My life had quickly turned into processing ocean water samples every day.
Lauren was becoming more and more friendly with me, and I reciprocated. It was nice that she knew some of the same people I knew, so in part, in made me feel like I knew her already. A part of me felt like she probably needed a friend too, because she was from Arizona.
We had started carpooling together which was about an hour drive there and back everyday. Taking her car one day, and then my car the next day. We talked about her pets a lot and her foster dog that she was taking care of. She had 3 dogs and 2 cats of her own. I liked how she fostered animals. She really cared about it and I thought it was admirable.
On Tuesday mornings she’d have a state truck and we would have to pick up a process water at a local police station before we drove to work. A local clam dealer left us a sample of his tank water, that he kept his clams in, every week to make sure his water remained sterile.
The police station was in a huge historic building that sat at the top of the hill in the small city next to where Lauren and I lived. The building also doubled as a courthouse for small civil cases, and where you got you processed your passports. We had a couple small fridges in the back under a stairwell along with some other random equipment for samplers. Lauren had left her samples from her run the night before in the fridge too.
After a couple of weeks of carpooling she invited me to a yoga class with her at the local YMCA. I was excited because I had been wanting to try a yoga class for a while and had never actually been to one before. Her husband also went and I was excited to be getting to know new people and moving on with my life. We quickly began to talk about a lot of different things on our rides in together. We talked about our pasts and some things we had in common. She seemed great, fun and caring. She would always ask me how I was doing in the way a grandmother would ask her small grandson how he was.
But something was happening inside me right from the very beginning.
When she asked me if I wanted to carpool I remember thinking shit I am going to have to be friends with this girl. I am going to be stuck with her. I didn’t have an excited feeling, maybe a little, but it was more of a dreadful feeling. She could be so overbearing, almost intrusive with her inquisitive nature, asking me a million questions and follow up questions to how I answered questions from her. I reassured myself that she was just interested in getting to know me. After NDX, I needed constant reassurances. She is nice, I would tell myself. She’s nice.
I had been so hurt by the girls at my previous job that I thought that I was just being paranoid and over-reacting. I told Margaret at my weekly session about Lauren and how I had started doing yoga with her and how I was excited about that. But I noted that I was scared I would be shunned at this lab again. Margaret reassured me that I was still just getting over my experience back at NDX and we tried to dive deeper into that.
Work and therapy continued. As did carpooling with Lauren. We would laugh the whole way into work. We became close fast.
I started being trained with Angela for the biotoxin lab. I learned I’d be helping her out on Mondays because we never really had anything going on and Angela had a lot she could catch up on.
I quickly noticed that Lauren was friends with about everyone in the lab. This concerned me, but she was so nice, it made sense.
Lauren ended up showing me a walking trail next to the lab. It was down a private dirt road that went all the way down to a nice sitting spot on the rocks by the ocean. We would go down there a lot of times together to get away from the lab. We talked about everything from books to traveling. I remember one time we were talking about traveling and where she had been and where I had been. Then she asked me where else I wanted to go. I told her how Jay really wanted to go to New Zealand and how that would be cool. But then she followed up with, but where do you want to go? She said it in a way where I immediately felt self-conscious like I was merely living out of what Jay wanted to do. It was unnerving. But I chocked it up as nice that she wanted to know about me and not Jay. But it left me feeling awkward and lesser than.
Afterwards she brought me by where one of her friends, Phil, worked. He worked in a big building off to the left of the main building that had a garage attached to it. I learned he was the head of maintenance in the building and his white hair and big belly showed both his experience and age. He seemed nice as Lauren was introducing him to me in his modest office right off of the garage. I saw pictures of his daughter propped up around his desk with other odds and ends. I felt awkward though and wanted to leave, but maintained my friendly attitude until it was time to go.
Phil would pop by the lab every now and again. He was nice always asking us what kind of trouble we were getting into. He’d always look at me and say that I was the real trouble maker and it made me laugh and feel special in a way of being noticed for my incorruptibility. It was nice. Youstis, who worked for Phil, would come in too and say that he hadn’t heard this much laughing in the lab since another person had left. Lauren decidedly agreed like she had been in a sahara desert with no water. It made me feel good that I was responsible for the laughter and the good vibes coming from the lab finally.
I remember wanting a friend so badly so that I could begin to feel ‘safe’ at my new job. It was a weird way of thinking. I hadn’t yet realized that I could feel safe with just myself, or rather I should feel safe with just myself. I didn’t know that I didn’t need anyone else.
I wanted to do my very best and work hard to make sure that I was accepted. The universe filled my very vague non-specific request for someone so that I could feel “safe”. I hadn’t defined friend in my mind, I didn’t know I would need to. Someone non-backstabbing, please universe, I should have said. Sometimes it’s the friends you shouldn’t want who make you realize what kind of friends you should really want.