I was a painfully shy kid. I spent most of high school giggling and whispering with my twin sister in voices so soft only we could hear. My typical Saturday night involved spending far too long choosing an appropriate pair of tight, low-rise jeans and $50 brand-name t-shirt to wear to church, only to arrive for the last 10 minutes and whisper rumors about the popular kids to my equally bashful friends.
In the fashion of the truly neurotic, I like to blame my problems on my parents. My mother was a role model of anti-sociability. When she decided to leave the house, she would don her oversized sunglasses, put on her “don’t mess with me” face, and hastily rush us to the back of the last subway car so we wouldn’t have to sit near the other people.
After graduating from high school, I decided that my life needed to change. This may or may not have had something to do with someone visiting my apartment, taking one look at the dishes in my usually immaculate kitchen and my beeping cell phone and brightly commenting that I’m “not obsessively cleaning and being antisocial.”
With my new life goal in mind, I began my quest to make friends.
I started on Halloween. My sister and I decided to throw a Halloween house party – Mean Girls style. We printed colored flyers of girls dressed in Playboy Bunny costumes, and I daringly handed them out to everyone I vaguely knew, and several people I didn’t.
On Halloween night, my twin and I were in our closest friend’s basement surrounded by hordes of booze. He was dressed in a costume that distinctly resembled his usual getup: black clothes, black combat boots, and black eyeliner. Perched awkwardly on his couch was a high school acquaintance, an even more distant high school acquaintance, and a stranger.
Just when I had given up on my hopes of salvaging this party from the depths of awkwardness, in walked my savior. She wasn’t wearing the Playboy Bunny costume Regina George wore in Mean Girls, but she came with something even more important: People. Baggy-jeans-wearing, alcohol-drinking, possible-friend-material people.
I was ecstatic! Someone put on some music and began handing out our booze. Two coolers later, I was a giggly mess. Our party was a success. When my party savior walked up to me and introduced herself as my gothic friend’s sister, I knew instantly that he had been replaced by a goddess.
For the next year, we were inseparable. Almost every day was spent bargain shopping at the outlet mall, walking the streets downtown and conversing with strangers, and hosting parties for our multitude of new friends. One night we started chatting with two strangers on the street, went to their place and talked until we watched the sun rise. We left the next morning with two new additions to our growing roster of party mates.
My symbiotic bond with my new best friend only ended when I went to university the next fall. Like a true best friend, she helped me move my boxes of kitchen appliances and my 40-inch TV into my dorm room. After the move, she stood in my doorway as the freshmen were being herded from their rooms to the quad for a week of pre-university fun known as “Frosh Week.”
“I’ll call you when I get home.” she mumbled, though we both knew that a new school obviously meant new friends to make and new parties to experience. We kept in touch throughout university, but eventually our lives changed so much that we could barely discuss a topic we both cared about.
Sometimes I think about my best friend the year after high school and all of the fun we had. For a year, she was my sidekick. But after having such a close bond with someone, what happens when you grow apart? Does the relationship end, or does it become a part of you somehow?
Ten years later, I have graduated from university, have a decent job, and (usually) don’t have to hunt the streets to find new friends. The girl who saved my Halloween party may no longer be my best friend, but the lessons she taught me about friendship and being open to others are still there.
By Keisha Toney