The names have been changed to protect the innocent.

My friendship was with a girl named Cindy. She was my neighbor through the woods, back in the day when walking through the woods was safe and we weren’t in danger’s path from wolves and rapists. Wendy was my age and she and her family moved out from New York to New Jersey when we were about 5. Her dad was an orthopedist at the local hospital, her mom was stay-at-home and she had a big sister and a little brother exactly my siblings’ ages. She had violently dark red hair and freckles. Cindy and I spent years as friends playing board games, on the swings, swimming and carousing. We had an eccentric neighbor named Mrs Piero. We could go to Mrs. Piero’s door, ring her doorbell and she came to her living room window and threw candy out for us. Mrs. Piero had at least 100 cats and eventually they were taken away from her by Animal Control. We took our small change and walked about a half mile to the Country Store to buy candy, back when a piece of Bazooka was still a penny. We had a third friend in our group, Nicole, who lived directly next door to me. Cindy was a good mate and we had so much fun together but just as much friction. She would decide on a moment’s notice to triangulate and tell Nicole to run away from me, saying “we can’t play with you right now! Go home!” I could not figure out how she learned this meanness, this cruelty. I would go home in tears to tell my mother, and if she weren’t napping, she’d tell me something banal like girls are mean, you’re going to be ok.

By the next day, the phone would ring and we would play again, all forgiven. I’d stand there on my end of the phone call, twisting the white curly cord around and around my fingers. I thought I deserved an apology but Cindy wasn’t the type, she just expected me to get over it and come on back to play Monopoly, dominoes, or Dream Date. That is exactly what I did.

She and I were in the same class when Mr. DiBenedetti taught the Beatles module in 7thgrade. It was epic. For months, we listened to all the Beatles records, wondered if Paul had really died, examined the album covers for clues, and knew that the Walrus was Paul. Cindy told me that I had to have a favorite Beatle and since everyone liked John and Paul the most and she liked George, there was only Ringo left for me. I bought all of his solo albums at the local record shop and played them over and over. To this day, if I hear a Ringo song on the Sirius Beatles channel I just about always change it. He was never my favorite, I just let her tell me what to do because she was a bossy cow and I went along with it. I was a sensitive child and was never mean to anybody. She just ran me around.

My whole family ran me around. Somehow, though my birth order was the same as hers, we had completely different personalities. I was vulnerable to people who told me what to do. I took drugs at people’s prodding, had sex with the wrong guys, all of that. My brother and sister really dominated the household, and although I was “the good girl” and my mother’s favorite, it didn’t do me any good. It just made life harder. Cindy was tough and dominated. I think it pays off.

Cindy and I remained friends until sometime in middle school. By eighth grade our friendship dynamic changed completely because of the combination of two schools which had joined into one in middle school. Other friends came into play like Sherry, who I am still friends with to this day, here in California. She had her 13thbirthday and we went to see Grease and had a sleepover afterwards. I fell in with different girls and Cindy did too. We became Mall Rats right around this time as one of the first indoor malls with a food court had just been completed. We begged for rides to the mall from our parents and went around spending our babysitting money at Spencer’s Gifts or buying ice cream at Farrell’s.

Eventually, Cindy and I stopped calling each other and fell into other groups. She was still on my school bus to high school and in some of my classes. I graduated a year early and she didn’t sign my yearbook. She friended me on Facebook in the last 10 years and frankly, I was really surprised.

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