…Continued from Tuesday
One evening, in my early 20’s I received an unexpected letter from a long lost neighbor..
Now I don’t say “friend”, because at the time I received the letter from her, we weren’t friends, we were more estranged acquaintances who happened to also be former neighbors and high school classmates.
Kate had fascinated me when we were younger, she was fully immersed in the grunge scene, she went to “shows”, and talked about musicians I didn’t really follow. She smoked, and wore way more makeup than I was allowed to wear. When we got to high school she was friends with the cool kids, and knew all the gossip about the popular kids, and would spout it knowingly when she’d ever so generously give me the occasional ride to school. We had some friends in common, but did not hang out in the same crowds. She was a year ahead of me, like all of my friends were, and lived a couple houses down from me, so we were neighborhood friends; not at-school friends.
My fondest memory of us together, was watching the Mariners clinch their birth in the American League Championship Series ’95, over a her house. It was a week night I think, and school had just started, the sun was barely still up, it was still warm outside. The whole city was electric that night, and we had to be a part of it, of the biggest Mariners win of our lives! We piled our 14 year old selves into the back of her dad’s Subaru wagon and drove around Wallingford honking and screaming, exhaulting in the success of our boys who refused to lose. It was magical, and for me, bonded us in a very special way.
Flash forward, eleven years later; past high school, and college, and the earnest beginnings of our adult lives. Kate and I are no longer speaking, I’m not sure where she’s living anymore, and our lives have moved on. I moved away from our street after high school, and without Burke Avenue, we really had nothing to say.
Okay, so back to this surprise letter, this communiqué from nowhere.
I read that letter, those words I had never expected, and had no idea that the girl who lived on the edges of my life, cool in her faux fur jacket, neighbor down the street, had been the perpetrator of a terrible betrayal.
I was floored.
When I was a junior in high school I had a boyfriend, we were in love. It was a make out by the lockers, call each other every night, go to parties on the weekends, kind of love–Legit for 16. By the time the senior prom arrived we had been dating the whole school year, and we wanted to go. Now, it wasn’t “my prom” because at our school it was just a senior prom, and I was just a junior, and my boyfriend was a sophomore. Hey, don’t judge, he was super tall. But, we had a work around for the whole “senior” thing. All of my friends, literally all of them, were seniors, so it wasn’t just that I wanted to go to prom with my boyfriend, I wanted to celebrate the end of high school with all of my friends. And it was totally doable without breaking the rules. Several of my friends were taking dates from outside our school, but one of my friends had been asked by another senior at our school. So, if asked, those two could be our dates: Two seniors with two underclassmen was no problem, par for the course. We were in the clear, full steam ahead for dress buying, limo renting, and dinner reservations.
I was so excited. What a night it would be! Something great to remember with all of my friends! Plus, there was all this swirl. Were we, or weren’t we? It’s prom you know! You’ve been dating ALL year! It’s prom night!! We had a plan to stay at a friend’s house afterwards. This night was shaping up to be epic!
It couldn’t have been a week before, I get called down to the activities office, to talk to the activities coordinator.
Imagine Rozz from Monsters Inc, but six feet tall with a 90’s perm, and sneer telling you she had zero fucks to give.
That was Ms. Johnson.
So I go to see her, and as I walk down the hall towards her, and see the glint in her eye, I know something’s wrong. She raises her sweaty brows at me and asks, “So I hear you’re trying to go to the senior prom?”
I stare blankly at her, my heart in my throat, my face hot like I’ve been caught stealing. She goes on to explain to me, that the Senior prom is for Seniors, and that I’ll have my chance next year. I stood there, pleading with her, crying, saying that I didn’t care about next year, that this was it! This was the year I could go with all my friends, and my boyfriend, that this was the prom I wanted! She had already decided. I was out. She said my boyfriend and I would be on a list at the door and if we tried to get in we’d be kicked out, and there would be further hell to pay with her, if she heard about any such attempts by us to go.
I was devastated. Who had told on me, and why would they do that?! I went to all my friends and asked, nobody had any idea what had happened, or why. There was nothing we could do.
Matt and I still got dressed up, took pictures on my porch, and went out to dinner with everybody before prom, and then went to the movies while everybody else was at the dance. It was not the night I had planned. We stayed over that night at our friend’s place, but it was not the after-prom party all the “Can’t Hardly Wait’s” and “American Pie’s” had promised me. I had been flattened, my fun balloon deflated by a mystery joy-stealer.
I didn’t get the prom I wanted, the prom I should have had, all because someone had been petty and mean and small enough to take it away from me.
I had never known who did it, or why. It was just something that happened, that ruined what was to be a very special time in my life, until the day I got that letter.
Kate. A letter from Kate. I opened the letter, and looked it over, and saw how long it was, and knew it must be serious. She apologized for turning me into Ms. Johnson, and I remember she used the word “castigate”, which I was very impressed with at the time. She was sorry she had castigated me, called me out, singled me out. She recognized what she had done was wrong, and she explained what feelings had made her do it, and what had changed and why she was sorry. It wasn’t just a letter asking for forgiveness, for a past wrong, it was a letter explaining that she learned why it was so shitty, and how she hadn’t seen it for herself at the time. She had learned what she had done was wrong, and she was sorry.
I was flabbergasted. I had to call my mom, and my best friend, and freak out a little bit. It had been some years, but it was still the greatest mystery in my life solved. Kate did it! Holy crap! My life and time with her flashed in and out of focus before my eyes, through this new lens. Had I always known she was so unhappy? All her talk and flaunting about hanging out with the cool kids; she was never in with them. She was always on the outside looking in, trying so hard, but always being left out. I had things she didn’t have, I had a best friend, I had a boyfriend, and at that moment in time it was too much for her, and she had to take some of it away from me. It was quite a revelation.
I wrote her back, and thanked her for her apology and for her honesty, and I wrote that I forgave her. Our friendship restarted in earnest over email that day. Our trust began to grow little by little, as we invited one another back into each other’s lives. We each invited the other to some parties in the coming years, and we got to know each other all over again. She did my makeup for my wedding in 2012, and has become one of the most genuine people I know. We are no longer just old neighborhood acquaintances; through forgiveness, we are new friends who have created a new friendship together.
Guest blogger Molly is passionate about bringing justice and joy to people through her work in music and social services.