In the autumn of my senior year of high school, my boyfriend-at-the-time ran into a mutual acquaintance of ours while online at the local deli- a known hotspot. She and he knew each other from being of the same locale and of similar age and all the other important teen similarities. She and I knew each other from living on the same floor of Weld at Harvard Summer School. She was glamourous and confident, striding the dorm halls in a colorful floral print silk kimono while we lesser beings scuttled here and there in our ripped sweats and baby-doll t’s. Her assured laughter rang down the hall, as the rest of us all tried to figure out who we were.
By the end of the first week that summer, she had the WASP boys, the ones that lived in a group at Winthrop, the ones that counted as the Real Harvard Experience, the ones, indeed, named Winthrop, eating out her tanned and elegant hand. She had completely magicked them all, even Fernando, our handsome RA and an actual Harvard student.
By the end of the second week, she acquired a group of acolytes, of which me and my small group were not welcome by her or the Winthrops. (I had said “pointedly not welcome” but that was untrue, for in order to be pointedly unwelcome, they’d have to notice us, and we were certainly beneath noticing or anything near to it.)
By the end of the third week, after getting caught smoking pot in Winthrop with the Winthrops, the whole lot of them were sent home. Climbing into her father’s BMW, she waved goodbye with a twist of the wrist, a glitter of tennis bracelet, and nary a glance backwards at us lesser beings. (My friends and I had found our own RA by then, having passed by his window as he blared the Beastie Boys very late one night. He was passed out cold, so we left him a note and he came and found us. By the way, we weren’t stupid enough to get caught.)
As she and Boyfriend caught up and put together the puzzle pieces of Harvard Summer School; that she had been there, that he’d been to visit, that I’d been there too. When my name came up, she furrowed and puzzled for a moment as if thinking deeply about whether she did know me. The fact of not just Hall but of Floor too was too much to deny acquaintance, so she went with a “Oh, her? She’s, like, annoying.” She may even have said “very”. Of course, the Boyfriend defended my honor, under sword and glove and his lady’s favor. Of course, he stridently disagreed and said, “She is not, she is my lady love.”
No. Of course, he did not. The Boyfriend declined to mention that I’d been the reason he’d come to visit at all. Her tawny looks were too overwhelming; one might never know when they would come in handy. Better not to risk it. And this in the beginning of our relationship.
(Later, for Valentine’s Day, I bought him a Tiffany key ring for his beloved new car and had it engraved, saving every cent of allowance. He bought me a book. I do love books. He bought me a book I’d already read. That could be fine too- there are plenty of beautiful books. However, he bought me a book I’d spent a great deal of time telling him about only the week before. He bought me a book I’d spent a great deal of time telling him about how little I was enjoying. Ah well, young love.)
I have thought very little about any of this in the past however many years. And now, that I’ve summoned up this rather itchy memory, it’s for a simple reason: how much it makes me laugh to think of it, all of it, from the girl whose name I can’t for the life of me remember to the book. But what I really think about is when I can talk to my friend about it and laugh even more. (And if you think this line is about you, you are probably right.)
Recently, finding myself in the happy spot of loving my husband very much- indeed, more even than when we met, more even then when we got married- and not just loving him, but feeling very stable and very secure, I’ve turned my mind to friendships.
On that most excellent destabilizer, Instagram, I see a group of friends from my college days. They are all as tight as they were then, maybe more so, having shared the trials and tribulations of twentihood, thirtyhood, motherhood, marryhood and more. A true posse.
I have never been a posse sort, I suppose, having been summarily ejected from the one I was essentially born into (the one made up of the six or so fellow Jewish girls in my town) after a poorly timed episode of severe mono in the eighth grade, also known as Bat Mitzvah Season.
I am not too proud to say that I admire these women and their loyalty to each other, and that I am also sort of jealous. They are all nice. And look happy. And support each other. I do not begrudge them any of that. I only question choices I have made; one who it turned out very much didn’t like me, one whom I realized over time was not only unwell herself but unhealthy for me, one (the hardest) whom I lost to babies.
But then I force myself to “snap out of it”. I’m peering into the wrong window. I do know by now that the window of self pity never has anything nice or good to look at. But if I stroll down the lane a bit further, I see them, standing clear as day nearby, though perhaps in this strange moment of life, I haven’t seen them in person in far too long. My friends.
My best friend from high school- though that’s not really right-for he has been a constant in nearly every phase of my life. We have worked together. We have twentyhooded and thirtyhooded and now fortyhooded together too. He was even at Harvard Summer School with me.
My friends from college, especially from my time abroad. My friends who I met through other friends but who have been my friend for so long we are more family than friends. My friend who introduces me to my husband and his wife who is now also my friends. My old friend from elementary school, the one in the posse who stuck with me. My oldest friend who is family and I now am reminded that I have to make a date with her and her family. My friend in Spain with whom I always have so much to discuss… well… there are not enough hours in the day. My newer and newest friends, made through work but more than work friends, true friends with whom I have been in trenches. Possibly trenches of our own digging, but we have stood alone together nonetheless. My social media friend who is as true as any friend I’ve ever had. I could go on.
And I think of being in a dark, cozy room, with a drink in hand. And I think of that story, of the tawny girl who thought I was annoying. And I think of how to tell this silly story to my friends, and the laughter we share. And it is sound and good.