She was my best friend. Named after a Grateful Dead song, she had the life I was a little jealous of – her parents were open minded, her family encouraged artistic exploration, and she was allowed to believe anything she wanted to believe. She herself was amazingly supportive. Other kids used to harass me for being different, or maybe for just speaking my mind and aiming for a world outside of South Carolina. If they had gotten some kind of confirmation that I was, as they had said, a “fucking dyke,” I probably would have needed to leave the school. I would end up crying and staying home for a day, and she would be there to listen sometimes.
In math class, we were the kids who sat in the back and made jokes together. We were the weird kids, and we liked it. We had matching shirts and colorful tube sock days, where we would both wear bright tube socks. I would go over to her house to eat gazpacho, to play her family’s mandolin, to talk about everything with her as I stared at her ceiling painted blue with fluffy white clouds. Well, almost anything.
In our sex ed class, when the teacher asked who wanted to get married, we were the only two to keep our hands down. I had a glimmer of hope that maybe she felt the same way that I felt about her. Maybe – just maybe – she was different in that regard, too.
I decided I would ask her in math class. I told her, like every middle school girl, that I liked someone. She began reeling off names. I kept saying no. She gave up and just flat out asked. I panicked. What if I said I liked her and she didn’t like me back? There would have gone my only friend, the only other girl in the whole damn school who liked to wear ties, the only other girl in the whole damn county who liked to make comic books and zombie movies, the only other girl in the whole damn state who didn’t know or care when senior prom was and who didn’t want to be prom queen. It would have been perfect. Our dates would have ended up being like our normal hangout sessions, we would have come out more and more to each other, and we would know that we weren’t the only queer ones in the world. When she would sit alone in class because kids thought that gayness spread, she would at least take comfort in knowing that somewhere not so far away, I was going through the same thing. But I didn’t have the guts to maybe ruin a best friendship. I named a guy in my math class who sometimes lent me pencils. He was blobby, and, as it turns out, interested in a platinum blonde southern belle. Thank the lord.
It’s been years and I still wish she knew. She’s at art school now, miles away on the east coast, and I’m at film school all the way in L.A. She’s dated boys and even confessed that she loved them. But I still wish I would have just came out and said that I loved her more than any of the gangly pot smoking guys she went for. Maybe she’ll read this and know who it is, and maybe she won’t.