When I was thirteen, my best friend April and I spent almost every weekend with each other, as both of our fathers lived in the same city, which was over twenty minutes south of the sleepy, college town where we lived in during the school week with our mothers and younger siblings. Our siblings, though mostly invisible to us, went with us back and forth on these weekends.
My dad lived in an impressive condo that overlooked the bay. While he typed in his rapid hunting and pecking system, I would stare out the floor to ceiling windows at boats idling through the water’s dangerous current. There was no wishing myself out of his condo, so I would call April. Though April understood that my father was the antithesis of cool, she preferred spending time with me there in this place of exquisite light and clean lines. We would make fun of my sister who was eight years my junior while my father either ignored us or suddenly blew up at us, whacked-out in his declarations of our under achieving slummy-ness. Her father lived in the more poor section of this city, though it was not a dangerous area, nor were there any family housing units that accepted section eight vouchers or that kind of thing. April’s father lived in a seedy place with a roommate who we never saw. We wondered several times if there was even a roommate. April’s father had a perennial bottle of JD next to his bed. His bed was a mattress sans box spring on cracked wide pine floorboards. The house smelled like stale pot smoke and broken air conditioning, especially in the winter. If I had been the more dominant friend, the friend with the power, we’d have spent our weekends, all of them, at April’s dad’s apartment. I felt bohemian there and though I wore preppy clothes that my mother bought for me and that mirrored the outfits of all my peers, I enjoyed fantasizing that I dressed like singer Steve Nicks, like some kind of haf prairie girl, have witch of all that is enchanted: black, sparkles, and everything billowing and flowing.
On one particular weekend that punctuated our regular schedule of time spent reluctantly at my dad’s;, we sat in April’s dad’s living room almost crazy with boredom. We brushed our hair and then each other’s hair. We organized our makeup bags and talked about tampons as opposed to pads. We wondered if we were anything like Dicey from Cynthia Voight’s Dicey’s song. Would we have immediately gone for adult for help? Would we have been instant in seeking out an adult first before single-handedly taking on our little siblings, traveling across the country looking for a living relative? Or would we have ditched the siblings and found a cute man to look after us? We loved this idea; like the character in the book, our mother has abandoned us at the mall. Before we decide what to do, we would shoplift tee shirts from the Limited. Then, we might take the bus downtown to the record store where we’d find a super nice guy who would take care of us. He would be old, but not so old that he was no longer cute, like almost forty. We would leave our siblings in the dust, we usually concurred.
While we wandered through our fantasies out loud with each other, mostly whispering our ideas about these men who were several years younger than our fathers, we took big slurps from a red vintage thermos filled with cheap wine we found in the refrigerator. We listed to reggae, UB40, on his turntable. “Red Red wine, you make me feel so fine; you keep me happy, all of the time.” Her little brother and father were sleeping. The roommate, as usual, was nowhere to be found. We decided to look through her father’s bureau that doubled as one of the crooked couch’s side tables. After rummaging for several minutes through rubbers, broken pens, pencils with teeth marks and soiled erasers, and endless receipts for groceries, we found a stack of neatly typed, tissue-y papers. We pulled them out gingerly and then, with girlish excitement, quickly.
April’s father was taking a creative writing class, we decided. For these papers were organized into bundles that were mostly fastened together with rusty paperclips and some were stapled together. Each bundle had a header in the left hand corner with a first and last name and a date. Below this, but centered, each bundle seemed to have a working title. Looking through all the bundles, almost all at once, we almost immediately zeroed in on one bundle with the name “Cynthia Danish.” Cynthia’s title read, “The First Time.” April and I locked eye’s and squeaked. Then she started laughing and borderline somersaulted over onto her heap of pillows. She mock screamed into one of the pillows. Then she said, “We have to read it; it is a “doing it” story.
We had read a ton of doing it stories. As middle school girls, we were somewhat “over” Seventeen Magazine, realizing that style was not something you gleaned from a magazine, especially not for “teens.” We gathered our current ideas for fashion by sitting in the student union building on campus in the town where our moms lived during the school week. We would take notes and sometimes ask older, college girls what the thought of doc martins with hippy skirts. And were high heeled cowgirl boots classy with jeans, or were they just slutty. We wrote for hours about these questions and answered them on occasion after watching and asking so, so many older girls.
I passed the doing it story to April and waited for her to stop with the giggles so we could start reading. She took a big swallow of the wine, wrinkled her nose, coughed, and then took a big swallow of diet coke. She cleared her throat again, and tucked her silky, near-perfect blond hair behind an ear. Shaking her head, she started to read:
I saw Peter for the first time when I was over at Chuck’s house. It was afte a football game. Our team had won and we were all pretty crazy with happiness. SO happy, in fact, that we invited the other team to party with us that night. My friend Jane’s parents were out of town, so that’s where we were all at. I was sitting on a couch, on Dan’s lap. And then I looked into the kitchen, and there was this tall guy with super hero hips and hair that looked like a movie star. He was nodding his head and smiling with a cute frown that prefaced the grin. I imagined a carton heart above my head. Then I hoped off of Dan’s lap. And I walked, sticking my chest out kind of, but not in a slutty way. I walked like this the whole way into the kitchen. And I tried to make my hair bounce, because I have naturally curly hair and it kind of boings when I walk, or at least people used to tell me this during highschool.
“Boing Boing.” April and I howled.
“Girls!” Aprils father yelled, or I should say slurred loudly through his paper thin, bedroom walls.
I could see this red headed Cynthia. I could see her looking at this gorgeous dude and I was so impressed that she knew she was pretty enough to got and get his attention.
“Would you ever just talk to someone like that?” I asked April.
“Like what?” She asked.”
“You know, first. Like, she’s going into the kitchen to talk to that guy. My God, I would be so nervous I would puke.”
“You cannot be like that,” April told me. Sometimes she could be such a know-it-all. And, I thought, I have had way more boyfriends than her., so why was I even asking her? Because, I answered myself, she held all the power. She was the boss of the friendship; without her, really , I was just a half pretty preppy alone at my father's house on the weekends.