Making friends is not my strong suit. I like to live on the edge of things, watching and thinking, only occasionally venturing into conversations and putting myself out there. When Jane walked into our first middle school staff meeting in August, I was drawn to her. She smiled, laughed, introduced herself around and radiated light. This was a woman I needed to be friends with, but didn’t have the social skills to approach. No worries there—Jane had me covered. Neither of us remember what we talked about in that first conversation, but in the countless hours since then, there’s not a topic we haven’t discussed in depth, whether that be our mutual hatred of the bottomless laundry basket, the development and growth of our children, or our shared love of books. We spent so much time together at work that people started calling us by each other’s names.
Jane became like a sister to me. When my daughter was five and was hospitalized for a really scary, serious medical emergency, Jane communicated between my principal and me, took care of my lesson plans, and checked in multiple times a day. When anxiety made every day a battle against tears, she listened, empathized, reminded me that I wasn’t crazy, and loved me despite my losing my mind for the better part of a year. In Jane, I found a kindred spirit, despite the fact that she can’t tell the difference between Star Trek and Star Wars references (hurts my heart!), loves *all* the Real Housewives (I can’t do it, Cap’n), and she truly doesn’t understand my undying love of all things geek.
Two months ago my Jane was diagnosed with breast cancer. She is halfway through an aggressive chemo treatment and it sucks. The treatment is working, but, as so many who have, or have loved one with, cancer, the treatment is horrifically hard, emotionally and physically. It is soul-damaging to watch someone you love battle like this, and there is nothing you can do to make it better.
I recently dropped off dinner to my Jane, and when I arrived a text popped up, reading, “come on in, my mom is shaving my head.” I knew that she was bald. I had seen pictures, and we’d already texted extensively about her bathtub full of hair and her itchy, hairy pillow. But there isn’t really anything to prepare you for seeing your almost-sister having her head Bic’d clean in the kitchen.
I unpacked the food, making silly small talk, and made to leave. But I was struck still by the sight of this beautiful, full-of-light woman, feet set slightly apart, arms resting on her legs, head bowed and slightly turned so she could see me as we chatted and her mom wiped little spots of blood off of her now shiny head. I expected to be struck by sadness, to be ready to grieve with her for the loss of her beautiful brunette locks. And then out of my mouth popped the most random thought, “You look like Seven of Nine.” Blank looks all around. “You know, hot chick from Star Trek: Voyager? Big boobs, gorgeous?” Nada. Her dad thought it was a drug reference, and I think her mom thought I was going crazy. I made a short explanation, sent a text of the bodaciously beautiful Jeri Ryan later that night, and let it be. I left them to their quiet work.
My mind, however, wouldn’t let it go. Why in the hell did I equate the fantasy-girl Seven of Nine with my chemo-weary friend? I thought I was just a dumbass, stricken by a stressful moment, but I finally realized what I seeing. It was strength. I realize that when I stopped and stared, I was seeing in Jane the incredible strength that Seven of Nine represents to me. Her humanity was, literally, laid bare. Seven is one of the show’s constant and powerful touchstones to humanity, a beauty turned temporarily into “other”, who reminds the rest of us what it really means to be human. That is what I saw. Strength and beauty. That is what Jane is to me.
Jane radiates love and light and acceptance. She’s ready to laugh, cry, and help me dissect the most recent work shenanigans at a moment’s notice, even if that moment is stolen between dinner and dishes, kids and husbands. Once upon a time her goal was to be a life-coach, and then she officially became teacher-coach, but she has always been both of those things. She is, for so many people in her life, a touchstone to the light and love of humanity, inspiring us all to be better, stronger, kinder, more loving versions of ourselves.
So, my dearest Jane, I will forever think of you as Seven of Nine, even as I call you luv, and beautiful, and Chance/Charlee/Posey’s mommy, and more simply, my friend. I love you.
Update: Since the piece was written, Jane has beat the cancer. Her reports all came back clear, her hair is long enough for a cute little ponytail, and she shines brighter than ever before.
Brandy J. is a mommy, wife, teacher, and writer in the Bay Area. She loves playing board games with her family, introducing her daughters to all things book-y and geek-y, and writing. If she’s not found doing any of the above, she can be found reading everything from YA to horror and sneaking in as many racy romance novels as she can.