I am back in Junior High as it was called back then. Just starting 7th grade. Sitting in my next-door neighbors house up in her bedroom. Her family dysfunctional in ways unfamiliar to me. Foreign enough that it is hard to compare. Once at her birthday party, her mother made a scene. She was histrionic and manipulative, I found her repelling. My father despised her. When they first moved in she told the moving company that it was ok to drive on our lawn, her first lie. My father loved his lawn and my mom abhorred liars so hence their dislike of her started that day only to intensify over time with each additional infraction. They would use words like crass, a liar, and cheap to describe her.
I don’t remember what the scene was the night of her 12-year-old birthday party but I sensed that her mom wanted us to leave. Maybe she wanted the attention on her rather than my friend Kathy. It is hard to say what motivated her. I felt sorry for my friend. She didn’t deserve a mother like that. Nobody did. Kathy had an elegance that her mom lacked but she was loyal to her, which made the scene even worse. She couldn’t even vocalize the awkwardness of needing to send us home. The unfairness of her mom ruining her birthday party. She didn’t have to say how hard and horrible this was. We all knew. I don’t remember who else was there just that we all left quickly and quietly. I think an ambulance might have been called. Her mom did that a lot. Calling attention to their family in obtuse and unnecessary ways.
I stared at the cake as we were leaving that sat on her counter. She and I had had such fun making it a few days before. It was dense and heavy with a mish mash of ingredients that we put in. Something that I never would have been allowed to do. Make a cake unsupervised with flour flying everywhere. Our home was pristinely clean. My father never would have allowed this. When we made the cake, (just she and I) it had been so freeing to do this without parental supervision. The day of her party though, I didn’t admire her freedom. I didn’t feel safe at her house that night. I had an edgy feeling. The boundaries of what was true and real to me were lacking there. Like the boundaries of reality were held so loosely that I questioned their existence in her home.
She wrote in my 7th grade yearbook just weeks before, that I would become a psychiatrist someday. And at our 20-year high school reunion many years later, our friendship ending long before, she still had vivid memories from back then as I did too. Except her memories were different from mine, not shared memories. She hugged me at the reunion and asked did I remember how much I had helped her when she got her period for the first time? I had been the only one she had told. I hadn’t remembered and told her this with honesty, but said I was glad that I had been there for her. I hugged her around her expanding pregnant belly before she hesitated and then each of us smiled as we moved away to talk to other people from HS.
Our friendship ended not long after her birthday party. She started to hang out with identical twins, Katie and Colleen, who lived near by. They wore all the newest clothes that their parents could afford. I convinced my mom that I needed Levis and saddle shoes and a Dorothy Hamel haircut like the twins. When I got what they had it didn’t look the same on me and I found this disappointing .
The three of them (Kathy and the twins) started to pop pills like aspirin and thought that it was fun to take a bunch at a time. “Try it”, they coaxed me. I didn’t have an interest in this and was never much of a follower unless it seemed fitting to me. I told them no. That this was too weird. Why would they want to do that? It seemed silly, dangerous and strange.
They started to exclude me from things after that. Having sleepovers without me. Once day I confronted my friend Kathy about it and she lied to me. She was so smooth that I almost believed her. I backed her in a corner and told her I knew that she wasn’t telling the truth. I threw berries at her as she and the twins were leaving her house one day. The twins laughed but Kathy looked back with a hurt expression on her face. I never found the twins that interesting after that.
I decided to wait before I talked to Kathy again. She could apologize to me. I wouldn’t reach out to her unless she reached out to me first. Months and years went by and she never did. I am not sure if the ending of our friendship bothered her as much as it bothered me . I missed her and the closeness of having a best friend, but was too stubborn to give in. In retrospect it might not have even mattered. Maybe our lives were meant to diverge in different directions.