Transcript

345:

Ties That Bind
Transcript

Originally aired 12.14.2007

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Full audio: http://tal.fm/345

Prologue.

Ira Glass

There are so many ways for friendships to fall apart. You move to different cities, you fall in love with somebody who your friend doesn't get, you have kids, you don't see each other as much. So that finally when you do see each other, it's not as comfortable. And you both sit there trying to make conversation, and you both wonder in your heads quietly, are we really friends? What do we have in common again?

And then you try to talk about all the stuff that you used to talk about when you were closer. And you feel like, oh, this is just going through the motions. And then, finally, it's time to go. And you say to each other, oh, let's do this again soon. And you don't even know what to think when you get home. And usually it takes years to get to this point. You at least get in a few good years together. It isn't that way from the start.

Ira Glass

If you had met each other in Russia, what would have happened?

Alla

Nothing.

Katya

Nothing.

Ira Glass

You never would have spoken again?

Alla

Maybe if we will meet in some party, we'll just say hi. That's it.

Katya

Yeah, that will be it.

Ira Glass

Katya and Alla moved to America from Russia within a few months of each other to small towns near Flint, Michigan. Katya's sister-in-law invited them both to a party, hoping they'd meet, figuring, hey, they're both from Russia. Maybe they'll hit it off. But no. Here's Alla.

Alla

We tried to speak a little bit, but we did not have anything to say to each other.

Ira Glass

Was it awkward? Or was it boring?

Katya

In the beginning, yeah.

Ira Glass

So boring, so awkward, they didn't speak again for five months. But by then, both of them were so exhausted from trying to speak English all the time, they decided, hey, give it another shot. So they got together every week or so, which unfolded like a very long series of bad blind dates between people with no natural chemistry in Russian. Here's Katya.

Katya

I just wanted to speak my language. Just to relax my brain, sit comfortably, and talk in Russian. But the more I talked to her, I was like, oh, my God, am I going to be friends with this girl ever? Is it possible?

Ira Glass

Their opinions on so many things made no sense to each other. Katya thinks of herself as a cynical person. Her sense of humor can be a little mean. Alla's not so judgmental. She reads spiritual books, spends time with her kid. As Katya says, they're very different.

Katya

Everything's different. Everything's different in our lives. Like, I don't have children. She does. And back in Russia, she was a teacher. And I was a doctor.

Alla

Different age.

Katya

Difference in age. How much we got paid back in Russia.

Alla

My husband is not so rich. And I did not work. I did not have my own money. And my husband could not allow me much money to spend with my friends, go to restaurants, go to fitness club. And I feel uncomfortable because Katya's husband gave her as much money as she needs. And so--

Katya

Not yet.

Ira Glass

Did you just say, "not yet?"

Katya

Not yet, yes.

Ira Glass

Now, as you can probably hear, after hanging out regularly for two years, they've gotten used to each other. Now they know more people in common. And those people provide a steady topic of conversation. And their feelings about each other have changed, some.

Ira Glass

At the beginning, did you think of yourselves as real friends?

Katya

No.

Alla

No. No.

Ira Glass

Are you real friends now?

Katya

Can you describe how do you understand, Ira?

Alla

Real friends.

Katya

Yeah, real friends.

Ira Glass

A real friend is somebody who you are comfortable with, who you would say real things to.

Alla

I think Katya is a very good friend for me. And I am very comfortable with her right now.

Katya

I think that with Alla, I'm getting there, step by step. It takes a longer time for me to get used to her.

Alla

Yes, but sometimes if I do not call you one week, you will call back and ask, why do you not call me? I do not hear you one week already!

Ira Glass

Well, from WBEZ Chicago, it's This American Life, distributed by Public Radio International. I'm Ira Glass. Today's program, The Ties That Bind, stories of friendships that somehow keep existing for reasons that are not always so clear to anybody. And, in fact, one or more people of the people in the friendship wonder if it's a real friendship. I was just going to say, is there a name for this particular kind of friend? Do we have a word for that kind of friend? And we do. That word is friend.

Our show today in four acts. Act One, Fred and Barney. In that act, an inside look at a long, troubled relationship in the town of Bedrock. Act Two, Lucas and Sarah. Two families get friendly because of their kids, though it's a friendship, I think, neither family would have wanted, actually. Act Three, Lucy and the Bike Girl, two friends who are supposed to stay apart no matter what. Act Four, David and Andi. A casual comment between strangers turns into something much, much bigger. Stay with us.

Act One. Fred And Barney.

Ira Glass

Act One, Fred and Barney. This first story comes from Jonathan Goldstein and David Rakoff. As we all know, back before the Iron Age and the Bronze Age, back in the Stone Age, as primitive as the conditions were back then, cavemen did have answering machines. And friendships were just as complicated as they are today.

[PHONE DIALING]

[PHONE RINGING]

David Rakoff

You have reached the answering machine of Fred and Wilma Flintstone. Please leave us a message after the beep.

[BEEP]

Jonathan Goldstein

Hey Fred, it's Barney. Fred, I, um-- listen, I don't know how to even tell you this, but I was pulling out of the driveway, and I accidentally ran over Dino. He's dead, Fred. I'm really, really, really sorry. I-- he was sleeping on our driveway behind the car. I just backed up over him. I didn't see him or anything. I hate to be leaving something like this on your answering machine.

The thing is, Betty and I have to get to the airport because we're supposed to make our flight to Rock-apulco. I don't know what to do. I almost canceled the trip. But everything's booked. And Betty's been really, really looking forward to it for so long. Honestly, I don't know what to do. I'll try calling you as soon as the plane lands, OK? I'm sorry, Fred.

[PHONE RINGING]

This is Barney.

Wendy Dorr

This is Betty.

Both

We're the Rubbles.

Jonathan Goldstein

But we can't find our cell phone.

Wendy Dorr

I thought you had it.

Jonathan Goldstein

I thought you had it.

Wendy Dorr

Oh no.

Both

Better just leave us a message.

Jonathan Goldstein

Heh, heh, heh, heh.

[BEEP]

David Rakoff

Uh, hi Barney. It's Fred. I'm just-- I don't know. I'm sad and stunned and-- I don't know. I guess you're still on the flight to Rock-apulco. Call me when you land.

[PHONE RINGING]

Jonathan Goldstein

This is Barney.

Wendy Dorr

This is Betty.

Both

We're the Rubbles.

Jonathan Goldstein

But we can't find our cell phone.

Wendy Dorr

I thought you had it.

Jonathan Goldstein

I thought you had it.

Wendy Dorr

Oh no.

Both

Better just leave us a message.

Jonathan Goldstein

Heh, heh, heh, heh.

[BEEP]

David Rakoff

Hi, it's Fred again. Still no word from you. And by my calculations, you should have landed by now. Just try to give a call, OK?

[PHONE RINGING]

Jonathan Goldstein

This is Barney.

Wendy Dorr

This is Betty.

Both

We're the Rubbles.

Jonathan Goldstein

But we can't find our cell phone--

David Rakoff

Hi Barney. I don't know if you remember me. We were best friends, and then you killed my dinosaur. Let's see, when was that? Oh, yeah. This morning. I can tell you're broken up about it because you've tried to call me zero times.

[BEEP]

Jonathan Goldstein

Fred, I just got off the plane this second, and I just got all your messages. Don't ask what we just went through. Anyway, the pterodactyl that flew us here broke a wing, and I pretty much thought that was it. Fred, I saw my whole life pass before my eyes. And there was plenty of me and you in there. Do you remember the time you hypnotized me into thinking I was a puppy? I could just go on and on.

I feel just awful, but what the hell can I do? I mean, do you want me to slit Hop-a-Roo's throat? Would that make you feel better? If I murdered my kid's kangaroo? I mean, not to minimize your pain or anything, but it is only a dinosaur. You realize that, right?

I'm sorry. That was stupid. I'm sorry. Look, I'm just freaked out. Listen, when you get a chance, just try me back on my cell. It seems to be working here. OK, bye pal.

[BEEP]

David Rakoff

God, Barney, I am so, so sorry. I had no idea you had plane trouble. Wow. Funny, while you were leaving me that message, I was actually on the other line with Raptor Air, and they had no record of wing problems on the Bedrock/Rock-apulco flight. But I mean, what do they know? They're just the airline, right? It's probably just a cover up so there are no lawsuits.

Man, you must have been so shaken up. And still, you managed to call me the minute you got off the plane. And got through customs. And rented a car. And drove to the resort. And checked in. There are no accidents. Think about that when you're trying to explain how a pipsqueak could even get his foreign compact car to run all the way over a nearly full-grown dinosaur, let alone kill it. I mean, how many times did you have to back up over Dino?

And no, I don't want you to murder your kid's kangaroo. If anything, that privilege should fall to me. So I will just leave you with this one thought. Why don't you ask Betty why it took her so long for her and me to get those bronco burger buns at the grocery store two Sundays ago? Go on, just ask her. Have fun.

[BEEP]

Jonathan Goldstein

Stony Curtis made out with Wilma. You think I'm lying? Remember when we were visiting the set of Slave Boy and we heard her screaming in ecstasy from inside the trailer? And how after you asked her what was going on in there, and she said she had accidentally sat on a porcupine quill? And she and Stony started laughing? What the hell do you think they were laughing about, you poor, ignorant, fat boob?

And as far as your disgusting, disgusting insinuation about my wife, let me tell you something, Fred. Betty has never liked you. She's only ever tolerated you out of respect to me, and out of love for Wilma. I'm the only friend you have, Fred. And I'd always tell people, "aw, Fred, he's all right. He doesn't mean all the mean things he says. That's his bluster. Underneath it all, he's got a really good heart." Bull crap. I was a sucker, Fred.

[BEEP]

David Rakoff

Oh, boy, are you deluded. Wilma doesn't need Stony Curtis. Some wives are actually happy with their husbands. "Screams of ecstasy." You need to have your ears checked, buddy. Because they must have been playing tricks on you. So as a favor to you, for future reference, I'm going to give you an abject lesson in what screaming in ecstasy sounds like, OK?

OK, I'm out my door. I'm walking to your house. It's chilly out tonight. I'm getting the key from under the tortoise out front. I'm walking inside your house. Opening the closet to get out your driving iron from your golf bag. Where should I go? Let's see.

How about that case of bowling trophies? [SOUNDS OF DESTRUCTION] Oh, yeah. That feels good. Oh, yeah! Bam! Woo! Yeah! Do you hear me, Barn? This is what ecstasy sounds like. Do you like it?

[PHONE RINGING]

Jonathan Goldstein

You have reached the home of the Rubbles.

Wendy Dorr

Come here, Bamm-Bamm. Say hi to the nice people.

[BAMM-BAMM SPEAKING NONSENSE]

Both

Please leave a message.

Jonathan Goldstein

Heh, heh, heh, heh.

[BEEP]

Fred, get the hell out of my house. Do you hear me, Fred? Pick it up, you sick SOB. Pick it up, you sick son of a-- [MICROPHONE FEEDBACK] Hey, Fred?

David Rakoff

I can't catch my breath. Give me a sec.

Jonathan Goldstein

Well, sit down. Where are you? The living room?

David Rakoff

Yeah.

Jonathan Goldstein

Lean forward and keep your head down.

David Rakoff

OK.

Jonathan Goldstein

Did you eat today?

David Rakoff

I can't remember. Maybe.

Jonathan Goldstein

Well, that's probably why you're dizzy. I think Betty left some food in the fridge.

David Rakoff

OK. One sec. I don't know what it was, this-- is this lasagna? It looks like lasagna. What was this?

Jonathan Goldstein

Oh, yeah. That was good. Have some of that.

David Rakoff

All right. So did you eat today?

Jonathan Goldstein

Oh, yeah. They've got a really nice buffet here. Very nice fruit.

David Rakoff

Oh, that's good. It's fresh, huh?

Jonathan Goldstein

Oh, it's right off the tree.

David Rakoff

Nice.

Jonathan Goldstein

Yeah. Fred, I'm really sorry about Dino.

David Rakoff

I know you are. I'm sorry about-- with Betty.

Jonathan Goldstein

Yeah, I have some stuff I need to deal with. That's kind of why we were taking this trip.

David Rakoff

Barney? Barney, are you crying?

Jonathan Goldstein

You wake up one day. And you're like a stranger to yourself, you know? I don't know who I am anymore. I can't be a husband to my wife. And I have a son who's disturbingly aggressive.

David Rakoff

Oh, no, no, Barn, I mean, Bamm-Bamm's OK.

Jonathan Goldstein

No, he's not, Fred. He's awful. He's just so violent. He breaks everything. And I can't make Betty happy. This morning, I was standing in the ocean. And it was just a really, really beautiful day. But all I could think, as I was standing there in the ocean, was just, keep walking, Barney. Walk out to sea and never come back. No one will miss you.

David Rakoff

Hey! Hey, don't talk about my little buddy that way. It would destroy Betty. I mean, it would destroy her. I would miss you.

Jonathan Goldstein

You would?

David Rakoff

Of course I would. I wouldn't know what to do with myself. You think I'm a rage-aholic now.

Jonathan Goldstein

Hey, while you're in the house, can you make sure I put out a dish of water for the pelican trash can?

David Rakoff

Um, yeah, it looks like you did.

Jonathan Goldstein

I hate when you get home and you find them sucking at the pipes under the sink. It makes coming home so sad.

David Rakoff

You ever get that thing where you come home after being away for a while, and your own house smells all weird? Like, you can actually smell what it really smells like because you're not used to it anymore?

Jonathan Goldstein

Yeah, I know what you mean.

David Rakoff

Listen, have a good time. Don't get all depressed.

Jonathan Goldstein

Listen, you don't get all depressed, too, with all this blowhard stuff. My best buddy isn't any blowhard, OK?

David Rakoff

Yeah, yeah.

Jonathan Goldstein

Listen, when I get home, things will get back to normal. We'll sit down and we'll play a hand of bridge with the girls. And it'll be like it always is.

David Rakoff

Yeah, sure, Barn.

Jonathan Goldstein

And I'll bring back some of that famous Rock-apulco honeydew. And it'll be great.

David Rakoff

Yeah, I mean, yabba-dabba-doo!

Ira Glass

David Rock-off as Fred, and before him, Jonathan Gold-stone as Barney. And as Betty, Wendy Dorr, whose name is weirdly impervious to stone and rock punnage. She also produced this story, a version of which is also run on Jonathan's radio show WireTap, which is heard on the CBC and on some public radio stations here in our country as well.

Act Two. Lucas And Sarah.

Ira Glass

Act Two, Lucas and Sarah. Sometimes you have just one thing in common with somebody else, and then you have to figure out if that connection means anything more, if you're supposed to be friends or something. And it's especially hard to figure out if you feel obligated to the other person in some way. Jill Wolfson has this story.

Jill Wolfson

For a lot of her childhood, Sarah knew there was something wrong with her. Ordinary kid games would leave her exhausted and panting for breath. In one year, when she was eight, she went to the doctor 14 times. Then, when Sarah finished fifth grade, her heart failed. She needed a transplant. She was 11.

In the hospital, she had to stay flat on her back to prevent a stroke. To keep her weight as low as possible, she was fed intravenously. She had to pass up two hearts that became available because both times she was fighting off infection. Hundreds of people die waiting for a heart each year, and someone Sarah's age typically waits months and months, if they're lucky enough to even get one. But Sarah didn't have that kind of time. Her kidneys were also shutting down. And then, some news.

Sarah

It was a Friday night. And I was really hungry. And they had just started letting me eat again, because I was being fed intravenously. And then my tray was in the room. And my dad was sitting with me. And all of a sudden, I was really excited I was going to eat. And then, they came in and took the tray out. And I was really upset. I was like, Dad go find out why they took the tray out. I don't understand. I'm really hungry. And so he goes [UNINTELLIGIBLE]. And they tell him that there's a heart.

Jill Wolfson

Sarah's mom, Laura.

Laura

David, her dad, called, and goes, Well, it's a heart. We've got one. Well, we just started screaming and jumping up and down and dancing.

Sarah

My heart, since it was three times the size that it should have been, the heart cavity was really large. And the donor that I got it from, even though the person was my age, the heart fit well because it was a little bit bigger but still healthy. And so, it fit well. And even though the cavity's larger, it works. It fits.

Laura

I remember the surgeon telling us that it was a perfect heart.

Jill Wolfson

What do you remember about post-surgery?

Sarah

Oh, my gosh. The first moment I came out of the medicine that they put me on, I remember feeling like I was drowning-- I'm going to cry thinking about it-- because I hadn't breathed so good for so long. And all of a sudden I just felt like I was drowning in air. And it was just-- It was really cool.

Laura

And the first time I got to come in and see her afterwards, I touched her feet. And you have to understand that her feet had been so cold for so long. And I had been warned that her feet were going to be warm. And I touched them, and they were warm. And then that's when I knew that things were working good.

Jill Wolfson

For most families, this is where it would end. Maybe a thank you note passed through a social worker to the donor family. But Sarah's mom, Laura, wanted more. Whoever gave her daughter this heart had done something so important to their family, it felt strange not to know them better.

But hospitals don't just casually release personal information. Donor families might get upset hearing directly from someone who's walking around with their loved one's heart. And a lot of recipients don't want to be reminded where their organs came from, either. Sarah felt that way.

Sarah

I don't know. I didn't really want to know. Because it's really personal but also it's insane. You don't know how to have a relationship with the people who saved your life. It's just really strange. I felt bad. I felt really guilty.

And I know it's not my fault that the person died, but you can't really help but feel bad to benefit from someone that's lost someone, you know? And that was the hardest thing. I didn't want to meet them and feel guilty about their child passing away.

Jill Wolfson

Sarah's mom, Laura, though, didn't give up. And the hospital did give Laura a few basic details. The heart had come from a boy about Sarah's age who lived in the Fresno area, about two and a half hours from where Laura and Sarah lived. Laura's relatives went online and started doing some sleuthing. They discovered a boy named Lucas who lived in the Fresno area. He died just before Sarah's transplant. His cause of death, murder.

The investigation stalled there. Until one day, a couple of months after the transplant, Laura did something hospitals discourage transplant families from trying. She happened to be near Fresno on business. She stopped by the local newspaper to go through the archives.

Lucas, the article said, was killed in an especially senseless crime. Members of one street gang taunted another. Bottles broke. A car window was smashed. Two men seeking revenge entered the home of a rival gang member, a 16-year-old named Arcadio, who just happened to be Lucas' brother.

When the intruder saw a sleeping figure, his face covered by a blanket, one of them fired three shots into his skull. But instead of their target, Arcadio, they executed Lucas, his innocent, 11-year-old, big-for-his-age brother. Reading all this just made Laura want more information.

Laura

In the articles in the paper, they gave his street name. I drove down his street, just really feeling the necessity to see where this boy was from. Not knowing what the actual address was of the house, I did stop some kids that were playing in the street and asked them if down the street is where the boy was shot. And they pointed out that, yes, it was the sunshine house, they called it. It was this yellow house. A very small house, very rough part of Fresno. And I drove by, and I could see people inside.

And then I actually went to the elementary school that was referenced in the newspaper, again, just really feeling the need to walk through, because he was Sarah's age. Anyway, I went into the school. The school was already closed, because it was in the late afternoon. I ran across a teacher who asked me what I was doing. And he said Lucas was his student.

So he brought in the classroom, showed me Lucas' desk. They had kept it the same. He told me all about Lucas. It was very emotional. In fact, just thinking now, my feelings are coming back. Just thinking that these were the items of the child that has saved my daughter's life, given her a second chance.

Miguel

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Jill Wolfson

I met with Lucas' family in rural Washington state, where they now live. They moved from California several years ago for work and to get away from gangs and bad memories. The parents, Maria and Miguel, share a home with Arcadio, his wife Karatina, and their four young children. We sat in their small living room, talking about their decision to donate their son's organs.

Basilica

The thing in our tradition is that we do not donate organs.

Jill Wolfson

This is Basilica, Lucas' older sister, who talked them through the decision.

Basilica

We had nobody ever in the family had ever donated organs to anybody. So my parents were thinking if it's all right to do that, because they didn't know if my brother was going to rest in peace knowing that part of him is living. And how does she know if he's really resting? Or she doesn't know if he was going to be mad.

And I told my parents that it's all right, because after you die, you don't feel nothing. It's like if you were asleep. When you're sleeping, you're not just walking around, or your spirit's going everywhere. And that it was all right.

Jill Wolfson

We talked about Lucas. And the family brought out photos and told the kinds of stories you'd expect. He was well-liked in school. He did nice things for his newborn niece. The only one who told darker stories about Lucas was his mom, Maria. In her stories, he was cranky with her. He'd sulk in his room a lot, or complain that she hadn't given him the food he wanted.

Maria

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Karatina

She said that he would get mad sometimes. And he would tell her, I want to die. I wish I would die.

Jill Wolfson

This is Karatina, Arcadio's wife, translating.

Karatina

And he would tell her, what would she feel if he was to die, if she would cry? And she said that she would tell him, you're not going to die. You're going to be OK. And don't say those things. And she would get mad at him, and upset. And she would say that she would cry. She's going to cry if something happens to him.

Maria

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Jill Wolfson

Maria still feels a lot of guilt that she didn't do enough, wasn't there enough for her son. She wasn't at home the night Lucas was killed. She and her husband were many hours away, working in the fields as migrant laborers. Her daughter Basilica says she's never really forgiven herself.

Basilica

Yeah, the guilt of that she would leave us with other people. And that she would go a week or two, or a couple of months, because they would have to travel. And the guilt won't leave her.

Karatina

No, and it won't. I think to this day, it's always anger. Because when we go to one of the school's functions for the kids, and she gets mad at herself. We're walking to the car or home or something. Ay, how come I never did this with my son? she always says. He would tell me and I would never do it. I was dumb, she always says. And she gets mad at herself because she wasn't more involved in their life. She was just always working and working and working.

Jill Wolfson

There was a lot of guilt to go around. Arcadio, now in his mid-20s, is soft spoken and kind of shy, not one to show his feelings easily. But after the shooting, Karatina would come home to find him sobbing, a picture of Lucas clenched to his chest. Like Sarah, Arcadio understood that he was alive only because Lucas was dead.

Arcadio

I had the guilt that it was my fault. And that had me for a long time like that. Some of my family blamed me. And they said in front of me at the hospital that because of me, and that's why. Because I was--

Karatina

He would just feel guilty all the time. He was kind of not there. He was out of it. And I would always--

Arcadio

[INAUDIBLE] drugs, actually.

Karatina

And I would always find him-- he was living a bad life. He was going down a bad road because of it.

Arcadio

Yeah, since that happened, some people would blame it on me. And I went with that guilt for a long time. For, like, eight years, I was addicted to drugs.

Karatina

It was hard to make him realize that God didn't choose him to leave. He chose Lucas. And he was alive and he needed to act like it.

Jill Wolfson

By the time Sarah was 14, three years after her transplant, she had gradually learned more details about her donor and his family. Letters had been exchanged. Her parents had gone down to meet Lucas' family. Sarah's parents had divorced by then. Her dad and step-mom hung a picture of Lucas on the mantle above their fireplace with other family photos. It was their way of honoring him, but it really upset Sarah.

Sarah

I couldn't believe they did that. And even to this day, I can't believe they did that. That was, I thought, really insensitive. But that was their belief. They wanted to have it up. So I didn't go over to their house for a while. But that was how we solved that problem.

Jill Wolfson

What was the part that was hard for you?

Sarah

I don't know. It just made it real. I mean, it was already very real to me that I had my transplant. I have my scar and my stretch marks and I have to go to the doctors all the time. But it made it like it was a real person who died instead of me living. It was both.

Jill Wolfson

But Sarah's parents continued ever so gently to encourage her to learn more about Lucas and maybe even visit his family. Sarah kept saying she wasn't ready. But then an event came that changed her mind. The trial date was set for Lucas' killers. Sarah insisted on attending. She wanted to give Lucas' mom moral support, she said, even though the thought scared to death. She kept worrying, what if they don't like me?

Sarah

Before I met them, I didn't want to disappoint them. And it might sound silly, but I kind of feel like, because of my transplant, and Lucas didn't get a chance to finish his life, I feel like I need to be good enough for two lives.

Jill Wolfson

Did you want to meet Sarah right away?

Arcadio

Kind of, yeah. But it felt weird because I didn't know if she was going to like our side of the family. We were different. She lives different, and we're different.

Jill Wolfson

Culture?

Arcadio

Yeah. Because we're totally different. We're Mexicans. That's why.

Karatina

[UNINTELLIGIBLE]

Arcadio

Yeah. Because we're Mexicans, that's why. I don't know.

Karatina

Because he wasn't going to say it, I guess.

Arcadio

Well, I was trying to figure it out. Because we were Mexican, that's why. And they were white.

Jill Wolfson

Their first meeting took place at the home of Lucas' uncle the night before the trial began. The extended family was there, all the aunts and uncles. When Sarah walked in, Maria and Miguel rushed to her side.

Maria

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Karatina

She saw Sarah, and she couldn't believe that her son's heart was inside of Sarah. And she said that Sarah's mom told her that when she talked to Sarah to try not to cry in front of Sarah so that she wouldn't feel really bad.

Jill Wolfson

So what did Maria do?

Karatina

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Maria

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Karatina

She started to cry, she said.

Maria

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Karatina

And hug her.

Maria

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Karatina

She wanted to hold her and not let go of her, she said, the whole day.

Laura

I had been told by their social worker that Maria, the mother, really wanted to feel Lucas' heart. And I had warned Sarah about that. I felt she needed to be prepared, so when she did meet the family, that this possibility would happen. Well, when she met them, and Sarah gave Maria a hug, Maria's head was right against Sarah's heart. And so Maria could actually feel her heartbeat.

Jill Wolfson

The next day was the trial. Sarah sat next to Lucas' parents, holding Maria's hand.

Sarah

I'm used to watching Law & Order: SVU and the courtrooms are really big. And it wasn't like that at all. It was pretty small. And they went into very graphic terms about what happened and how he was murdered.

Jill Wolfson

Was that the first time you had heard in such graphic terms how he died?

Sarah

Yes it was. And then they showed pictures. And my mom, she tried to pull me away. But I wanted to see it. I guess part of me that wanted to see it felt like Lucas had been through so much and that he was murdered so horribly that I shouldn't be a baby about what happened. Because if he had to die like that, why should I turn away from what happened?

The two men that were on trial were really close to us. I think there was only three rows of seating for people that are watching the trial. So that was really strange, being that close. Even though they didn't know who I was, the people that were on trial, they looked at me a few times in the eyes. And it really scared me. I mean, I know they didn't know who I was or why I was there, but I felt like the person that they had murdered, part of him was in me.

Jill Wolfson

When the jury convicted the two men of murder, something lifted for Sarah. That verdict of blame was placed clearly where it belonged. It was then that she says she stopped referring so much to Lucas' heart. She calls it her own heart now.

Still, in talking to Sarah, who's 19 now, it's clear she feels an enormous amount of pressure. She can't just take the second chance Lucas' family gave her. She has to constantly justify it, prove she's worthy of it. But it's unclear even to her what that means exactly, except that being an ordinary person isn't enough.

Sarah

I don't know. It's just a constant fear in the back of my mind that when they see me grow up that they'll be like, wow, she really hasn't done anything great. This was-- you know, I don't know why they would think that. I don't know why I think that. But it would be like, wow, that was a bad choice.

Jill Wolfson

Lucas' family couldn't see things more differently.

Arcadio

She already made us proud already.

Karatina

Just being alive.

Arcadio

Oh, yeah. Just being alive and that's it. She is what she is. And that's the way--

Karatina

I think we'll always see her as perfect in our eyes, whatever she does.

Arcadio

Whatever she wants to be, that's who she is. And that's good.

Jill Wolfson

A few weeks ago, Sarah celebrated the eighth anniversary of her transplant. For Lucas' family, that's eight years of life that he's been able to give someone, eight years of proof that his death wasn't all in vain. For Sarah, it's eight years that she might not be alive if Lucas hadn't died.

The heart has been in her almost as long as it was in Lucas. It is her heart. And yet, every time she feels it slowing down as she drifts off to sleep, every time she's nervous and it speeds up, there's that reminder.

Ira Glass

Jill Wolfson lives in Santa Cruz, California. She's currently finishing her newest novel for young adults, Cold Hands, Warm Heart, which comes out next year. Every 12 minutes, another name is added to the national registry of people who need organ donations. And each day in our country, 18 people die for a lack of donors.

Coming up, a casual offer in a restaurant takes on a life of its own. Actually, three lives of its own. These words I'm saying are going to make a lot more sense when we get to that act in a minute, from Chicago Public Radio and Public Radio International, when our program continues.

Act Three. Lucy And The Bike Girl.

Ira Glass

It's This American Life. I'm Ira Glass. Each week on our program, of course, we choose a theme, bring you a variety of different kinds of stories on that theme. Today's show, Ties That Bind. We have stories of friendships, but these are friendships where even the friends themselves are not so sure about the friendships, which really is so many, many friendships. We've arrived at Act Three of our show.

Act Three, Lucy and the Bike Girl. In this next story, we're going to try something we have never tried before on our radio show. Reporter Hillary Frank interviewed this woman about an unusual online friendship. And everything you're going to hear from that interview is 100% true. But Hillary is also a fiction writer, and so she has taken this true story and she has expanded it into a piece of fiction.

So, OK, just to be clear, when you hear the taped interview, all true. Everything else Hillary says, up for grabs. OK, here we go.

Lucy

This is the very first speed I do. Uh-uh-uh-uh-uh--

Hillary Frank

Lucy didn't have many friends growing up.

Lucy

This is the final speed I do. Ah-ah-ah-ah-ah--

Hillary Frank

While other kids were running around playing on their lawns, she was inside, getting her chest pounded on to clear mucus out of her lungs.

Lucy

[COUGHING]

Hillary Frank

She has cystic fibrosis. Now Lucy is 28. She lives in a tiny box of a house on the corner of two alleys in Philadelphia. Every day, while she's going through her morning routine, she hears this at the intersection outside her window. [BICYCLE BELL] The girl who rides the powder blue bike looks like Pippi Longstocking. She's got red braids, freckles, sometimes even striped socks. It's a strange look for a grown woman, but somehow she pulls it off.

Each time she passes, Lucy runs to the window. She wants to call out to the girl. She wants to grab her by the wrist and bring her inside for a hot cup of tea. This girl doesn't know it, but Lucy is the person she chats with online every night.

Lucy

That's more than I do with my closest friends.

Hillary Frank

Lucy and the Pippi Longstocking girl met a few weeks ago on a message board for people with CF.

Lucy

We basically found each other through these posts that were about pregnancy.

Hillary Frank

The girl had posted her picture, and Lucy recognized her braids right away.

Lucy

--and picked up on the fact that we were both trying to conceive at the same time.

Hillary Frank

Lucy and the bike girl quickly realized they'd need to chat privately. Other people on the message board got judgmental of them, told them they should get their tubes tied. Women with CF, they said, should not have babies. A baby is basically a big ball of germs. And what CF patient in their right mind would invite a big ball of germs into their house? Actually, this is pretty close to what Lucy's doctor said, too.

Lucy

He was like, well, if you're really going to do this-- which I wish I could convince you not to-- I guess now is better than later. And I'd remember coming home and crying and going for a run, just to prove him wrong, or whatever, that I was healthy and that I would be able to do this.

[BICYCLE BELL]

Hillary Frank

That night, about an hour after Lucy heard the bell pass by her house, she went online and complained to the bike girl about her doctor. The bike girl couldn't believe it. This was almost word for word what her doctor had told her just a couple days ago. "Nobody gets it," Lucy typed. "Even my best friend said I was making the biggest mistake of my life."

"I hate your best friend," the bike girl typed back. Lucy didn't know how to respond to that. Her first instinct was to tell the bike girl not to judge Miranda. She didn't even know her.

But she found herself typing the words, "I do, too." And then she just spilled her guts. She told the bike girl how her dad and Miranda's dad had been in the army together. How their mothers had seen the Beatles together. How when she and Miranda were girls, they'd concoct special shampoos from all the bottles in their bathroom cabinets. And how they'd once lost little chunks of hair because they didn't know what Nair was.

But by high school, things had changed. Miranda made Lucy feel bad for being in honors classes, for having a boyfriend, and now, for being married. Miranda was always planning girls' nights out for just the two of them. She'd get drunk and call Lucy her best friend. But it was clear to Lucy that Miranda didn't get her at all.

Lucy

Going to a smoky bar, that kind of thing isn't worth it. Staying out late, how much fun is it really going to be? It might take off four years of my life.

Hillary Frank

"I wish I could hug you," the bike girl typed.

"I wish we could just hang out," Lucy typed back, "like real friends."

"I wish we could play Connect Four," the bike girl wrote.

"Yeah," Lucy answered, "and give each other pedicures." Lucy had an urge to run down the street with nail polish, knock on the girl's door, and tell her they were neighbors. But she couldn't. Because that type of proximity would be too dangerous.

Lucy

Online, we have signatures, and hers says that she has B. cepacia.

Hillary Frank

B. cepacia is a type of bacteria that lives in soil and water and rotting onions. It's not harmful to most of us. But for people with CF, B. cepacia germs act as a superbug, colonizing in their lungs.

Lucy

Colonizing means that you have it in your lungs forever. Like, it has set up shop big time.

Hillary Frank

And if one person with CF is colonizing B. cepacia, it's a bad idea for them to be around another person with CF. In fact, people with CF are never supposed to come within three feet of each other, even at the doctor's office.

Lucy

The fear is that I would inhale some of these germs, or they would get on my hands. And suddenly, then you get sick. And it's especially virile because there are few antibiotics that work against it. When you are diagnosed with having B. cepacia in your lungs, your life expectancy is cut in half.

When we both got pregnant within weeks of each other, it was like, oh my gosh, I'm never going to get to be able to see your kid. That tore me up a bit. And I was thinking about Fairmount Park. And I was like, "oh, we could stand three feet apart. And I could make sure I'm upwind of her." I think that might have even been in a dream. And I'm like, oh, I could hold her kid. And then she can touch my kid. But then I realized, I'm like, yeah, this is not going to happen. Unless we both showed up in HazMat suits or something.

Hillary Frank

As Lucy's belly grew, she heard the bike bell less and less. Until finally, it stopped entirely. She was still chatting with the bike girl most nights. But she felt desperate for more contact. She bought a onesie with a drawing of a peanut and wrapped it up to send to the bike girl, with no return address, of course. But she never sent the package.

Lucy

Because it's almost like anthrax. Does she really want to receive something from me? It's weird. I mean, I could have something that they haven't found yet. And I could have it and she couldn't. And it's just not a good idea.

Hillary Frank

Halloween rolled around. Lately, Lucy had been avoiding her kinda-sorta best friend Miranda's phone calls, and the guilt was weighing on her. So when Miranda invited her to a costume party, she agreed to go. Miranda had picked the costumes. Lucy would be a pregnant lady in labor, and Miranda would be her midwife, her sexy midwife.

Miranda was late, as usual. Lucy waited on her couch in a hospital gown made from an old sheet, watching her husband greet trick-or-treaters in his scuba diver costume. She started to worry about getting home in time for her evening lung treatment. She wished that she was going to this party with the bike girl. Wouldn't it be nice if they could come home and do their treatments together? And then, Lucy had an idea.

Lucy

Well, screw it. Life is too short. If I want to meet her, I'll meet her.

Hillary Frank

Lucy walked over to her husband and took off his scuba mask, then put it over her own head. "Be right back," she told him and walked out the door. As she hurried up the dark alley, she wondered if the bike girl would be dressed as Pippi Longstocking. Was she Pippi every year?

When she got to the bike girl's house, she stared at the buzzer. Her breaths were loud inside her mask. Her heart was beating in her brain. She felt something tugging at her sheet. She looked down and saw a little pack of superheroes crowded around her waist. "You gonna ring it, lady?" the Incredible Hulk asked her.

Lucy jumped back and shook her head. She didn't even wait for the door to open before heading home. She squinted down the street and saw a scuba diver without his mask, shrugging at a sexy midwife. The sexy midwife stomped her high-heeled boots and pointed at her watch, then got in her car and drove off.

Lucy smiled. In a way, she was glad she had chickened out with the bike girl. Things with her were so easy. Maybe meeting in person would just make them more complicated.

Lucy

I know we won't always be in touch like we are right now, every day. If we can just keep in touch, though, I think it's going to be great. Because I think we have something unusual.

Hillary Frank

That night, when the bike girl got online, Lucy was waiting by her computer with nail polish. She told the bike girl to go get some, too. And they sat beside their chat screens, painting their toenails, one after the other.

Ira Glass

Hillary Frank is the author of the young adult novel, Better than Running at Night. She lives in Philadelphia.

[SONG - "ME AND MY FRIEND" BY JULIE DOIRON]

Act Four. David And Andi.

Ira Glass

Act Four, David and Andi. This last story we have today about are-we-real-friends kinds of friendships begins in a restaurant with a fertility doctor and a waitress.

David Kallenberger

I'm David Kallenberger. I'm Program Director of the Bennett Fertility Institute.

Andi Knox

My name is Andi Knox, born and raised in New Orleans. I worked at Galatoire's, which is a very famous restaurant in New Orleans. And my husband and I were trying to get pregnant for about three years. I was seeing a fertility specialist. He came in one night and brought in a drug rep. Her name is Myra Crawford. And we just hit it off. She's like, your next go around, I'll give you your drugs. I'll take care of that for you. And I was like, oh, well, that's great.

David Kallenberger

We were in New Orleans meeting a friend of ours. She happens to be a drug rep that sells fertility drugs. And we were having breakfast at Galatoire's. And she had asked for Andi Knox to wait on us, who we assumed was a friend of hers. She knew she was having some fertility issues and was under treatment at a fertility institute in New Orleans that got wiped away in Katrina.

Andi Knox

She brought the Kallenbergers in, Jenny and David Kallenberger. I never met these people, only had met Myra just a few times, and waited on them. And we were talking about doing the in vitro fertilization.

David Kallenberger

They started talking a little bit. And she said, well, you've got to go to Dr. Kallenberger's program in Oklahoma City, because they have some of the best results in the country. And my wife then popped up and said, yeah, you can just stay with us if you come. And I looked at her kind of funny.

Andi Knox

Jenny, out of the blue, just met her, was like, well, yeah, you can come up to Oklahoma and stay at our house. And David will do everything. He'll do the whole thing for you. And I was just like, oh, OK. And he kind of chimed in, and said, well, yeah--

David Kallenberger

--if you'd like to send me your records, I'll be glad to go over them and give you my opinion of what you need to have done. So she left, and I looked at my wife and said, do you realize what you just did? And she goes, well, she'd never take us up on that.

Andi Knox

Well, I actually sent my records to him.

David Kallenberger

A week later, I got a nice letter from Andi with her record. And it said, you're so kind to do this for me. And I've been looking you up on the internet. And Myra's right. You have really great results. And if your offer's sincere, I'd love to take you up on it. So I call Jenny and I say, well, guess what? That little offer you made as a quip, she's going to take us up on it.

And so we said, well, she's a friend of Myra's. And so we called Myra and told her and said, so you know her pretty well? She goes, no, I really don't know her. She waits on me at Galatoire's and does a good job.

Andi Knox

It took me about two months to make the decision to actually go to a strange place-- I had never been to Oklahoma, didn't know anyone there-- to stay with some stranger and do this in vitro fertilization.

David Kallenberger

And this isn't a short visit. This is a three-and-a-half-week visit, by the time you start, she gets there, and she has to stay after embryos are transferred and all. And so I go, OK, this is going to be real interesting.

Andi Knox

And everybody was like, this is kind of weird. You're staying at his house.

David Kallenberger

And I've never had a patient stay with us before, unless it was a relative or something.

Andi Knox

Everybody's like, why is this doctor doing this? I'm like, I don't know.

David Kallenberger

Long story short, over time, she and Jenny, my wife, got to be really close and good friends and spent time in the kitchen cooking together and sharing recipes. And she underwent IVF.

Andi Knox

Came home about seven days later, took the pregnancy test and found out that both eggs took. Five and a half weeks, we did an ultrasound, found out that it was twins, but we saw something else. And then nine and a half weeks, it was triplets.

David Kallenberger

Well, it started off as a very weird situation that ended up being a very positive event.

Andi Knox

I think about these people every day. They are such a big part of my life. I mean, I have three babies because of them.

David Kallenberger

Jenny-- at the initial part when I said, well, we're going to have these guests-- she goes, well, that can be our payback for Katrina.

Andi Knox

My son's name is Kallen, after Dr. Kallenberger. And my middle daughter's name is Emma, which is a family name. And Ava is actually Dr. Kallenberger's niece.

David Kallenberger

Jenny just sent her a shower gift. And it has these little baby things kids wear that has their name on the front, and over the butt it has "Made in Oklahoma."

Ira Glass

Dr. David Kallenberger and Andi Knox. Their story was put together by Scott Gurian at KGOU in Norman, Oklahoma.

Credits.

Ira Glass

Well, our program was produced today by our senior producer, Julie Snyder, with Alex Blumberg, Jane Feltes, John Jeter, Sarah Koenig, Lisa Pollak, Robyn Semien, Alissa Shipp, and Nancy Updike. Adrianne Mathiowetz runs our website. Production help from Seth Lind and Bruce Wallace. Music help from Jessica Hopper.

[ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS]

Our website, where you can get our free weekly podcast, or listen to any of our old programs for absolutely free, www.thisamericanlife.org. This American Life is distributed by Public Radio International.

[FUNDING CREDITS]

WBEZ management oversight for our program by our boss, Torey Malatia. Every time he hands me my paycheck, he has very helpful advice about how I should spend that money.

Alla

Go to restaurants, go to fitness club.

Ira Glass

I'm Ira Glass, back next week with more stories of This American Life.

Announcer

PRI, Public Radio International.