Riding the Train: Almost As Good As A Montel Reunion
It's strange... getting to work today was almost TOO convenient. No shinsplints, no sweaty layers, no smiling at strangers regarding how "crazy" it is to "walk" everywhere. Just people invading my personal space and touching me inappropriately, two things I've grown used to and have almost learned to enjoy on my daily commutes.
But perhaps my elation went a little overboard this morning when I boarded the downtown 2/3 train at 96th street.
As I was reading the Post (their political cartoons kill me -- a-literally), I caught glimpse of the girl standing next to me. God, she looks so familiar. Staring at people on the train can be dangerous territory. There's only so much side-glancing one can do before they end up with a mouthful of fist that is likely laden with various fecal-and-pube-ridden germs. I didn't join a sorority in college for a reason, and I wasn't planning on joining one now.
I turned back to Page 6, but really -- I know this woman! I slowly shifted my gaze to my right. Oh my god... it's Rita Ciccarello! My best friend from middle school! "RITA!" I shouted in my brain. "RITA IT'S ME! MICHELLE! RITA, LOOK OVER HERE!" Silently, I returned to my paper, barely able to contain my exuberance.
Rita C. got me through some hard times in middle school. I had just come out of probably the most traumatic years of my life in elementary school (which, once again, I'd like to thank my Mom and Dad for allowing their overgrown daughter to practically shave her head, wear huge Benetton glasses, and have braces at the same time, especially when "Pat" was such a huge hit on SNL), and was looking for a new group of friends once middle school began. Seventh grade wasn't easy either. But I'll save those stories for my upcoming book "Why People Turn To Comedy Instead Of Suicide."
An artist's rendering of me in 6th grade.
But Rita & Co. were the "cool" girls in my "cool" gifted program. For starters, they were the "non-Jews", making me the "Jew mascot." Also, they didn't punch me in the face at the busstop, like the other kids. These girls were way ahead of their years, experimenting with drugs, alcohol, and boys while I stood on the sidelines shouting "Oh my God, you did WHAT in the library? Under the table?? With a DONKEY?!" These girls, including our friends Jessica and Christine, still to this day rank as some of my favorite people, even though I haven't seen them in so many years.
Rita was one of my closest friends in the bunch. Growing up in a very Catholic home, I was the friend her parents encouraged her to hang out with. I've always been that girl: The "good" friend. Up until 17, when I started huffing whippets, that is.
Did I say "huffing whippets"? I meant HUGGING whippets. (sung) And whooo can blaaame meeee!
Our friendship came to a sad ending on the last day of 9th grade (the last year of my middle school, I know, don't get me started!). Rita's family was moving to Pennsylvania, and I had to start high school the next year (10th grade) sans a best friend. I remember that day so well: The bell rang and we walked out front and started BAWLING. Just crying so hard. We gave each other a farewell hug, and that was that: No more Rita. We kept in touch for a couple of years, and then somehow fell out of touch. Whenever I think of her now, I picture her as a successful wife and mother for some reason, which is certainly not meant as an insult. But I always wonder -- does she have kids? Is there an anonymous god-child out there I've never met?
So you can imagine how overwhelmed I felt on the train when I thought THE Rita Ciccarello was standing next to me. Same curly hair, heavy eyelids, skin tone, height, weight, everything. Even her fingernails were the same -- bitten to near extinction.
Montel: Bringing adopted fuck-ups and their biological redneck mothers together for 25 years strong.
Had she seen me? Wouldn't she recognize me? Is it weird to ask a strange woman on the train "Excuse me, is your name Rita? No big deal really..." as I slowly pull out the 14K Gold Best Friends half of my necklace from my coat, a sparkle in my eye. Then she would pull out her half of the necklace, and we would embrace and cry, then Montel would board the train and the entire car would clap and sing "This Little Light of Mine." Rita! It's ME!!!
I couldn't help myself. I slowly turned my head as the car approached 42nd Street, and "Rita" turned to let someone by.
Oh dear. Oh God no.
Not standing profile anymore, the girl turned to me directly. I saw her face head on. And it was not Rita.
I had the wrong person. Although she was still much less constipated than Harrison Ford.
A little raincloud formed over my head, small cartoonish lightning striking above. Here I was, thinking the strike is over, the subways are running, and my long lost friend was RIDING THE TRAIN next to me -- and alas, it's just some girl in an Ecko puffy coat going to work.
So no tearful reunions this morning. But Rita Ciccarello, if you're out there Googling yourself (as I would expect any old friends of mine to do), and you come across this, DEF get in touch. I'd love to know how you are.
And if you're the girl who rode next to me on the train: Stop biting your nails. It's a bad habit.