I meet up with Jenny at the Third Street Promenade Tuesday evening. She messaged me on fb back in November when I moved out here and we’ve been meaning to get together ever since. When I saw her first message, I was surprised – I don’t think I’ve talked to Jenny since middle school. We were best friends from 2nd grade to 6th or 7th grade.
That’s when I started at Oakview Elementary School. She lived only two houses away, and we walked to school together. We must have become instant friends. Same thing with Miriah – she lived down the street. I spent most of my summer days complaining to Mom of my boredom. “Go outside and play.” So I went to Jenny or Miriah’s house.
I mostly remember listening to Green Day and Boys II Men in Jenny’s bedroom. There was also a lot of calling into radio stations – for tickets or song requests or who knows. There was a lot of yelling – usually Mrs. at Jenny, or Jenny at her little sister, Dawn. Mrs. was a teacher, and one night her school was having a performance of My Fair Lady (actually it was called, Pygmalia, I think). Jenny and I went. It was the first play I had ever seen, and it was amazing. We were probably in third grade, and both of us fell in love with the lead actor. We saw him in the hallway afterwards and were giggling like crazy.
Gingerbread houses. I don’t think I had ever seen one before I met Jenny. Her Mom always made them at Christmastime. They looked so pretty and tasty. Too bad I had to find out that gingerbread cookies are gross. And video games. I didn’t really have video games at my house. All we had was Turbo Graffix 16, and most people don’t even know what that is. Miriah and Jenny had Mario Brothers. I loved it, until I realized that I suck at video games. I ended up watching most of the time.
Sometimes we all probably saw too much of each other. We definitely had our fights, like the time Miriah and I “playfully” tied Jenny to the basketball pole in my backyard with a jump rope. We went inside and watched her from the kitchen window, struggling and yelling. Then we went outside and teased her with cupcakes. It was not a good moment for me, but sadly, I still laugh when I tell this story. We did, eventually, untie her and convince her we were only messing around. She seemed fine with it at the time, but Mom came in my bedroom that night. “Mrs. Hills just called. Did you tie Jenny up outside?” Yea. I start laughing. We were playing a game. Apparently, Jenny was very upset when she got home.
5th grade the parties started, usually in Jenny’s basement. I had my first kiss down there. It was with Terry while playing spin the bottle. I was terrified. Everyone was literally gathered around chanting for me to do it, because I was too scared. My face was all hot, and he only got a PG peck on the lips. For me, though, it was a big deal.
The winter was fun, playing in the snow and making forts. I think I called them igloos. When there was any kind of school break, I found myself at Jenny or Miriah’s house. I think there was one time I spent the better part of three days in a row at Jenny’s house, only going home for meals. Her Mom finally told me I had to go home.
By 8th grade, we’d basically gone our separate ways. Nothing ever actually happened to stop Jenny and me from being friends. We hung out with different crowds, we became different people. In high school, if someone were to say something to me about Jenny, I probably said, she’s bad news. She hangs out with a bad crowd. I can’t remember how we were in high school. I know she wasn’t mean to me or me to her, but I think we probably just avoided each other.
Needless to say, her reaching out to me in California was an incredibly unexpected, nice gesture. I don’t think I would have ever reached out to her, because of how we grew a part so much, but as soon as I responded, we were messaging back and forth until we finally set a date.
I reach the promenade early. I hate being late, and I figure I’ll get there early and walk around for a bit. I need more tank tops for work, so I walk into Forever 21. I look at my phone and see I have a missed call and voice mail. Jenny. “Hey Lindsay, it’s Jenny. I’m just getting out now. Traffic is pretty bad but I should still be there a little after 6. Call me when you get this, I’ll see you soon.” She initially told me she’d be here a little after 6, so it’s not a big deal, but I could sense a little worry in her voice. Her voice. Something I haven’t heard in a long time. Weird, but immediately familiar.
It’s loud in the store, so I text her and tell her no worries and I’ll call her in a minute. By the time I walk out, she’s parking and walking in my direction. I walk towards her and we manage to pass each other. Finally, we meet. Hi! We hug an uncomfortable hello, but it’s genuinely nice to see her. We walk for a bit and I tell her I’ll go wherever she wants. “Oh, so it’s up to me.” Yes. I don’t know why, but yes. “OK, there’s a cool place around here but I don’t know the name of it.” I have to laugh at this. OK, totally, let’s go to the no-name bar. She tells me she hates to be late for things. Yea, I could tell in your voicemail, I didn’t want you to worry about it, but I totally get it. I just had this audition I was late for and it was terrible. “Is that the one you just wrote?” Yea, you read it? “Yea, I read your blog.” That is awesome.
We approach Barney’s Beanery. “This is it.” Barney’s Beanery? I know this place. “Do you want to go somewhere else?” No, not at all, I like it here.” Done and done. We get a table outside and pretty much can’t stop chatting. Jenny orders a bud light, me a blue moon. First we talk about California – she’s been here for two and a half years. When she first came out, she wasn’t planning on staying, and it sort of just fell into place. I totally get it. I’m a lifer and it’s only been six months.
I can’t help but get into our past. Jenny….do you remember.. I’m laughing now. She starts laughing. “I think I know what you’re going to say.” When Miriah and I tied you to the basketball pole?? She closes her eyes, smiling as she shakes her head yes. She reminds me that we also put a jacket on her backwards, like a straight jacket, and she’s pretty sure it was her idea for that. She then tells me she was embarrassed because this kid Jimmy lived behind me and she didn’t want him to see her tied up outside. I completely forgot he lived behind me. Obviously, she had a bigger crush on him than I did. And then she tells me, she had a crush on my brother! Ew! I vaguely remember this. “He was in 8th grade and we were in 5th grade and we’d wait at the bus stop together. And he was so mean!” So, naturally, you liked him. “Yes.” Kind of hilarious.
We talk about Miriah for a bit – and Christine, our other old friend. It’s just weird how we were so close when we were young and haven’t talked to each other since then. I ask Jenny how we were in high school. Did we ignore each other? We weren’t mean to each other or anything, were we? She confirms no, we just didn’t associate. She tells me she felt like people didn’t like her, and she wanted to be a part of something. Then she found her group in high school. I hate hearing this, because I never thought she ever felt that way about herself. Jenny was a wild child. She was loud, crazy, and up for anything. When we were young, she scared me sometimes, but in a good way. If you dared her to do something, she’d do it. I envied her. I was always scared of getting in trouble. She had no fear.
Remember when you had Loser Night and I had Winner Night? Her eyes widen. “I did not know you had a Winner Night.” So Loser Night is the night before the last day of school, when you party and drink all night with your class. It’s supposed to be just a class bonding sort of thing. In 9th grade, I decide to have Winner Night – no drinking and only girls (none of the guys would have wanted to come to winner night, anyway). Mom only allows this party as a way to keep us from getting in trouble. I’m being a good daughter. Except that the girls and I manage to drink some alcohol up in my bedroom. (I really forgot this, but LMonny and Michele confirm that yes, we did drink…sorry, Mom).
There were about 10 or 15 of us. Everyone seemed fine with it, until we started hearing all the fun, party noises coming from Jenny’s house, less than 200 yards away. The later it got, the more people were showing up at Jenny’s – definitely more than just our class. Some of the girls wanted to go over there – just for a little. OK, fine, but no more than two people at a time, and my Mom can’t know. We can pretend we’re playing jail break out front. Two of you can go over for like 20 minutes, and then come back so another two can go. Perfect plan. Except after 30 minutes the first two people still hadn’t returned. So we sent two more. And two more. By now I’m running all up and down the street in front of my house so Mom thinks I’m still playing this game and everyone is here. She was probably inside not even paying attention.
Eventually, everyone finally comes back to my house and I can relax. There was another party going on down the street, for the junior class. The cops went down and busted it, so more people continue filtering in to Jenny’s. Then the cops get to Jenny’s and somehow, no one gets in trouble. (I’m sure the Mayor’s son being there had nothing to do with it.) So now, the cops are knocking on my door. As soon as I see the lights and hear her knocking, I get scared and pretend I’m sleeping. Some of the guys ran from Jenny’s house and are now hiding on our back porch. Fugitives.
Mom storms down the stairs, pissed. But not at us; she lets the cops have it. I remember the cop, too. That scary, butch lady who ran the D.A.R.E. program. She asks to come in and Mom flat out tells her no. “There’s no one else here except some girls sleeping over.” False. “And there’s been no drinking here.” False. No one breathes on the back porch. Get ’em, Mom.
Everyone remembers freshman year; Jenny had Loser Night and Lindsay had Winner Night…well except Jenny and everyone at her party. They didn’t know about my little party. Which just makes it funnier.
We’re up to three beers and some nachos by now. Jenny makes a comment about the voicemail she left me earlier – “Everyone here calls me Jen, but as soon as I was leaving the message I said Jenny and it felt weird coming out of my mouth.” I figured you would go by Jen! When you said Jenny, I was like, thank God, because I can’t call you anything else. Jenny’s 11-year-old son, Bobby, is visiting later this week for three weeks. She is such a proud mother, and by pictures alone, Bobby is too cute of a kid.
We talk generally about things we maybe wish we did differently, but at the same time, being OK with it. “I don’t regret anything I’ve done because I wouldn’t be the person I am today.” I feel the same exact way. Jenny and I are still, obviously, different people, but really, we’re not that different. When I think back to high school, I saw her as a changed, different person than I ever knew. But really, Jenny was the same girl. It makes me mad at myself that I didn’t talk to her, because we grew up together. We knew each other. We should have had each other’s backs. It’s amazing how high school changes you, even if you don’t want it to.
I’m sitting here with Jenny, feeling like we’re the same people we were back in 3rd grade. High school kids are so dumb. I wish I could have been cooler. And I don’t mean a part of the cool crowd. I mean the cool kid who doesn’t care what the other kids think. I wish I could have stayed friends with all those people who were important to me in my life. But Jenny is right. No regrets. Every decision makes us who we are.
We can only go from here.