When I stop to think back on 2015 so far, I'm tickled at the realization that I've done a number of new things that I hadn't necessarily set out to do. Sure, I'll probably never win another round of "Never Have I Ever," but then again, I still haven't had my well deserved Seven Minutes in Heaven, so there's hope. I digress. One of the new things I'm most...shit, I'll say it, "proud of," is this story I wrote for the fancy folks over at You're Being Ridiculous. Names have been changed, because the internet is scary. Read on!
Stacie Andrews and I were high school best friends. She was skinnier, prettier, and smarter than me. Her edgy music collection far exceeded mine, which consisted mostly of Now That’s What I Call Music! volumes and my dad’s copy of Bridge Over Troubled Water. What I lacked in punk-rockery, I made up in my unmatched ability to dress like a teenage slut. Stacie taught me about Guttermouth and Warped Tour, and I taught her how to pair skin-tight jeans with red pleather jackets from Charlotte Russe. She tried explaining politics to me, while I showed her how to apply face glitter. One time I convinced her to try an at-home leg wax kit, and we spent the rest of the weekend shaving chunks of hardened wax off of her legs in a panic. We bonded over how much our parents didn’t get us and how it was so hard growing up in a mostly white, upper-middle class beach community because “The Man”, man. Most importantly, we never EVER fought, not even about boys.
The Summer we turned 15, we begged our parents to give us the $300 each to sign up for Driver’s Ed. We had big plans of buying some piece of shit car and taking a cross-country road trip before we headed off to college. We’d stop off at music festivals, eat Cheetos and cold hot dogs, and sleep on the side of the road, because, adulthood. After enough nagging, our parents caved (pussies!). Around that same time, Stacie discovered that her biggest crush of all eternity, Tray Nielson, also signed up for our Driver’s Ed session. Tray, in a word, was like…
...kind of way.
We spent the days leading up to Driver’s Ed talking about what Stacie should say, do, and wear to make sure Tray wanted to get in on her shit. We had every detail planned out. After all, love means changing who you are so someone will want to have sex with you. When the first day of Driver’s Ed rolled around, Stacie was looking slamming in her Vans platform sneakers and butterfly hair clips. Like every good high school best friend, I was ready to laugh at her dumb jokes and help her re-apply white eyeliner during bathroom breaks. How else would she look effortlessly cool?
Let me take this moment to tell you about the time that I broke my cousin’s favorite red, Barbie doll corvette in half.
Yes, in half…as in one half and then another half.
I did this because I was upset that I didn’t have one of my own. My cousin cried for a day. She was 15 and I was 5. There was also that time I cheated on every spelling test in the 6th grade. In my defense I’m not from this country and words are hard. I also used to bite my little sisters so hard they would bleed. I did this for a number of reasons, but mostly because as their older, wiser, and prettier sibling, I thought it was my duty to teach them that sometimes life isn’t fair. I’m also sure that I have silently judged at least 98% of you on the CTA, largely for being you. Now that I’ve got you all on my side, it is time to admit the inevitable. Deep down in my disturbed little teenage heart, I wanted Tray to want in on my shit too. I wanted Tray to fuck me more than he wanted to fuck Stacie. Sure! I was totally still a virgin and had only learned what a boner was a few weeks prior. And sure, Stacie could totally even get sloppy seconds. And no, I didn’t even want him to be my boyfriend. I just wanted to win.
I stopped laughing at Stacie’s dumb jokes and definitely stopped helping her apply white eyeliner. I started cutting our evening marathon phone conversations short. All we were talking about anyway was stupid shit like what Tray really meant when he said, “Can I sit here?” And even if I did know what his subtext was when he lifted his left eyebrow on the word “here”, I wasn’t about to give Stacie any more ammunition to win him over before I did. I acted like I forgot that we made plans to have her older sister drive us to class, secretly asking my dad to drop me off on his way to work so that I could get a prime real-estate spot next to Tray. I worked tirelessly to force conversation and make up pointless inside jokes with him. Anything and everything to make Stacie feel small and unwanted.
The most exciting day in Drivers Ed is Mall Day. This is the day the instructors pop a couple extra antidepressants and allow students to drive to the local mall in groups of three while they sit in the passenger seat, clench their teeth, and ask themselves what they’ve done to deserve this life. On Mall Day you stroll around, eat lunch at Ruby Tuesday’s, and casually twirl the car keys on your index finger so that everyone who walks past knows that you just drove a car. On a highway. To. The. Fucking. Mall. Mall Day is the coolest. Mall Day was also when I decided I would seal the deal with Tray. I made sure to bully my way into the same car as him. Stacie managed the finagle her way in too, but that didn’t stop me from sitting in the back seat playing footsie with him while she almost drove into a literal and figurative ditch of jealousy. I was on cloud nine. Stacie’s envy of my budding relationship with Tray was fueling me. And God, it felt fucking fantastic.
When we arrived at the mall, she pulled into a parking spot and pushed extra hard on the breaks, nearly catapulting Tray and me through the front window as the car halted to a stop. The teary-eyed glare I caught from her in the rearview mirror confirmed that the move was in every way intentional. She was the Brandy to my Monica and bitch, the boy was mine. As we slinked into the booth at Ruby Tuesday’s, I remember that I had a big, round, red Tootsie Pop in my purse. Clueless taught me that nothing screams “Fuck Me, Tray Nielson,” like intensely sucking on a lollipop. So I casually dug around in my silver, sequined hobo bag, slowly unwrapped the lollipop, and started “mmmh-ing” at how much I just looooooved strawberry flavor. Tray leaned over and asked if he could try it. Exactly like I wanted him to. I kept my cool as I took the lollipop out of my mouth and stuck it into his and then back into mine, getting off on the thought of our salivas combining into one pinkish-red coat of spit on the surface of the Tootsie Pop. “How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop?” I coyly giggled as my hormones celebrated how unbelievably effortless I was making it all seem. Dammit, I was good at this.
She must have surrendered after the lollipop move, because Stacie didn’t speak another word for the rest of Mall Day. That night I didn’t even notice that there was no call from her to go over our evening Tray play-by play. I didn’t think twice about the fact that she wasn’t in class the next day, and didn’t bother contemplating the value of our friendship when Tray eventually asked me for my number.
I tried to go back and remember how it all panned out between me and Tray, but the details are murky. I think we may have made out once or twice. I don’t remember if we ever held hands in a movie theater, or if we went on an actual date to the movie theater to begin with. I can’t tell you anything about his interests, and I don’t know his middle name or what he wanted to be when he grew up. And I definitely didn’t lose my virginity to him. That would happen a year later at a party, to some guy whose name I honestly don’t remember. It was as gross and desperate as it sounds.
Stacie and I sort of kind of stayed friends for a few more years. We still never really fought. We didn’t even talk about what happened at Mall Day. Tray was the last crush she sought my valued high school best-friend opinion on. I think she realized she was smarter than me and that face glitter was easily the worst thing that happened to the early 2000s. I got really into drama school and she got really into environmental activism, patchouli, and the 2004 election.
During our freshman year of college, we both made some half-assed efforts to pretend we were still friends. We went to the movies with a group of girls she met in her dorm during the first week of classes. I drove us all in the boat-sized Cadillac Catera that my parents bought me before I left for college. While Stacie and her gaggle of buds sat in the backseat, they made inside jokes and talked about things I didn’t understand. It was awkward and hard to keep up. Afterwards, I dropped Stacie and her new college friends off at her dorm. We shared a glimpse in the rearview mirror and said a casual “See ya’.” Then they all vanished through the doors to their dorm-room building in their matching Birkenstocks. I started to cry.
The last time I had any form of contact with Stacie was somewhere around the stroke of midnight on January 1st, 2005. I decided to throw a last minute New Years Eve party at my apartment. It wasn’t your typical college rager or anything; the guest list consisted of my boyfriend, his buddies, and a small group of my theatre friends. Maybe it was the Miller High Life or that inevitable wave of nostalgia that overcomes you as all your friends drunkenly sing-slur the words to “Auld Lang Syne.” Regardless, I decided to give Stacie a call. I got her voicemail, and in a mess of tears I told her that I missed her and would love to catch up some time. It was my signature way of apologizing without ever actually saying the words “I” and “Am” and “Sorry.” I never got a return call. For a while my feelings were hurt. I felt small and unwanted and I knew I deserved it.