To Wichita, with love

Posted on
Sep 1, 2011

There was a knock on the bathroom door in the middle of the night.

“Are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” I said. Which was sort of true. I was presently in the process of squatting in my friend’s old clawfoot bathtub, running cold water over my head and body in an attempt to alleviate the crippling migraine that had come over me. Migraines aren’t new to me – they strike more or less monthly (it takes little sleuthing to guess when) and render me a miserable wreck. This time, one had hit while I was visiting my friend Christine, who was now knocking at the door.

“I didn’t throw up,” I shouted over the rush of water. As though it was an achievement.

“It would okay if you did,” Christine said gently, as only women who are mothers can.

I’ve no doubts she was sincere when she said those words. Christine and I met in the seventh grade. There are elements to our friendship that are grandfathered in. Among them, she can call me Deenie (and before you ask, no. Do not even think of trying it, even as a joke), and I may vomit in the Victorian clawfoot tub of her Wichita home.

That’s the thing about friends from childhood. You may live in different towns, and living radically different existences. But the now-divergent strings of your life were entwined once, and if you trace it back, you can still find that knot. It means that you’ll likely know each other forever. It means that you might not always get along, might not see eye-to-eye, but you’ll always love eachother.

It means that you can hop on a few planes and spend the weekend with them, even if you literally have not spoken a word to each other in 15 years, and get sick in their bathrooms. Which is precisely what I did.

Though it all happened barely a month ago, it’s a story I’ve had to tell over and over again. Mostly because people keep asking me what in the hell I was doing in Wichita.

Which is a very good question indeed.

It’s not that Wichita is not a nice place. I enjoyed myself plenty, despite the fact that it was consistently more than 100 degrees every day that I was there – a temperature that sounds positively unearthly (I went so far as to calculate what it was in Centigrade as well, so I could effectively communicate to all of my non-American friends just precisely how hot it was. “Forty degrees!” I screamed, feeling rather worldly and cosmopolitan in the process). It is simply that Wichita is one of those places that I honestly and truly never thought I’d see. I’ve never lived there. I don’t have family there. And up until Christine moved there last winter, I could safely say that I didn’t know a single soul in the entire state of Kansas.

I maintain that it began as a joke. Christine insists she was serious from the start.

It began with a rather innocent tweet between Christine (location: Kansas), her husband, Jason (a.k.a., @raisingdad) and our pal Deanna (location: U.K.). They were jokingly trying to rope me into babysitting, for, as Deanna put it, I was childless and had yet to be traumatized by the wee ones. I must hand it to my friends – they are surprisingly well-reasoned, even when they are trying to get me to fly across he globe to watch their offspring.


Notice how I agreed to watch their children before I knew what the hell was going on.

Of course, it would require a plane trip for me to get to either of them. Deanna lives somewhere in the Northern English countryside. I could easily get out of that one. And Christine’s in Kansas. Kansas. I had only a vague idea where Kansas was. I knew it was north of Oklahoma, and just west of THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE, right? Squirreling out of this would be a snap.

Nope. No private jet. Some days I don’t even know why I’m with him. Wait, yes I do.

That really should have been the end of the discussion. Should have been.

Did I mention Christine is a lawyer? Yeah. I had lost before before I had even started.

That’s right: girlfriend was looking up flights for me.

This was nuts. She hadn’t seen me in 17 years. SEVENTEEN. That’s a lifetime. A decade and half is more than sufficient time for someone to become a jerk. I could have joined a cult, or started clubbing baby seals. I obviously hadn’t, but Christine didn’t know that. What if I annoyed her? What if she discovered that I was a snobby west-coast liberal who does nothing but unfairly make fun of small towns like the one in which she lived? Which is, regrettably, ENTIRELY TRUE.

She wanted me to visit. She didn’t expect me to watch her son. Her husband was even willing to drive several hours to pick me up from various airports. I was running out of excuses. It’s not like I had anything on my plate. Rand was heading off to Brazil for a few days. I had elected not to go with him (the ticket prices were excruciating, and he’d barely be on the ground). I was going to spend the weekend blogging and doing laundry. Plus, I wanted to dedicate some time for yoga and cake-eating (such is the one-step-forward, one-step-back dance of my life).

Couldn’t I do most of that in Wichita? Particularly if I swapped out “yoga” with “more cake-eating”?

It was beginning to look like I might go to Wichita.

Scratch that: I was DEFINITELY going to Wichita.

That was it. A series of tweets. A few direct messages. Approximately three emails. Two connections. And there I was. IN KANSAS. To hear it, it sounds like madness. But this was Christine. We had slept-over at each other’s homes in middle school. I knew her mother, her brother, her sister. Was it really that crazy?

There was no going back now. I mean, not without a change-your-flight fee.

I was of two minds. Part of me thought that yes, this was absolutely crazy, and potentially disastrous. Christine and I might find we had nothing in common, and nothing to talk about. It would be a weekend of uncomfortable silences and failed attempts at polite conversation.

Incidentally, the other part of me also thought that this was crazy, but that it might be good fun, too. Thankfully, that part proved to be right.

Had Christine changed since the last time I saw her? Yes, absolutely. After all, this was the last time I saw her:

It had been 17 years. I would be substantially alarmed if she was still who she was when she was 13.  After all, now she had this little guy:

All together now: “AWWWWWwwwwwww.”

And this not-so-little guy:

We were in a salt mine. But that’s a story for another day.

She’s a lawyer, and a mom, and someone’s wife. She was an adult now, as, it seemed safe to reason, I was. But the hallmarks of the old Christine were there. When she saw me, she ran to give me a hug (and had to stoop to do it, like she always did).

“Seeing you is totally surreal in the best possible way,” she said. It was such a … Christine thing to say. I gave her the present I had brought her – a small charm necklace that I had thought was cute, but now was nervously reconsidering.

“If you don’t like it you don’t have to wear it,” I kept repeating (how does one determine someone else’s style after a decade and a half?)

“Of course I like it,” she said, and gently scolded me for being neurotic. As I always am.

“Same old Deenie,” she said, laughing. Same old Deenie. Same old Christine. Same old friendship.

With a couple of additions.

And so I spent the weekend in Wichita. It was not odd. I felt welcome and comfortable, the way one does in the homes of old friends. They even had cupcakes waiting for me when I walked through the door. Two dozen of them. Which is ridiculous. Everyone knows that I can usually only eat one … dozen.

Did I mention they were topped with bacon? They were.

Did I mention they were topped with bacon? They were.

The migraine was the only downside to the trip. It struck unexpectedly, putting me out of commission for an evening. It turned out to be fine. The nausea passed, like it always does. But that knock in the middle of the night? It was a nice reminder that no matter how many years pass or where you end up, some people will always be there for you.

Even if you throw up in their clawfoot tubs.

Leave a Comment

  • Nicole

    Aww…that’s such a nice story! I was going to comment that I, too have terrible migraines so I feel your pain. It’s especially terrible when you’re on a trip.

    But, then I came to the photo of you guys and Christine’s wet seal t-shirt! I used to have one and I LOVED that t-shirt. Is this relevant to your post at all? Not really. But it made me smile!!

  • Did you seriously just make a casual aside about bacon-covered cupcakes and not tell us how they tasted? Again, not relevant to your post, but still….

    • Everywhereist

      Bwah ha ha ha ha. It seems I did. I mean, I was up to 1500 words on this post alone, and figured I’ve save cupcakes for another day (at least, save writing about them for another day. There’s no way I could save an ACTUAL cupcake for another day).

  • Kerri

    Hi! Just visited “house of cupcakes” in Princeton,NJ and thought of you! On a side note… I am also a sufferer of those dreaded monthly visited migraines. Luckily, i finally found something that works for me. Cupcakes! Just kidding. Frova. It’s a prescribed migraine medicine that wipes mine out completely. Give it a try!

    I’m a new follower of your blog, but I already find myself telling people your stories and adding your blog to their bookmarks!

    • Everywhereist

      Gah – I’m in Princeton all the time! How did I not know of this place! Also, the migraines aren’t too bad. Once a month they positively wreck me, but most of the time I’m fine. Thank you for worrying, though. 🙂 Glad you have something to keep yours at bay!

  • “We started a joke…that started the Everywhereist Wichita-ing…”

    My cover band career is a non-starter, it seems.

    • Everywhereist

      Wow, Deanna. Just … wow. 🙂

  • Bhavya

    This post is (kinda) like an Elizabeth Berg novel, made me a little weepy.

  • Daria

    Please provide more information on the cupcakes. Were they vanilla cake? Was the bacon sweetened in some way – with maple syrup, maybe? Frosting flavor?

    • Everywhereist

      I know, I know – I dropped in a photo of a cupcake and left y’all hanging. It was a vanilla cake (with perhaps a bit of cinnamon in it? Very muffin-y). The frosting was maple-flavored and buttery, and the bacon might have had a bit of maple-sweetness, but was not sweetened in any way beyond that. It was the perfect articulation of what a breakfast cupcake should be, although I might not eat one for dessert too late in the day.

  • Sandra

    The Salt Mine Museum!

    We went there a few years back and had a TERRIBLE experience. Our tour guide didn’t seem to know anything and he had a stutter. Yes, yes, we should not make fun of those who stutter, but c’mon, dude, maybe don’t be a tour guide. The best part of that tour was the elevator ride down, the respirator devices, and the instruction not to lick the walls.

    I hope you also went to the Cosmosphere while you were in Hutchinson, because it is truly awesome. They have a big statue of Lenin (and some other space stuff bought at the Soviet Union fire sale).

    • Oh, yeah. we went to the Cosmosphere and this joint called Bogey’s that had an endless supply of milkshake options. Get Geraldine to tell you about the Mennonite breakfast.

      • Everywhereist

        Oh, I will get to all of that next week. 🙂

  • I get the monthly migraines too! Ice on my head and sleeping always helps. It’s amazing how much they hurt though.

    I have never been even close to Wichita but if I had a friend like that waiting for me, I would definitely try it out. Also, if you ever want to see the amazing northern Alabama area, you are totally staying with me! We can have our monthly migraines together. I don’t throw up so you get dibs on the bathroom.

  • GKB

    Nice story.I totally agree with you about time lapses not mattering in some relationships.By the were so cute in middle school and have blossemed into a really beautiful lady..inspite of eating the cupcakes!

    • Everywhereist

      Aww, thank you so much! I honestly think I was a little goofy looking then, and very goofy looking now, but thank you for the sweet compliment. 🙂

  • Damn. I have a nice nose.

  • When I saw the middle-school picture I wondered if maybe, in the intervening years, you had caught up to Christine in terms of height, but… well… anyway…

    • Geraldine and I (Giselle too, for that matter) are pretty much the same height we were at the time of that junior high picture.

      G, this post almost made me cry at work! Loved it.

      • Everywhereist

        Wait, so I didn’t SUCCEED in making you cry at work? Darn it! I will try harder. There are a few photos of your little boy that are painful to look at. 🙂

        And yes, you are right: the heights have not changed much. Though I may have caught up to Giselle. 🙂

  • Mark

    The sweetest post you have written for WEEKS without Fishkin.

    • Everywhereist

      I know. I’m shocked, too. 🙂

  • Colleen

    I have known my best friend for 17 years. Since the fourth grade. She asked me to eat lunch with her, and I said, “Okay.” She lives in San Diego, where I have lived in New Hampshire and Oregon over the past 11 years. I just moved back to California, but no matter how long we’ve gone without seeing each other, we are exactly the same.

  • To his credit, Jason was the one looking up flights. It seemed like such a great idea, we had to try to convince you to visit. I’m so glad it worked! You’re the same dear, delightful friend I remember. We’ll have to return the favor and visit Seattle soon.

  • caren

    For migraine sufferers (as I was for 25 years) – have you read David Buchholz’s book, Heal Your Headache? Saved my life!

    • Everywhereist

      My friend Laura (who I wrote about during our trip to the Marin Art Festival) just sent it to me!

  • Cecil


  • wichitagal

    Happiness on so many levels (not the migraine of course). Good friends, out-of-the-way cities, cupcakes…can’t WAIT for Wichita post #2!

  • Sing it together now … “That’s what friends are forrrrrr…”

  • Shannon

    “She was an adult now, as, it seemed safe to reason, I was.”

    Dude, perfect ten. The triple comma is a difficult trick to pull off, but you nailed it. Way to stick that landing.

    • Everywhereist

      This is one of the bestest comments I’ve ever received. Thank you.

  • Bryan

    Literally stumbled across this story. Found it ironic that I had just placed a letter in the mail before sitting down and opening this story. The letter is written to my dearest friend whom I haven’t seen in over twenty years. We spoke just briefly over the phone recently and we feel the same for each other after all these years. We were deeply in love but we just went different ways. We don’t even understand why. That was my first letter to her telling her how much I love her and having her in my heart. That was my first letter to her in over twenty years but will not be my last.

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