Tonight I want to tell you about my friend. She’s been on my mind a lot lately, and I often think that if I can’t get something out of my head, then it does better for me to share it, so here goes.
I met her when I was 17. I had begged for a job at a local production company, and they took me on as an intern. Most of my early work there was pretty mundane… I assembled some furniture, took care of the tape library, and sat behind the video editor as she worked. It was back in the days when nonlinear editing was very new to the scene and production companies were getting their feet wet in a whole new world. The editor on staff was a woman about ten years older than me. She was from Egypt, spoke English, French, and Arabic, and had moved to the US to study filmmaking. She had landed in the job sometime after college, moved to a quiet part of our county, and spent most of her waking hours at the computer editing. She intimated me at first, as her personality was very bold and I was quite shy, but she humored me and let me sit behind her for hours. I’d ask her questions about what she was doing and she would answer them with patience. She never seemed to mind me being there. Inevitably our conversations would turn to more personal topics- religion, culture, etc.
Over the years I learned a lot about her. She grew up in a conservative muslim family, she was a disappointment to her father because she refused to conform to the typical female standards in her culture, and she insisted on riding horses. While she kept in touch with her mother, she never saw her again after she moved to the US. She was a vegetarian, and absolutely adored animals. She was the kind of person that would buy lobsters at the grocery store just to set them free. She owned a large number of dogs and cats, and they meant the world to her. She smoked, and during her smoking breaks we would continue our conversations about life. She was the one that encouraged me to pursue film school and my work as an editor.
When I went away to college she gave me a small jewelry box she had painted and inside was a necklace. She told me that it was the first thing she had made when she came to America. The fact that she passed it on to me made it so much more important.
One of the last times I saw her in person was at my wedding. I had invited her, and she snuck in right before it started. After the ceremony I saw her briefly, gave her a hug, and we chatted for just a moment. She didn’t come to the reception.
I learned a couple of years later that she had been diagnosed with lung cancer. She fought a long battle, but in the end she couldn’t beat it. I heard about her death from a mutual friend, but didn’t find out about the funeral until after it happened. From what I understand, it was a traditional muslim funeral, with only a few of her friends, and a few strangers that were at the mosque. She is buried about 15 minutes from where I work.
Even though she has been gone for years, I’m still sad to have missed her funeral. But more than that, I was sad that our friendship had drifted. I’m sad she never met my children and I’m sad I can’t sit on the porch swing outside of that production company, listening to her advice as she smokes her cigarette.
I will always admire her fighting spirit and the passion she felt for the things dear to her heart. She challenged convention, spoke her mind, had a fiery spirit, and left a lasting impression on my life. Though few people have ever heard of her, I count myself lucky to have called her my friend.