At sixteen, I was fumbling through the hormonal turmoil and self-induced drama of life in a dusty little town that was far smaller than my ambitions. The town consisted of a few modest homes, a doctor’s office, two mini-marts and a couple of taverns, the suburbs of another only slightly larger country town in western Oregon. My home was a rusty old trailer house, its fragile outer shell peeling away from the crusty rivets that pockmarked its discolored surface. I shared the trailer house with my ailing mother and loving but strict grandmother, in conditions that drove my daily promise:
“I don’t want to live like this forever. I will get out of this godforsaken town and make something of myself someday. I will break this cycle of hopelessness and forge my own path.”
Amber: It’s not just the fact that Roshell is outspoken and can be brutally honest, honest to the point where sometimes you just wish she would keep her mouth shut. It’s more than that. I can trust her with anything.
While I tend to be the type to just kind of hang out along the fringes people watching, you can bet that Roshell will be right smack in the middle of whatever is going on, instigating, conspiring and cheering on a good time. She is so outgoing that even when I feel nervous or shy in a situation, I usually find myself forgetting all inhibitions as Roshell steamrolls her way through any and all barriers, and before I know it, I’m totally immersed into whatever scenario we’ve found ourselves in.
I gave a quick spray of flowery perfume and patted the stiff bangs that stood up straight in a style comprehended only by those of us who actually lived through the early nineties. A hairstyle that required a minimum of fifteen minutes of teasing, curling, and more teasing until the bangs were feathered and vertical, shellacked with enough hairspray to be considered a weapon. With one last look, I decided I was happy with the result.
“Yes! A good hair day! I’m outta here!” So, it would be a good day, I mused snatching up my ratty secondhand backpack and racing out the front door to catch the bus. I firmly believed that the tone of a teenage girl’s day was always set by how well her hair behaved. A great hair day could have her feeling sassy and almost confident while a bad hair day… well, look out.
I needed a good hair day because after school my best friend, Amber and I were heading to the Friday night High School football game, then spending the night at Amber’s house. It was a big deal since I wasn’t usually allowed to join in most of the social events that my peers participated in. Being raised by a devoted grandma who was set in her old-fashioned ways was pretty strict business and usually devoid of anything that even resembled a good time.
Mount Pleasant, Oregon, was benefitting from an Indian summer. Though it was the end of September, the evening had that wonderful between-season feel. The air was still warm to the touch, but in the light breeze there was the hint of the fall that was to come. A pungent yet crisp scent filled the air. It was the scent of autumn leaves as they turn vivid reds and oranges before they wither, die and loosen their hold on the trees.
I took in a deep breath as I strolled alongside Amber, heading to the game, golden leaves crunching beneath our feet.
We had formed our tight friendship at a crucial point in eighth grade. The previous year, Amber’s “bestie”, Holly, had the audacity to drop her for a new girl. At the beginning of eighth grade, I had just moved to Mount Pleasant Middle School and quickly made friends with Mandy, but that friendship burned out as Mandy sought Courtney to be her new bestie.
I was always baffled by the way girls my age swapped their best friend forever about as often as some boys changed their dirty socks. Friendship, to me, was a sacred thing. It was about having a confidante to share secrets with. It was someone who would never laugh at your dreams, or tease you when she discovered who your newest crush was. Someone who liked you no matter what type of house you lived in or how much money your family had, or rather didn’t have.
[caption id="attachment_58" align="alignleft" width="244" caption="Michelle Bellon"][/caption]It began when we were both invited to Mandy’s birthday party. It was co-ed, so guaranteed to be a blast. The party swung into full speed. Mandy cranked up the music and we danced. I was bursting at the seams to show off my moves to the New Kids On The Block hit.
In the middle of some intense gyrations in the center of the living room floor, I decided to end the number with flair by sliding down into the splits. A ripping sound cut through the song’s closing chords. My eyes bulged and my throat tightened as I realized that I had just split the seam of my jeans. Jumping up, I reached behind, fearing the worst. To my horror I detected cotton panties in plain view through the butt of my ripped pants. Holy mother of…
With a sharp intake of breath I clapped my hand over my mouth. “Oh, my god!” And then I did what I always do when in a mortifyingly embarrassing situation. I began to laugh hysterically. To my dismay, so did everyone else in the room. My body went hot with humiliation and my mind went blank.
Fortunately, Amber was smart enough to assess the situation and took matters into her own hands. She untied the sweatshirt from her waist, wrapped it around mine and guided me to a back bedroom down the hallway.
“Come on, don’t worry about it,” Amber whispered and closed the door. “I have a spare pair of jeans in my backpack.”
“Oh, yeah, right! I just gave everyone out there at least three Seinfeld episodes’ worth of jokes and entertainment at my expense. I will never live this down.” I buried my face in my hands wishing for escape as a strangled giggle escaped from deep in my throat.
“Sure you will. Just go out and let them rib you for a few minutes so they’ll get it out of their systems. Meanwhile, do what you just did. Laugh with them, brush it off and act like it’s no big deal, and then so will they.” Her words, said with such confidence, made me feel calmer, more centered. I took in a cleansing breath, thanked Amber and slipped into the jeans before we rejoined the party.
Of course it worked out just the way Amber had predicted. I was relieved and grateful. Proven friends, we hung out for the remainder of the party and were inseparable from that point on.