whole lot in common and since there were no teenage boys hanging out at the zoo, early afternoon was quickly becoming a long day.

We were both dressed summer-teenage girls-looking-for-a-boyfriend-cute, with espadrilles, skorts, little sweater tops and jewelry, as well as lots of makeup. It was so hot and cloyingly humid and the farther we walked, the more our cuteness fizzled.

Without warning, the skies opened up and a huge deluge of rain began. We ran for shelter, but were soaked by the time we got there. We waited and waited and waited at the snake pavilion for the rain to stop. As the rain began to slow, we decided to make a run for it, to the next shelter. And so it went for an hour or longer.

Once at the front of the zoo, we had to make a decision: to stay or to run to the car. “We’re already wet, how bad could it be?” we asked ourselves.

It was much worse. Due to storm, the note on which we’d jotted our parking animal had fallen apart. Were we eagle or owl or elephant or hippotumas? We dashed up and down the several acres of parking looking for the car. The lot was now flooding and I had to take off my shoes to run better.

“Where is it? Why isn’t it here?” we were practically screaming to each other over the thunder, lightning and heavy rain.

We finally found it, neatly parked where we had left it, in the back left corner of a 30–acre-envelope of cars.

Laura started the car, and we took off, thrilled to be warm and dry. She drove through the flooded parking lot, onto flooded Magazine Street, over to flooded River Road and then, and then, the car stalled.

You see, for those of you not in the know, all that flooding is not good for a sweet car. It can create a problem, such as the aforementioned stalling.

We were a little frantic, because Laura had just gotten her driver’s license and breaking a car did not bode well for her.

It was now late afternoon, and we were blocking one of the two lanes during almost-rush hour. No matter what we did or tried, the car would not turn. So, we left the car, one of us sitting on the sidewalk beside it, while the other walked to the nearest store to call home for help.

About 45 minutes later, as the rain finally gave way, my stepbrother Jeff arrived; my father had sent him to help us out.

Jeff sat in the driver’s seat, turned the key, and voila’ the car started. We were overwhelmed with relief, although also more than a little embarrassed.

What I remember most is I told Laura that one day we’d think back and laugh about our frustration all over some silly rain ... and she just looked at me like I was from another planet.

I suppose it’s all about perspective, isn’t it? We were safe and warm and now had a fun story to tell. And even better, we had not broken the car.

And Laura? Well, I saw her once more, when we were in college. She was a bartender near LSU and wore lots of black eyeliner and smoked colored French cigarettes. She had grown up to be just like her mother; not bad or good, just much different than me.

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