Friars Hill Traffic Report By Sarah Mansheim Managing Editor • Mountain Messenger

I have the best girlfriends.

I say this with a bit of bravado, because, let’s be honest, it took me a while to find my tribe. But, I really do have a great squad. Best of all, I can tell you all about them, because they don’t read the paper!

Pat Number One is a scream. She’s tall, elegant, and high strung. If you ever cross me, watch out. She’ll run you down in the street. Last weekend, we were at a restaurant, and we were talking about an article in this newspaper. She went to see if they had a copy, which they did not.

She was incensed. She whirled around and bellowed, “I’m going to report this!” To whom? It didn’t matter. She saw that as an affront to me, and she was going to go to battle. Every girl needs a Pat Number One in her tribe.

Pat Number Two is also tall, and wry and cynical and an upstanding member of our community. She doesn’t judge the rest of us as we casually sprinkle our conversations with F-Bombs, but she abstains from using them herself. She is smarter than me and is a better mom than me. Pat Number Two is who I would be if I could be anyone: retired after a successful career, married to a wonderful man for a hundred years, and a mother of three grown daughters who think she’s great. She lives in a house on the Greenbrier River.

I want to be Pat Number Two when I grow up, or, at least be her neighbor.

Then there is Cheri, who is the kindest, gentlest soul I know. If you were to tell Cheri you didn’t believe in God, she would get down on her knees right then and there and pray your way into heaven. If you told her you’re having a rough time, she’d write you a check and drive you all the way to the Betty Ford Clinic. And, she’d be there to pick you up the minute you got out; she’d probably bring a casserole. She is sexy and vulnerable and just absolutely one of my favorite people.

Emily is a girl I grew up with, so she and I know each other’s soul story. We know what it is like to be outsiders in our own communities and how to push back against what society expects us to do. Emily and I cuss and snarl and scowl at the world together. She’s my sister in arms.

Come to think of it, she’s tall, too, and elegant and dramatic in her style. When Emily walks down the street, she shoves her shoulders back and demands a look. She’s also an amazing artist who paints the most ethereal, and yet realistic, portraits I’ve ever seen.

When I get rich, I’m buying all of her paintings.

Sheila is my one short friend. I can hear her laughing as I type this, a deep, smoky guffaw. She’s petite and blonde, her demure looks belying a deep seeded love of punk rock music and horror movies. She’s one of those people who shops exclusively at thrift stores and looks like a million bucks. Let me tell you, if there’s a volunteer effort, she’s there: picking up trash, posting flyers, making snacks, whatever it takes.

Back in eighth grade, she turned me on to The Ramones and the Rocky Horror Picture Show. I, in turn, turned her on to Marlboro Lights and petty misdemeanors. We’ve been getting in trouble together ever since.

Finally there’s __________, an attorney whose name I can’t mention in the paper. Let’s just call her Ruth. When she moved to town, Ruth’s reputation preceded her. “This is Ruth. She’s the meanest person I know,” is how she was introduced.

Got a question about politics? Ruth will set you straight. Got a question about law? Buckle up, because she’s about to break it down. When Ruth is getting ready to “take you to school,” you know it: she leans back and closes her eyes, and you just know, she’s about to preach.

Is she mean? Not even a little bit. She’d give you the proverbial shirt off her back. Just don’t give her a hug. Ruth don’t like hugs.

These girls are my squad: the ones who I can’t wait to see every week. When we meet up, we all yank off our coats, roll our eyes, and begin to talk about our day, our jobs, our kids. We prop each other up, validate each other’s sartorial choices, and get down to the business of friendship.

We cackle and we conspire, we celebrate and we commiserate. And when we leave each other, we wrap each other up in a great big hug. Except for Ruth. I already told you – Ruth don’t like hugs.


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