Funeral For s Friend

When I was thirteen years old, I met this guy I couldn’t put in a nice category. His first name was David but we called him by his last name, which I won’t use here. At thirteen, I was fully hitting puberty, my level of deep thoughts was way beyond that of any peers my age and I was just beginning to fully rebel.
I had decided that my body was my own. I was feeling the full autonomy of myself. I was in full on hatred of my controlling paternal figure and much to my delight and chagrin, I was becoming attractive to males ready to exploit me.
David fit neatly into none of these categories. He was about five years older than me, at that age, kind of a big deal. And I didn’t like him very much. He was always sarcastic and mean to pretty much everyone.
David held the spotlight at the Varsity during the Rocky Horror Picture Show.. He stood up on the armrests of the seats and held the spotlight on all of the performers so the audience could see us. I have no idea why he did this. It’s a totally thankless thing to do. There’s no glory in it, but he did it every single weekend pretty much without fail.
I was a pretty shy kid, so I did more listening than talking but hanging out with this crowd was making me more talkative and bringing me out of my shell. I can remember pretty clearly the distrust I had for David. I was wary of him and stayed out of his way and just regularly assumed he didn’t like me.
At some point, I started getting to go to Denny’s with the rest of the group if I could get a ride there and back home again. I was often pretty reckless and impulsive about getting a ride. I would pretty much take a ride from almost anyone. This caused trouble for me more than once. It was the reason why I accepted a ride from David the first time. I didn’t necessarily trust him but I knew him. And he gave rides to lots of the young ones who went to Rocky.
I remember thinking, damn, that’s nice of him, but also out of character for who I thought he was. He said such mean, sarcastic things. He made fun of me all the time. After a pretty awful experience one night when a guy who drove me home pretty much demanded sex from me, I started accepting rides from David most of the time.
He was not the least bit interested in me sexually and I wasn’t in him either. Most of the boys I knew back then who weren’t gay either wanted to control me or fuck me and David wanted neither one of these things. I was never sure if we were friends because he kept me at arms length, but as I look back on it now, he was very careful who he became close to. And he was fully capable of not keeping your secrets and stabbing you in the back at will. I didn’t trust him. I watched him take information given to him in confidence and spread it around in the most unkind way.
So- what was it about him? I wish I knew. Somewhere along the way with all those rides home, often I was the last person dropped off and I did talk to him about my life. Granted, I told him those confidences that I did not care if they made the rounds of our tight knit little crowd of misfits. Sometimes, he would just ask me a lot of questions and I would candidly answer. I did not think he cared very much about me, it never seemed like it.
But he was always keeping me safe, even when I didn’t know it.
As friendships do, ours grew. It was an odd, misfit sort of relationship but we were from an odd, misfit sort of community. I remember putting together odd clues that he did, in fact, like me as a person. I remember thinking it odd that he would give us kids a ride home when he practiced such disdain for humanity in general. David just seemed to hate everyone. I watched him closely because he was not an easy person to figure out and I loved a challenge. It’s the writer in me, I guess, I know too well that what we are putting out there is not necessarily who we are. And duality was not some thing we made up.
I could feel myself as a different person when I was around my friends at Rocky– different than who I was when I was at school and different than I was when I was at home with my family. In a way, I felt my most authentic self at Rocky but this was not true of everyone there.
It had not escaped my notice that lots of people were putting on a show while crying for acceptance.
David was definitely putting on a show and I am quite sure now, from this distance, that he was trying to figure out who he was but back then, he had me convinced he knew who he was and that he could see everyone else and you know, for the most part, I believe that was genuine. I know this guy, he was an old soul in many ways and he was carrying a wisdom lots of people his age had no idea about.
But back then, I remember getting a phone call from him one day.
“Did anyone invite you to see the Exorcist with us?” he said
“They must have forgot. I guess you’ll need a ride, though.”
“Yeah… I…”
“I’ll pick you up at 7, be ready.”
And that was how it went. He picked up four of us.
It has not escaped my attention that he was the unofficial leader of our little group, and you were in or out sometimes on his whim. Though no one was ever asked to leave Rocky, David could make your life miserable. David did not ask to lead us, but he commanded so much anyway.
I think he tried to discourage me from being there many times, but I was persistent enough to stick it out and I feel like it was this day when he made me part of things. It was after this day when I was invited to everything where before I was not always part of it. I think he admired that I didn’t wait for permission. In a way, we appreciated each other’s rebellions. He recognized a stubbornness in me and my ability to both avoid him and look him in the eye. In some way, the whole group was vying for his acceptance and I have no idea when he figured out I didn’t care if I was accepted or not. I was asserting my right to be there and acceptance was merely secondary.
But it was this time that I began to notice David watching out for me. Quietly, behind the scenes, he was revealing he gave a damn. And when he realized I was about to start actually dating, it became the topic of our rides home. He wanted to know who I was interested in and why.
He would poke at me with intrusive questions making me look deeper into everyone I might like.
“Yeah, but do you really think that guy deserves your time? Isn’t he just treating you like shit?”
And I would protest quietly about what I could put up with and he would say “That guy is a piece of shit.”
And I would say “Isn’t he your friend?”
And he would respond “Yeah, but he’s a piece of shit, I hope you seriously don’t date him.”
David was not ever in love with me and had no attraction for me. He neither wanted to fuck me or control me. He wasn’t gay. He was one of those rare males who was interested in who I was. For reasons that confused me. He didn’t want to be some authoritarian person in my life. He didn’t want to date me. I wondered what box to put him in. I couldn’t wholly figure him out because he was determined I not know him, but what he didn’t realize is his effort to know me was revealing it itself to me.
I’m finding it impossible to give a complete sense of him here, but I want to write down my best memories of him.
David was the worst person at crossing the street. In front of the Varsity, he would walk out in front of an oncoming car and hold up his hand for the car to stop. Inevitably, it would stop, but I used to caution him that he was going to get hit by a car someday and he laughed at me. “They’ll stop.” he said. “They always stop.” He said this with a casual authority and an arrogance that always worried me. He was unconcerned with his mortality and that bothered me. Though as a side note, he was not a reckless or careless driver himself, I always felt safe with him. And I never felt he put anyone at risk but himself.
When I was sixteen, I ran away from home several times. My father was quite abusive and I wanted out. I didn’t tell David about this but he found out one night when my mother came looking for me at the Varsity. My friends rallied and managed to sneak me out the back door and escape once again. This whole evening was regarded as a major crisis and a bunch of us ended up at David’s house in Clayton, I don’t even remember how. We had never been there before and this was not something we had done on any regular basis. His parents were not reported to be that supportive of what he was doing. There were rumors around him constantly. That he was some rich kid, that he was unhappy. I wish I had known more of him but he kept his life cloaked in secrecy and you were as likely to get the truth as you were to get a complete fabrication from him. It amused him to lie about stuff and see how far he could take it. It also amused him to toy with people like me.
I remember him recording private phone conversations and then playing them for the whole group as part of some elaborate joke. I hated that part. He could be such an asshole.
This particular night, he called me into a side room by myself and started lecturing me about how I was screwing up my future. He pressed me to open up to him and I wouldn’t. I was scared and I didn’t trust him. The whole time he kept telling me how much promise I had and how smart I was and how I could bear it for a couple more years. That I would be able to get out after that but if I screwed this up, it was going to mess up the rest of my life. I broke down a little and talked to him a little. He was so intense that night. I had never seen him like that. I had never seen him take care of anyone like that. Yet of course he did, I just didn’t know about it. Underneath that sarcastic asshole was a real person who showed he cared. But in the back of my head, I was wondering if I was being tape recorded for my humiliation later. I wasn’t, though.
Probably the most real he ever was with me was on that night. What was going on was genuine.
Sadly, I did not listen to him. His effort to save me from myself and my own worst impulses did not work. I wish I had listened to him, he was more right than I let him believe. It was the last time he intervened.
David hated my boyfriend at the time. For every good reason there was. Shortly after this, David had a private New Years eve party at the bar of the Quality Inn. Everyone was invited and everyone went, this was the night I discovered amaretto sours. I wasn’t really drunk but I was kissing everyone at midnight and having a great time until suddenly and epically, everything went wrong. The owner of the venue noticed underage drinking, the cops were called, a girl bit another girl’s hand in a ridiculous fight and every punk rock boy that had been slam dancing moments before put their fold up hunting knives in the ceiling and fled.
I stood in the lobby after my boyfriend had abandoned me and watched David having a stand off with the male manager and the female owner of the club he rented for his party. He stood there stubbornly listening to these two yell at him about the giant clusterfuck the party had become and then the yelling became personally abusive. He squared off and very calmly looked at the guy and said “I only have one thing to say to you…” I held my breath, I knew what was coming. David was famous for this phrase, his timing was always impeccable, he played the pause for maximum effect as he went for the kill.
The man was infuriated beyond reason and he balled up his fist and laid David out on the floor in one punch.
David was knocked unconscious and his girlfriend immediately rushed to his side along with the rest of us. There was so much yelling and confusion, it was hard to tell what was going on but we knew the cops were arriving in just a minute.
David came to pretty quickly, looked around him from the floor and locked eyes with me. Quickly, he looked from me to his girlfriend and says to her words I will never forget. “The cops are coming- we have to get Vanessa out of here, she’ll get arrested for curfew. Hurry, get her to the hotel room and keep her there till all this is over.”
Suddenly and quickly I was whisked away to their hotel room (in the same building) and kept there until things died down.
I cannot imagine what was through his mind to have focused on my safety after he had just been assaulted but there it was. A kind of measurable proof that he cared about other people.
It was that night my then boyfriend had purchased a beer from David with a silver dollar that he stole from my house. A week later, David returned that silver dollar to me when I presented the case that had been pried open with a hunting knife now residing in the ceiling at the Quality Inn. It was one of the many things that had been stolen from my house over Christmas. David looked at me with pity and asked me one more time if I was sure that I wanted to date someone who stole from me. I remember shrugging helplessly and blaming love and loyalty for my foolishness.
“Your life.” he said. That was all. He seemed done trying to fix me. That was all he had to say. It’s clear that what he said stuck with me.
A few months later, David was struck by a car crossing the street next to Dennys. I cannot describe what it is to lose a friend in this way when you are sixteen years old. Someone that you had just begun to figure out. Someone who could be such a sarcastic asshole and the most loyal friend at the same time. Someone who inexplicably gave a damn about me but didn’t really want to advertise it. Lots of people said they were glad he was dead. I wasn’t. He was twenty one years old, though he felt so much older to me.
He was so much more than anyone realized. He was so much more than he realized. I often wonder who he would be now, so many years later. Would he have fulfilled his own potential? What would he think of me? Would I finally have lived up to his ideal of me? He saw something in me at a time when I was throwing away whatever there was of me. It’s what you do when you’re sixteen.
I still think of you, David. I still think of the impact you had on my life. I still think of what happened after you left us, how we had to confess to one another that we were indeed just mortal after all. But most of all, I wish I could talk to you now to figure out what you meant or what was in your head. You have remained one of the most fascinating figures in my life and I think you always will be.

The Price of Gold

When I saw Ben across the room of a crowded bar, my heart jumped a little bit. He was more than just a little good looking and he was looking at me, too. I know people say if you don’t want to date an alcoholic, don’t pick up guys at bars but it didn’t seem to matter where I met guys, they usually had a love affair with alcohol. But he had those dark brown eyes and a beautiful shock of black hair and I couldn’t look away from him.
I don’t know what it was about them, these guys with their deep, dark tortured souls, but it was one of those patterns in my life I would seek therapy a few years later to figure out. But at that moment, he could have been anyone. He could have been that guy who went out once a week and just had a few beers. The night was full of possibility.
After successfully looking at him across the room enough times, he came over to talk to me. And we had this really nice talk that ended up outside in the warm September night. He told me what he did for a living and showed me his pretty car and then asked if I wanted to go out with him some time. He told me repeatedly that I seemed like a nice girl and what was I doing at a bar.
That’s the kind of thing I would learn later, after countless hours of therapy, was a red flag. There were lots of little red flags, I would both pay attention to and ignore because he was so good looking and so charming and I just wanted to kiss him.
He asked me for my phone number and I gave it to him, then surprisingly, he confessed “I have a girlfriend, though. Is that a problem?”
My head whipped around quickly. “Of course it’s a problem.”
“What do you mean?” He asked with lazy confidence.
“It means I don’t date guys with girlfriends. I’m not some chick you can have on the side. If you break up with her, call me, otherwise, lose my phone number, I don’t want to hear from you.”
And I walked away. Frankly, I was super pissed off. Ben had led me on, basically lied to me. I was furious and disappointed. I hadn’t liked a guy in a long time and it made me sad and angry. Still, I hadn’t even kissed him. I had walked away with my dignity and my pride and kept my standards.
Two weeks later, he called me. I had put him out of my mind so much that I barely remembered who he was but he told me that he hadn’t been able to stop thinking about me. He said “I broke up with her, I finally did it. Will you please go out with me now?”
I remember blushing on the phone and being pleased and flattered. He broke up with her for me? Wow. I could barely even process it, and I said yes faster than I should have. I didn’t even think about it. Part of me was terrified to get involved with him and part of me exhilarated. It’s one of those things that I jumped into. We got intensely involved very fast.
On our first date, I met him downtown, he had rented a fancy hotel room and was throwing money around. At the hotel, I said “So, here’s the thing. I just don’t sleep with guys on the first date, so if you’re expecting that because you have a hotel room, I can just go home now and save you the trouble.”
But he assured me that was not it. At that point he confessed, he had just moved back in with his parents and just wanted a night out. I’m sure he wouldn’t have turned down sex on the first date but he never even was overly bothered by my refusal. To be honest, he behaved really honorably. He never pressured me for sex or made me feel uncomfortable or unsafe. He was pretty awesome. But over the course of the evening, he did get pretty drunk.
He told me to park in the hotel garage and he would pay for my parking at the end of the night. After a whole night of bar hopping, we ended up back at his room and there was some pretty intense making out but no pressure to go any further. He took his gold necklace off and put it around my neck.
“I like you so much, I just want you to have it.” He said.
It was sweet and touching.
The night got very late and he passed out. I looked at my watch and knew I had to get home. It was almost five in the morning. I tried to wake him to tell him I was leaving and get the money for the parking garage but he wouldn’t wake up.
There was cash all over the room, cash that had fallen out of his pocket, his wallet was bulging. Part of me thought I should just take it, he had promised me the cash for the parking. He probably had no idea how much money he had spent that evening and wouldn’t miss a twenty. But I found I couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t take that money without him handing it to me, it felt wrong. I had about three dollars on me. That was it. I felt pretty stupid, but I had to get home. So, I left. I did the walk of shame out of that hotel in my pretty black dress and sexy boots and went down to the parking garage to get my car.
When I approached the gate, I felt the guy looking at me like I was a prostitute.
I explained to him that I only had $3 and could he please take that and let me out. I told him the guy had said he would pay for parking but passed out. The parking attendant looked me up and down. I felt truly pathetic. He took pity on me and lifted the gate. He must have thought I was the worst prostitute ever, couldn’t even get paid.
The next afternoon, Ben called me to tell me he had just gotten home. He was soft spoken and romantic and asked when he could see me again. I was excited about seeing him again.
Then, he asked me “So, this is kind of embarrassing but I have to ask…”
“What is it?” I said “You can ask me anything!”
“Did you… I woke up this morning and my necklace was missing. Did you take it?”
I sat there for a moment, just stunned.
“Did I take your necklace?”
“Yeah…I’m not mad or anything, I just kind of need it back.”
I said “So, when you woke up, did you see all that cash lying around your room?”
He said “Yeah, I guess it was pretty messy.”
“Yep,” I said. “Looked like your whole paycheck was just lying around. Must have been a few hundred dollars, I don’t know, I didn’t count it. I just left it there. I mean, I could have robbed you blind and you never would have known it, you were passed out cold.”
I could not repeat to him the humiliation of the parking garage incident. Could not. It was still burning in my cheeks every time I thought of it.
“You took that necklace off and put it on me and told me I could have it. But you can have it back if you want it.”
He hesitated. “I don’t remember giving it to you.”
I assured him it was fine if he wanted it back. I didn’t even like the stupid thing, in fact I really had no desire for it now.
“I would be fine giving it back to you.”
“No, it’s okay. I’m just glad you didn’t steal from me. I guess if I gave it to you, and you want to keep it…”
“I don’t.”
“Why? It’s real gold.”
I had no idea how to explain to him that the worth of the necklace had been destroyed by his accusation. That the worth of the necklace had never been about the price he had paid but the way he had felt about us that night.
In the end, I gave it back so that it wouldn’t sit between us like a seed of doubt. But I kinda wish I had kept it, just on principle.

Best Gay Friend

Lots of us hetero girls start out with crushes on our best gay friend. I was no exception. I had a massive crush on my friend Jon but it didn’t outlast the friendship. In fact I knew it was silly and ill advised and it was just a phase I got over. I was never upset he put me in the friend zone- it was as it should be. Jon also had a crush on my boyfriend at the time which made things interesting, it was also something I was not overly worried about. We all just knew where things were because we were painfully honest about all of it.
In spite and maybe because of our crushes, we managed to form a tight friendship that stood the test of all the ugly things we were going through as teenagers.
I met Jon at Rocky Horror, he played Frank though he was about as wrong physically for the role as he could be. It didn’t matter. We loved him so. And he was the most fun. One whole summer, we spent every day together, going to the drive in, hanging out at the airport, walking the mall. And in the winter, his parents threw him out of the house he lived in. His dad never accepted that his son was gay.
Jon got a car with no plates on it and lived in it that winter, along with my boyfriend. He would drive to pick me up every day and we would just spend the day together just doing whatever teenagers do. Hanging out in the central west end, ordering coffee and soda and taking up a booth all day long. At night, they would take me home late and I would sleep in my bed while they would find a place to park where they wouldn’t be bothered.
We spent the days in deep conversation about all the things we cared about and wanted to be. We talked about stupid things, about important things. About growing up with abusive fathers.
For a while, Jon shared an apartment with a girl down on the south side and we all ended up crashing there. I ran away for a few months and we all lived there til we got kicked out.
My best memory was planning our birthdays together. Jon’s birthday was May 6 and mine is May 12. I was turning 16 and he was turning 17 so we planned a party at my house. I took the bus to Clayton one day and bought this elaborate cake at Lake Forest Bakery.
Half of it said “Happy birthday Vanessa – sweet sixteen ”
His half said “Happy birthday Jon– 17 BS 4711”
which was a kind of a sideways reference to the tattoo Tim Curry had when he played Frank.
My mom was not happy about the rowdy party that followed with spiked punch and loud friends. But we had fun and it was over before midnight because we all went to Rocky.
When I was 17, I moved in with my boyfriend (it didn’t end well but that is another story) and somehow, we lost touch with Jon. I got pregnant before the end of the year and once I had the baby, I pretty much was abandoned by most of my friends. With Jon, I just don’t know what happened. Sometimes we are close for a long time and then things change.
He was going through his own struggle. I spent two years of my life with him as one of my best friends. And at some point I found out he had AIDS and that he had died. This was long after I had gone looking for him and had failed to find him. This was one of those rumors, but it is probably true.
During the times that Jon got repeatedly kicked out of his house, he had been making money by being a male prostitute. There was always some gross guy to be serviced in the park back then, and it was pretty much the only way as no one wanted to hire him. Jon was a good kid. I wonder who he would have grown up to be and who he would have been today.
I still miss him in that wistful way and I never forget his birthday, which is today. Happy birthday, Jon. I still love you.

Adventures in Travel: Things Don’t Go As Planned

Two days ago, we dropped off our daughter for two weeks at Girl Scout camp and got on a bus to Chicago. At which point in the bus station, I have a pretty significant marital spat with my husband which almost involves me telling him to stay behind in St. Louis because I’m pretty mad.
But after the first three hours of the journey and not talking, we manage to make up enough to decide to try to have a good time. We check into our pretty cool hotel downtown and have dinner and a swim. We had all day the next day to spend in downtown Chicago. After breakfast, we head for Navy Pier and almost make it to the walkway when I wipe out on the sidewalk, turning and dislocating my ankle.
I didn’t notice for about ten minutes that my phone had flown out of my pocket. I crawled out of the hot sun around the corner to the shady area where I felt so sick, I lay on the sidewalk and just cried. When I noticed my phone was missing, John went around the corner to look for it and it was gone.
I immediately started cussing out the imaginary “piece of shit” who stole my phone. Now I had to go to Urgent care and the phone store! I managed to limp back to the hotel lobby and put my foot up on the couch. John got me some ice and brought me my iPad so I could activate “find my iPhone”
We noticed it had been carried across the street to the Ohio St beach area and there it was. I cussed out the thief some more. Then I said, hey, John, send a text that says “Return this phone to W hotel for a reward” and see if they bring it back.
I then shut down the phone and put it in Lost Mode with John’s number on it. John went to Walgreens to get me some ankle wrap and I sat on the couch icing my ankle. He returned with my phone. Apparently a nice family had found it and intended to turn it into the phone store but went to the beach first. As soon as they saw the Lost Phone message, they called John and he met them at the entrance to the tunnel. He offered them a reward but they refused to take it.
First lesson of the day: jumping to the worst conclusions about who had my phone. I wonder why we always go to the worst scenario. I was pretty grateful for the return of the phone. I thought about the phones I return to my Uber passengers and am grateful that I seemed to have gotten some good phone karma. But it bothered me that instead of being hopeful about who had the phone, I had been hateful and angry. I had been all “what a piece of shit” to steal my phone”
My next stop was getting an uber to Urgent Care. Fortunately, my ankle is not broken but I did do significant soft tissue damage given the dislocation. They gave me a gel cast and crutches.
The doctor told me to stay off it and rest it up.
Me: does not tell her I am going to London.
I thought of my mom going to London with a broken arm about eight years ago. I had gone to New York with her for four days to help her get through the first part of her trip and then put her on a plane to London. She never once thought about canceling her trip. Neither did I, frankly.
We took an Uber to the Blue Line and John helped me down the stairs with my luggage and said goodbye. I sent the crutches back to St. Louis with him – I simply couldn’t manage them and my bags. He said “Can’t I just donate them?” I said “No way, we already bought them, and besides, I’m sure I will need them as a theater prop.” Yeah, it’s an illness. So he took them back to St. Louis with him.
When I arrived at the airport, I immediately asked for assistance and they brought me a wheelchair. Part of me was thinking- but I can limp… but the other part of me was like- don’t act like that, you aren’t taking a wheelchair away from anyone, there is enough for everyone, you are legitimately in need of assistance. It’s hard because I want to be the one helping someone else but sometimes I need help, too.
And my second lesson in humility was having mobility issues and realizing what goes with it. You have to have a lot of patience because you’re relying on other people to do things for you.
So, yes, you do get to board the plane first, but that evens out because you are pretty much the last one to get off, and after that, you have to wait for a chair. There were 33 wheelchairs on that plane. So, pretty much no one was letting mobility issues stop them from going to London.
I can still walk, albeit very slowly. I managed to get on the underground and get to my flat okay. Fortunately the Underground station is very close to my flat and I didn’t have to change stations. I hope that my ankle gets to feeling better, I am going to try not to do to much. I was mourning not getting my 20.000 steps of exercise in from walking through the airport but I am grateful to all the staff who helped me.
And I suppose I am also grateful to be overcoming obstacles. Things don’t go as planned. You have to overcome things, or get through them. I try to be positive about it. I did have a wash of depression as I had to manage the fact that we had a lousy day because I fell and I never made it to the beach and we didn’t walk around Chicago at all. And we wasted time fighting.
I have a lot to be grateful for. The plane landed and it was an absolutely gorgeous warm, sunny beautiful day in London. Seventy three degrees. A rarity in the land of rain. A family that cared enough to return a lost phone. A husband who went out of his way to take care of me when I was injured. A flat in London to rest my bones in. So, I’m sore, but I’m here and I am making the best of it when things don’t go as planned.

The Day I Was a Bully

By the time I was eight, I had lived in about five different places and changed schools three times. Being the new kid was not easy and I had coped by just staying in my corner of the playground and trying not to bother anyone. I’d been jeered at and made fun of and generally bullied and pushed. My response had pretty much been to run and hide. I had no real voice. And I didn’t really have any friends, I had sort of tried to make friends but it hadn’t worked out. I was too scared, too shy, too weird.
My younger brother and I were spending the summer at yet another new place in England, this time kind of out in the country in a little town called Sunningwell. It was a beautiful summer for once and I was walking around with my younger brother, just checking out everything.
He and I spotted a neighborhood girl, the first kid I had seen at all and I can’t say what got into me, but it wasn’t like I hadn’t had the worst examples to follow. My family was a family of people who teased and it wasn’t in a nice way. My uncle on my mom’s side was merciless, he loved to make me cry. I don’t know what it was, that day just walking with my brother, I said “Let’s be mean to her.”
And we began to yell “Stupid fat pig” at this innocent girl walking her dog. We chased her and taunted her and I could see in her face that she was terrified. She ran like I did every time I had been bullied and terrified. We never caught up with her or did her any physical harm, but we certainly inflicted damage. And I had gotten my little brother to go along with me because two against one is worse.
Then, we went home and had dinner.
And I was sick all night.
I couldn’t believe I had done that. Me. Was this who I was?
I tossed and turned about it all night. I didn’t tell my mother what happened.
And the shame began to creep in and it sat with me.
I was this little girl, she was me, how could I be so cruel on a whim? I hated myself in that moment and I knew I deserved to hate myself.
The next day, I saw this girl at the top of the hill. I was by myself, my little brother had gone to do other things. She locked eyes with me and I could see she was afraid. She started running.
I started chasing her. “Wait! Please! I’m sorry!”
And miraculously, she stopped. And let me apologize to her.
I told her everything. How I had never been that mean to anyone before and I didn’t even know why- was I trying it on? Did I just want to see what it would be like? I don’t know. But I knew from that moment that I didn’t want to be that girl who hurt other people.
So, I told her I was sorry and I meant it and I promised her I would never bother her again and I asked her to forgive me.
And, somehow, this little girl smiled the biggest smile and just forgave me. Just like that. And then she did something even more astonishing, she invited me to her house to play.
And I went and we had the best time. She was my first real friend and we spent every day of that glorious summer exploring and playing with dolls and walking her little Yorkshire terrier and being shooed outside by the adults when we got too loud. And reading and sharing comic books.
I spent two summers being best friends with her. Her name was Sarah and I have no idea where she is now, but I’m grateful she forgave me and taught me how to be a friend.