Boulder, CO – “Nisa” – March 16, 1999

Nisa’s been my best friend since I was 7.  We shared the same babysitter, Valarie Nuick, who wore vanilla bean essential oil, spoke softly and seemed to swallow her laughter before it escaped her lips.  She was young and fun and sometimes let us tag along to her retail job.   She worked at “The Song of the Reed,” a magical clothing store known on Martha’s Vineyard for importing Afghani jewelry and Middle Eastern textiles. 

On weekends Val would lug us into the store. She’d unbolt a door built into the stairwell, hand us two dull knives, and leave us to work breaking down boxes for a quarter an hour while she lit Nag Champa and put Jackson Brown on the tape deck.  Nisa was older than me by two years and the most glorious creature I’d ever seen.  Her skin appeared to emit flecks of gold.  I, on the other hand, was scrawny with gangly legs that threatened to tangle in the wind and cornsilk hair that disobeyed hairbrushes.  Nisa was beautiful the way goddesses and queens are beautiful.  She carried herself above the rest, looking out on the world ambivalently while braiding her heart in thorns and barbed wire.  Oh, how I dreamed of getting past her defenses and scoring the privilege of knowing her heart. 

Slowly, one box at a time, I gained her confidence.  Under the bare blub, under the “Song of the Reed” stairwell, we found occasions for laughter.  We discovered we were both boy-crazy and confided our crushes to one another. After flattening boxes, we played dress-up, admiring ourselves in floor-length mirrors wearing headscarves and beaded kaftans. We got drunk on incense. 

Before we could drive, Nisa and I would ride my tiny white pony bareback through the woods to meet up with her boyfriend.  “Gusty,” who was 30, spicy and infuriated at being made to trot two tittering teenagers around, often succeeded in bucking one or both of us off.  Barefoot, I’d wait outside Nisa’s boyfriend’s house to keep a lookout for grown-ups while she got to first base.

Later, we dated two brothers, the eldest of “The Blackdog” family.  Robbie and Jamie Douglas were windsurfers.  When Nisa got her licence we’d drive to meet them on the shore in her beefed-up black jeep. We’d stop at Dairy Queen and splurge on XXL rainbow sprinkle ice cream cones which would stick to our hair in the wind while we watched our brothers skip back and forth over the waves.  We daydreamed about marrying them and becoming sisters one day. Jamie is the one who “takes to downtown, brown suburban in the rain,” in Sign of Rain.”

Nisa came to all my Boggies shows.  She raided the island’s thrift stores and found ways of making polyester sexy.  And when I told her I was moving west, starting my own band and going on the road she said “When should I be there?”

“You’ll come out on the road with me?!?! Really?”

“Of course!  I’ll sell your merch for you and beat the boys away.”

“Well, come on then.”

She’s been with us since March 1st.  Having Nisa in the van is like having cotton candy for breakfast.  It’s fun, delicious, and slightly naughty.  Reunited we’re immediately 7 again, back under those stairs at “Song of the Reed,” getting bucked off my pony into puddles, picking rainbow sprinkles out of each other’s hair and daydreaming about what we’ll be when we grow up.  I am so blessed to have scored the privilege of knowing her heart.  I am so privileged to have her along on for the ride that is this life.

Reader interactions

8 Replies to “Boulder, CO – “Nisa” – March 16, 1999”

  1. Hi!

    Childhood friends who become friends for life! Is there anything better? I can totally relate to your description of being seven again, and falling back into secret languages and fits of laughter!

    Okay – as it happens – I was binging on music videos from my early post college years (I am 10 years older than you) and I came across your dad’s video for Baby Boom Baby (1988). I think I spotted you and what I’m guessing are teenage girlfriends and their boy crushes, maybe even people mentioned in this post?

    How cool is it to have a dad whose music video features a summer of teenage freedom?

    I love that song, BTW.

    1. Life long friends are just like family. Nisa and I are so connected that if one of us even thinks about the other the phone rings. It’s uncanny.

  2. Old friends are always best.Friendship that never dies. Love it. Two very talented ladies.

  3. Beautiful stories and songs of lasting friendships 💞👭💞😊
    Thankyou Sally 🤲💖😎

  4. Fun to listen to “Sign of Rain” while reading this…

    1. Thanks Andrew, I always appreciate a little back story and soundtrack. Glad you do too.

  5. sweet beautiful friendships- life’s true treasures. I adore my oldest friend even though our paths went different ways the phone forever connects our most memories. xo

    Nisa is one of my fav songs – gorgeous

    1. Hey Meg, I’m so glad you like Nisa’s song. It’s so amazing to know someone throughout their lives!

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