My Childhood Best Friend, the Mastermind


I'm rarely surprised to discover how my childhood classmates turned out on Facebook. Like, the geeky girl with the coke bottle glasses, who whittled wood during recess, is now into belly dancing. The sophisticated European girl who lost her virginity at 14 is now a Catholic stay-at-home mom of six living in the suburbs. These arcs makes sense, narratively.

But I was surprised to find out that the kooky space cadet, who was my best friend, is now a.... space cadet.

Laura Matthews, the space cadet, was my first best friend. That isn't her real name. I'm not using her real name because I'm afraid of what might happen to me if this shows up in a Google search. Also, she's the great-granddaughter of a former Republican President. But it's not the Republicans that scare me, this time.

Laura was a very important person in my life, the first person to truly accept and appreciate me. I had friends before her; I got around. But she burst into my life in the fifth grade, moved six houses down, and fulfilled the young adult novel fantasy of best friendship. I was already ten when we met. I wasn’t sure it was ever going to happen for me. I remember when we first said it to each other - “You’re my best friend too!” Soon, we were saying it all the time to each other and taking it further: “LYLAS” (love you like a sister).

Like any perfect match, Laura and I complemented each other. She was tall, blond, and athletic, a pre-debutante. I was Jewy and bookish. We created our own society together, with our own language, games, and rules. She was the inspiration and I was the brains behind the operation. I wrote our theme song; she thought we needed a theme song.

Our good times often involved shoplifting and pranking. We would go door-to-door, for instance, and pretend I was a Mexican orphan girl and ask for money.  In another classic bit, she would take a used dirty Butterfingers wrapper and try to sell it to people – “Hey, wanna buy some candy!” Nobody got it, but I would die laughing.  To me, it was like post-modern anti-comedy. I got into trouble hanging out with Laura. I was kicked out of the school play for misbehaving. But who cared about a stupid corny school play, when we were doing underground street theater?

I considered Laura to be pure raw talent, an underappreciated genius mastermind. She thought very well of me too, always telling me how smart, funny, sweet, and outgoing I was. I didn't even know I was sweet and outgoing before I met her.

Laura and I had our Stand by Me moment, then drifted in high school. I went to a different school, got good grades, and went to college to study English literature and prolong my virginity. She got into pot and psychedelic drugs, went to wilderness school, lived in the woods for a while with an old guy she called a Wizard because he had a long beard, then with him or someone else, had twin boys and traveled the country living in vans following the band Phish. 

Laura became a joke to her classmates and even her family. She was voted "Most Spacy" in her senior yearbook. I continued to defend her. Laura was special, brilliant! Laura was really doing it, really living life by her own terms!  (Not that I would ever listen to Phish.)

When I did see her, over the years, I would still get caught up in the spell of her unique charisma. She just became harder to pin down – for a date or even a conversation Her thoughts would wander anxiously.

Then years passed with no contact. She seemed to disappear. I couldn’t find her online. I had close friends after her; I got around. I found Laura-substitutes, but never anyone else that felt like a soul mate. There was a hole in my heart with her (real) name on it.

Then, three years ago, my mom sent me a link for a website for a woman named Laura Minerva, which was a variation on her given middle name. There was a picture of her. She looked the same, but calmer and with dreadlocks, like she had arrived at the “spacey” woman she foreshadowed. The website included very dense language about the womb of the mother, the birthing process, and taking on the dark forces of the false matrix towards the Golden Age in 2012. I was so happy to find Laura and to see that she finally had a thing!  (Not that I would ever personally read about the New Age.)

We exchanged a few emails and talked for hours on the phone. She was the same funny, insightful, high-strung, high-on-substances spirit-being. She was still bringing out something in me that says things like "spirit-being." She sent me her latest art work, amazingly realistic nature drawings, entirely on etch-a-sketch.

Best of all, Laura was moving to Los Angeles, where I lived. We would be reunited, as if by destiny, in California, where destinies are made! That hole in my heart was filling up.

Then we met in person in L.A., over raw food.  That was her choice. (I would never.)

At first, it seemed like we were on a parallel path in life. She said that was hurt by a recent break-up. “Me too!” I said. She said that her ex had been keeping lies from her. “Me too!” I said.

Then she said that her ex turned out to be an undercover CIA operative, from the future, who was planning a mission to Mars and targeted her because of her family. She was having trouble learning to trust again.

“Um… me too….”

Oh no! Was Laura completely insane? Was she always, and I didn't see it before, because I was half-insane? She did look unwell, like she had just escaped a war camp, although that might have been the raw food diet.

I wouldn’t let myself entertain such thoughts. Laura always took things further than everyone else, and what did I know about the false matrix? Maybe she came into my life to guide me through the false matrix.

Then, Laura added me on Facebook. She posted a lot, all day, at great length, about everything – world events, the weather, a fight with her boyfriend, peaches. She over-shared, some would say, including our other childhood friends. “Can you believe Laura? I had to block her. Isn’t she weird?” Well yes, I’d think… but no! Laura's just unique. She’s always been braver and more honest than the rest of us!  

In a show of support, I commented on one of her posts. She wrote: “Corn on the cob. We are all corn on the proverbial cob.”  My reply: “Wise. And adorable!”

An hour later I had a notification that more than 80 people had commented on the same post. “I love you Laura… You are so wise…You are a goddess.” I started to catch on that people were responding to all of her posts that way. Who were these people?  She told me she had no friends. Then, she added a fan page, about the return of the goddess. Within a month, it had 20,000 fans.

So I woke up, investigated, and figured out that my childhood best friend Laura, who lives in Ventura and works for her boyfriend’s water company, has a long dirty braid and halitosis, is believed by many, many thousands of people to be the reincarnation of the divine ancient Sophia who will save us in the year 2012.

Some of her followers are very serious. The “About Me” on one man’s Facebook page said that he “lives only to prove that Laura Minerva is the one true Sophia.”  I had a friend request from a follower of hers in Panama. His profile picture included his wife and children.

I wrote her: “What the heck? Are you a cult leader?”  She wrote back: “Oh, I don’t know.  I guess my family has always attracted a lot of attention! But nobody as important to me as you. Xoxox.” Her flighty response annoyed me. I remembered why we drifted.

Then, a few months later, I noticed that her online activity had picked up and changed flavor. She had issued a press release, calling herself “Whistle blower Laura Minerva,” and now taking on her famous great-grandfather’s last name. She says she’s continuing his legacy of nation-building by exposing her ex-boyfriend’s Mars colony project. She’s gotten a ton of press.

I could see her trying to make sense of everything, put together a story that included her background, beliefs, and experiences. She was always, from childhood, looking for the deeper singular truths... It’s hard for me to stop defending Laura … although…

Her website was recently updated. She is taking payment for consultations and donations. There is a long page with dozens of testimonials from “various clients and celebrities,” such as the following:

I like the way you think... You directly speak your mind. a famous network news anchor

Is this still post-modern anti-comedy?

(Not that I'm an idiot and can't spot a con artist.)

(Not that I haven't always thought it would be cool to be a con artist, ever since I hustled as a Mexican orphan.)

So I stopped calling or writing her. I don’t know if she believes she’s a goddess. Even more, I don’t know what to say to her anymore.

Plus, I’ve had a lot going on lately. I wrote a screenplay that’s gotten major attention from a few people. I’ve been performing, tweeting, really getting myself out there. And she's busy getting her legions of followers ready for the apocalypse. Who has time?

Please, credit where it’s due.  I discovered Laura first, when nobody else was interested.  I’m just not impressed anymore. Except for the etch-a-sketch art. That's genius.

Epilogue: I wrote this story after not hearing from Laura for more than a year. The very same day I finished writing it, she posted on my Facebook wall: “I have come to haunt you, now that it’s been forever.”  So there's that.