Every Sunday we would dress in our finest and Gran would usher me and my little sister to church. At the time we were Catholic so there was no talking. The priest would recite his script and the congregation would answer. We stand, sit and kneel at the proper times. I don’t remember when exactly, but I found myself sitting next to this girl my age. She was also with her grandmother. Somehow we were able to communicate under the watchful eyes of our grandmother and the priest on the podium. There was no lingering around the church, when it was over everyone left.
The girl, ‘M’ and her grandmother were walking the same way we were walking. I don’t remember details. I’m going back almost forty-five years. We went to different schools. I was in Catholic school and she went to the public school a few blocks around the corner. M is Guyanese mixed with Chinese. She was shy and didn’t really fit in. Everyday afterschool she would get chased home, by ‘KC’. KC lived about five houses from me and my ‘bougie’ (bourgeois) family.
My grandmother called KC’s family the ‘Rinky Dinkys’. Basically she meant they had no class. In the front yard they bar-b-que’d, they were loud and fought and partied at all hours of the night. They were my kind of people. But I was forbidden to associate with them. A few years later they had the best refer around and of course I couldn’t go to get my own. I had to get somebody to go for me.
Anyway back to my story. M use to run home from school because KC use to chase her. By the time M got to my house she would be tired and run to my back yard. She wouldn’t come in because she was afraid of my gentle dog, but we would talk over the fence until we figure KC was gone.
Over the years M and I have remained friends. We confide in each other, support each other and love each other. We have shared our children’s births and adventures. We spoke about our relationships, our jobs and now that we are aging we talk about menopause and our aging bodies. Last year M was looking for a Bible. She wanted to read Revelations during Lent and she found a Bible I gave her in 1974. I signed it, telling her I hope she could use it someday. Who would thought 38 years later, would be someday. Over the years M and I have done our own thing, but we were always a constant in each other’s lives. She was straight lace, okay she was a nerd. Me I was a party girl. But our lives always intermingled. She was there when my mother died and I was there when her grandmother died. I was with her when we mourned her fiancé’s death on 911 and thank God that she went to work late that day. The memories we have are long and I am so grateful for her friendship.
In the 5th grade I had a friend, ‘C’. We went to school together and we shared so many secrets. We shared cigarettes. She was the first person I told when I had sex for the first time. She told me about her first time. The school we attended closed when we were in the 7th grade and we went to different schools. We talked on the phone but we rarely meet up. You see she lived on the other side of town and it was too dangerous to venture into each other’s neighborhood back then. (Gangs) We ended up going to different high schools. After high school C and I got together and hung out when I lived upstate NY. She visited me when I moved back home with my mother with my kids after my second child and second failed relationship. But we lost touch with each other. I’ve connected with another one of our classmate on FaceBook and she say C is still in the old neighborhood but she doesn’t know what’s up with her. I’ve searched for her but like so many of my friends they aren’t in cyber world.
In high school my sister-in-law, sister, ‘S’, and I became good friends. We shared secrets. We experimented with drugs and drank, back then, quarts of beers. We use to go on the handball courts, get high as kites off our joints then drink our quarts of beer and kick everyone’s ass on the handball court. The higher we got the better we played. We use to tell everyone we were sisters and we use to say our father would go between our mothers and make babies. I have a younger sister and her brother and sister were younger then my sister. We use to go shopping or bowling and pretend that our siblings were our children. We would pretend we spoke a different language, what came out our mouth was gibberish. We had fun I could fill these pages up with all the fun we had.
When I gave birth to my son S brought all these baby things for him. You see my mom wouldn’t let them give me a baby shower because I wasn’t married. Remember my family was ‘bougie’. They had these set of values, today I find myself accepting some and rejecting others. I know I’m not better than anyone else, maybe that’s why I lived the life I did. But that’s a discussion for the shrink. If you are interested in my dysfunctional life read my blog Me Verse Lupus.
S went to school up in Oneonta. I moved up there when my son was about 6 months. I lived with S and her man. We partied and played house. I met my daughter’s father and I ended up playing house with him. I don’t remember what happen but S and I had some kind of falling out and we stopped talking to each other. I use to pass her house on the way to where I lived. One day I knocked on her door and asked her if she was going to still be my son’s godmother. She said. “No, I don’t think so.” I can’t remember what our quarrel was about but I do remember that conversation, because it hurt, a lot. As I turned my son’s carriage around she called me and told me her cat had babies and asked if she could show my son. Our friendship was reunited but it wasn’t the same.
S was my friend in the neighborhood. When I started high school, I had two friends from my new elementary school that went to the same high school as me. They were ‘T’ and ‘D’. We got in trouble together when somebody told the nuns we were by the train tracks smoking. T had a friend from her neighborhood that went to the same high school with us, that would be ‘Y’. She was my friend for all of 4 months. I wish I had never met ‘Y’. She introduced me to cutting classes and playing hooky. I did more drugs then a little bit with her. I was wild. I wouldn’t go home after school. Well I actually wasn’t going to school. Y was a bad influence but I thought she was cool. I was sheltered my whole life up until my first semester in high school. I was stupid back then, but the pass is the pass.
My mother sent me to Oneonta with my brother and sister-in-law. It was cool they were young, I helped with my nephew. I could drink, smoke weed and cigarettes. But I still hung out during school hours. My brother sent me back home after that year and I ended up living in Pleasantville, NJ with my Aunt T and uncle V. They were cool, as soon as my mother pulled off my uncle called me in his room and asked me if I knew how to roll. I told him I did and he throw a baggie full of refer. My eyes lit up. We smoked right there in his room while my aunt was in the back yard in her screen house, My aunt T was older then my mom. She didn’t care that I smoked and drank. She told me later, ‘you can cut a class here and there but go to school.’ She let me drink, smoke and party all I wanted. I didn’t stop cutting but I didn’t do it so often I had supervised freedom. Aunt T use to put a birth control pill next to my breakfast plate.
When I started school that September I knew ‘B’ she was my aunts’ friends’ daughter, we were close but she didn’t party. I miss B today and wish I could find her. No one seems to know where she is. I knew a few people because my sister and I use to go to P’ville during the summer growing up. But I didn’t have a BFF, I was basically a loner.
One day I was in the 3rd floor bathroom smoking a joint. In comes ‘J’. (I’m smiling as I type this. I had no respect for authority) J smelled the herb and said, “ooo it smells good in here.” I offered her my joint and a new friendship began. J and I are still friends. My son and her two oldest sons are first cousins. J was pro black, she’s dark skin and she was one of those black girls that didn’t like light skin girls. Today she would tell you that I was the blackest friend she had. Back then I was so into black power that I was militant. I was like free Bobby, free Huey, burn the pigs and step off honkie. What did I know I was 16 and chasing drugs and men/boys. I had to have something else to talk about. J and I became joined to the hips. We grew up together. We were so close everyone started calling us lesbians. Today we are still friends. We always have each other’s back. J got caught up in the crack life and would call me and give me these stories about needing money for rent or bill or something and I would run to western union and send her $50 to $100. I wouldn’t hear from her for a while. Then I’d get another call with same kind of story and I was at western union again. She would start out I know I owe you, but and I promise.
When I became sick and couldn’t work anymore J was sending me dollars here and there. Trust me they came in handy. Today J is working in the educational system and working on her masters. I am so proud of her.
There have been friends in between all these years. Friends that came and gone, those I’ve mentioned were my oldest friends. They knew the young and confidant me. My mother died when I was 33 years young. I moved into the family house with my children and my youngest daughter father, ‘F’ who I was with for 23 years. His son moved in with us and everything was cool until F started smoking crack again. F’s cousin, started hanging out with us. The cousin had a girlfriend “Ch”. We hit it off, her mom died recently and she wasn’t close with her family. She had 3 children with 3 different fathers too. We became family, sharing holiday dinners at one or the other’s house.
We use to vent about our men and kids. We started hanging out together, hitting the clubs, sniffing coke and just partying. Our men were doing their thing smoking that crack and they weren’t helping to pay the bills. We took care of our homes. CH and the cousin broke up but our friendship continued. We are still friends and both of us are suffering with auto-immune disease. I have lupus and she has Lyme disease. I remember when she was bit by the tick. We were sitting on the balcony of her apartment just chilling one summer evening and something bit her and she complained about it for days. Ch gets bored easily and she’ll change her job. She would even pack up and move. But she always gets back in touch with me. She is a strong woman. Our friendship has last almost 20 years now.
I met another friend, ‘B’, on the city bus. Call me naïve, I wasn’t sure if she was flirting with me or just being friendly. She invited me to come and hang out at the bar with her. Every time I saw her she would invite me. So this one Friday after work I went to the bar and waited for her. B came in and sat next to me. She asked me to tell her about myself and I told her I was married, had three children was an administrator at a home care agency. The first thing B told me, “well I’ve been gay since I was 15.” I wasn’t really surprised but I was shocked. During my whole life I was never approached by a woman. I rolled with the flow and ended up having a good time. It surprised me how excited I was. She treated me like a man would. She wined and dined me. She gave me gifts and flowers. All those romantic things that make a woman feel special. We went away on weekends. I would take sick days and spend them with her. We had a thing and it was exciting. I loved that bar scene.
I was dealing with my home life and that was kind of rough. F was seeing this woman and it was apparent he had been seeing her for a while. Ch told a long time ago she saw him with this woman and that they had a baby. I choose to ignore it because I was doing my thing but they never became serious. My youngest daughter and her man had a baby and they were living in my house and they weren’t contributing to the bills. F wasn’t either and I couldn’t keep up with the mortgage and everything else that went with keeping up a house. B put me in touch with this guy who did mortgages and there wasn’t anything he could do to help me refinance. Thanks a lot Fannie Mae. My next avenue was to sell. My daughter and her family went into the shelter. F moved in with his girlfriend, now his wife. Me I went to stay with B. It was suppose to be temporary. But I ended up losing my job. I collected unemployment for the 6 months and had a hard time finding a job. I finally found something but I was now broke and my permanent residence is now with B. We have our ups and downs. We aren’t lovers like we were. We are more close friends now. So I guess you can say that B is my best friend.