Many (many) years ago I worked with a girl named Vera. Her ancestry was Russian and Vera in Russian it looked like (using the alphabet I was familiar with) B-E-P-A. And so her nickname was Bepa. Mine was Neecy. A spin on my real name. So there we were - Bepa and Neecy. And what an unlikely duo we were.
I was about 27, she a bit younger. She was single and care free. I'd been married since I was 20 and would, over the course of your friendship, become pregnant with twins. Said twins now the same age I was when I met Bepa. So this is a tale of long ago.
She was the free spirt I wasn't. The free spirit I probably wanted to be. I'd left my parent's home to move into my marriage home. She'd left her parents home as a very young teenager and managed on her own for years without their - or anyone's - help. She drove a beat up old VW beetle. I can still remember looking down and seeing the road rush by beneath my feet through the rust that was holding the car together. I was the law abiding worrywart always concerned about the possibility of a parking ticket when she parked that thing wherever she could squeeze it in. 'No Parking' sign? Who cares. Curb? No worries. And oddly enough I don't ever recall getting a ticket.
She introduced me to Sangria and salsa. Hot hot hot. OMG I remember the first time we went to her favorite Mexican restaurant. There on the table was a bowl of salsa and some tortilla chips. 'It's pretty hot' she said. 'Oh, I like spicy food' I replied and took some. 'Pretty hot' was her euphemism for excruciating pain I think. She laughed like hell as I gasped and tried to drown it with water - a useless attempt I came to realize.
God, she could laugh. We laughed together all the time. That's what I remember most about our friendship. The laughter. And the acceptance. Because there wasn't anyone quite so opposite as me from Vera. And yet she accepted me just as I was. True friendship.
You couldn't tie her down and so after a while she left the hospital where we both worked and spent a year in Australia. I sent her 'care packages' of things she loved and couldn't find there. Peanut butter was a key item as I recall. Vegemite just didn't cut it for her!
And then she spent some time in Hollywood. I don't remember her wanting to be 'a star' but she was in Hollywood and when she was there she met Richard Pryor.
One of our favorite movies was Stir Crazy, with Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder. We loved that movie and were forever quoting lines from it (remember, we WERE in our 20's!). Our favorite line was from the scene where Richard & Gene were going to jail. 'What are you doing?" Gene asks Richard as they're on their way to the holding pen. "I'm gettin' bad' replies Richard. And so they both 'get bad'. And their bad was hysterically funny. 'That's right' says's Gene to the group in the cell 'we bad'.
And 'that's right, we bad' became our slogan, Vera and I.
And so, when she had a chance to meet Richard Pryor Vera asked him to do a 'we bad' for her friend Neecy in Toronto. And he did. I have a 'we bad' vicariously through Vera Maiden.
We lost touch some time after that. Vera returned from her travels and I was pregnant with my boys. The gap between us seemed too large and we drifted apart. But wherever she is today I hope that she has fond memories of our time together as I do
Here's to a wonderful - and far too brief -friendship.
That's right. We bad.