She moved into the house across the street when I was in the sixth grade. She was from California, and her grandmother was from New Jersey. Her grandmother mailed her most excellent stuff, like candy buttons and custom made swimsuits. She was in the 8th grade, she had a corner of her bedroom that was filled with candy, she also owned Monopoly, Risk and Life, and she had information that sixth graders weren't allowed to know.
I don't think she liked me very much at first because I was so much younger and clearly so much less mature, but she let me come into her room and she would play games with me and I got to browse at will through the candy corner. When I was in the 7th grade, I was old enough to ride around the block on my bicycle all by myself, and she and I discovered an old abandoned house nestled in the trees behind the canal. The windows were gone, the shingles were peeling and the outside was wood bleached the color of steel. There were remnants of white paint around the door frames, and the decorative shingles around the dormer windows had flecks of green, and gray and blue.
When we discovered the house, it was a lady sitting behind some trees, and all that she wanted was privacy. We walked her halls, and looked in her bedrooms and creeped up stairs. We claimed a room facing North towards the river. It had a steepled ceiling and hardwood floors. There was one glassless window, and giant trees rustling their leaves through the gap. We brought a broom, and we swept the floor and we set in the dappled sunlight and made plans for our future: we were going to be killer whale trainers. After a couple years of the fame of being Shamu's trainers, we would come back home and buy this house and fix it up.
When I was in the 9th grade, she discovered Madonna. She made me copies of her tapes and I would play them until my brother would steal them, put fire crackers in the holes and throw them into the air. She bought a material girl jacket and hundreds of black rubber bracelet's. Her mom let her have a perm--because she was a Junior--and she rocked the eighties hair like no other girl in our neighborhood. She got a car, and sometimes me mother would let me ride in it. I was with her when I watched my first scary movie, when I puffed on my first smoke and the night I got pantsed. I think I stopped trusting her when she stood by laughing while I tried to keep the boys from pulling off my pants.
When I was a Sophomore, she let me share her locker in senior hall. She was the aid for my Spanish teacher, and she would give me better grades on the tests, and slip me pesos. We took the photography glass together, and once when we had a substitute we locked a boy in the dark room. With the lights off. And then we went to lunch. (The boy used his pocket knife to dig through the door, the substitute heard the noise and came to set him free.) We had our first fight over who our friends were going to be, and she kicked me out of her locker. She shunned me for the rest of the school year, and I remember the sting of watching her fluffy permed head walk away from me in the hallway.
I remember the sting of those days, because yesterday I saw her again. When she called my name and I turned to see that it was her, she wrapped her arms around my neck and she hugged past the point of comfort, and then she hugged me until I understood that she was hugging me.
She had a broken foot in a cast, and I doubt she weighs more than ninety pounds. Her hair was a caricature of the fluffy fawn brown that it used to be, it looked as thought it had been oiled. Her skin had the translucent glow of an old folks home, and she had cavities. To mention that she had cavities breaks my heart. Life grabbed a hold of her, and it shook her around. Her personal history is a line of heart breaks that she smiles through, and self medicates through. I have seen her a few times over the years. We have sparked up the old friendship. But neither of us are bright eyed little girls anymore; after we talk about the 'raccoon club' shirts that we made on her sewing machine (at 11 and 14) , we hit an uncomfortable silence.
When she was a girl, she had solid ideals, but as an adult woman she has shattered every one of them.
And oh, so have I.
Yesterday, after I saw her at the beer fest and hugged her for three minutes, than spoke for a few minutes--I walked away from her. I shunned her. When I waved then turned my back to her, I could hear her and her broken foot following me. I didn't pause, or wait, or stop and acknowledge that I knew she was following me. What I thought was, "Oh, I don't want to hear about sad stuff today...I just want to have fun..." I didn't say, "Call me some time!" or "Lets get together!" or any of those things that we are supposed to do.
Today I am ashamed of myself because I am not the girl I promised I would be the day I pricked my finger and pressed it to her bleeding finger.