My most vivid memories of my friendships are after the age of five. But, so far as childhood friendships go, one in particular is most memorable. Mostly because it wasn’t really a friendship – more of a tolerance.
Kay appointed me as her best friend. I didn’t really like her. She would come over my house, and totally “Eddie Haskel” my mother.
“Hello Missess Stevens, I picked these flowers just for you! Can Molly come out and play?” Smiling, batting big, innocent eyes.
“Of course, honey!” The traitor!
Play would inevitably turn into something I didn’t like. It would go down some avenue I didn’t care to skip, hop, or jump. Kay was unpredictable and dangerous. For a kid – that is NOT good. But she was persistent. And I was usually bored. And, oh my GOD! She was relentless. Kay would always have some new thing, some new story to tell, something to pique my interest. And I would cave.
One time, she came over with a brown lunch bag of candy. Picture this: me, my little brother, my little sister, marching in form behind her like she was the pied piper, obeying her every command; only to be rewarded with a very small piece of old, sticky ribbon candy from Christmas. (It was July!)
And oh, the stories! Outlandish and unbelievable. Yet she insisted I believe her, employing whatever weakness she could detect in me. I remember very distinctly, one argument going like this:
“I am adopted.”
“No you aren’t, you look too much like your brothers and sisters.”
“Yes I am, go ask my dad.”
“I’m not going to go ask your dad.”
“Then it’s true.”
“No, it’s not. You look exactly like your brother Eddie”
“He’s adopted too. Go ask my dad.”
“I am not going to ask your dad!”
“Then it’s true!”
Her logic, however flawed, was relentless. I would have to give in, change the subject, threaten physical pain, or just go home. She knew I was afraid of her dad, and just wanted me to go and talk to him for some Godforsaken reason. For all I know, Kay’s family thought I was the bully who terrorized their sweet, innocent youngest. Of course, nobody ever witnessed what really went on. I can only imagine the stories she told them about me.
We played cowboys and Indians one time (back when you could call it that). And for some reason I am unable to find in the deep recesses of my brain, I let her to tie me to a tree. Like I said, she was relentless. When she made sure I couldn’t get free, she strangled me.
Around my neck.
Both thumbs gently pushing in that defenseless center.
I probably started crying. I don’t remember. But I do know, there was at least one time I tried to pound the living hell out of her and her older sister stopped me. I guess I was on the war path.
I never trusted Kay after the strangle incident. I even put myself on restriction once, so that I didn’t have to play with her. But, she talked to my mother. That may have worked had I let my mom in on it. But then again, probably not.
Add a few years and puberty? I grew up with an inability to navigate friendships well. I was a bona fide people pleaser. February 19, 1979, (I looked it up) we had the snow storm of the century. Who wouldn’t want to take a walk into town – two and a half feet of snow! Who were we meeting? Where were we going? Who cares! SNOW!!!
My dad couldn’t go to work. No one could go anywhere until they could plow the roads. My boyfriend Ray was out-of-town on his class trip at White Tail. Skiing. When presented with the option to either stay home with both parents or take a walk on the wild side, I didn’t question the agenda. So off we went. We met up with Kay’s friend Nicole at the corner of Powder Mill and Route 1.
Kay would be 16 in the fall that year, I was turning 17 in a month. After a few failed attempts at getting an adult to buy alcohol for minors, we hitch-hiked all the way down to College Park. Kay and Nicole implored a leathery old man to buy them a bottle of Southern Comfort. Had she told me up front what the plan actually was, I would have stayed home in my room alone.
Nicole’s boom box tattled our tale, blasting “Running with the Devil,” as we hiked back up Route 1, the fifth of sweet whiskey in a brown paper bag. We landed at the smallest apartment I had ever seen. It was the top floor of an old, white, two-story house. The couch took up most of the hallway they called the living room, which was a whopping six feet wide. The kitchen was off the right end of the hall-room, I didn’t care to investigate further. What a dump!
Kay and Nicole proceeded to down that bottle. I was sticking to the promise I made to Ray, that I would not smoke or drink with Kay. (At this point, she was the only friend who pressured me to do this). His opinion of me, made me. He was more important than air to me. I wasn’t about to fail this test and suffer the consequences I had before. (He did not kiss me when I had dragon-smoke breath, he knew Kay’s antics, and I simply could not lie.)
Each pass of the bottle, Kay pressured me to drink.
“Awww! It’s so sweet that you obey your boyfriend while he’s away skiing with all those high school snow bunnies!”
“Drink dammit! Or I’ll kick your ass!”
“I love you, Molly! You’re the besss frind in the hole worl!”
She couldn’t shake me. I studied the plot lines of day-time television with studious intent. I was stuck. The thought of walking all the way home by myself started looking better with each pass of the bottle.
And each pass of the bottle, took on the classic sequence.
The “we’re bad-ass” stage: Yeah, Darla’s such a bitch, I’ll kick HER ass!
The angry bonding stage: I’ll kick anyone’s ass who messes with MY friends.
The completely faced stage: Crying, slurring, I love you guys forever!
Nicole’s parental unit, (not certain if she was a mother or an older sister) finally kicked us out. The alcohol was retarding Kay’s speech and movement. She tried to light the wrong end of her cigarette. After I pointed that out, she turned it around, lit up. The cigarette was doomed. Slim Virginia didn’t last the flight of steps down and out of the apartment.
Outside, in broad 2:00 pm daylight, Nicole decided to pee. To keep the people driving by on Route 1 from seeing her, she pulled her pants down and made yellow snow in between a parked car and the apartment building. I waved back at the young kids pointing and laughing from the ground floor window. Nicole was oblivious. Kay, who could not get any traction in her genuine Frye cowboy boots, slipped and fell down in slow, drunken-motion. The snow beneath her turned yellow as she gasped for air in between peels of hysterical laughter and donkey-honks. We were all laughing. Then the gravity of the situation set in.
We had about a mile to walk home. Nicole couldn’t come with us. That walk home was not gonna happen. I helped Nicole get Kay back to the apartment. Nicole could either hold her liquor better, or Kay did the lion share of the drinking. Nicole called Kay’s parents.
My time here was done. Facing the wrath that awaited Kay, scared me more than the walk home by myself. It seemed to only take a minute.
When wrath is due, you can rest assured it will find its way to you.
First Kay’s sister came over to ask me what she had taken. They feared it was more than just sickly sweet 100 proof alcohol. I told them she split a fifth of Southern Comfort with Nicole and that I was unaware of anything else.
The next time her dad saw me, I got the full-on, volume all the way to ten, Fred Flintstone – finger pointing and everything – shaming me for leaving my friend behind. She could have died! It was bad enough to deal with my Fred yelling at me. The last thing I needed was someone ELSE’s Fred yelling at me. I hated Kay. I stopped doing anything with her after that.
And no, I was not a good friend. No, I did not have good character. At 16, good character happens to people who are not invisible as children. I had no clue what to do with someone like Kay. I had absolutely no sense of loyalty. Nobody had my back – why should I have anyone else’s? ESPECIALLY someone like Kay who ran thoughtlessly, headlong into trouble, on purpose, with no cares about consequences of getting caught! I could not for the life of me wrap my head around it. My only guess is, that was her way of getting attention. Negative attention from adults was the LAST thing I wanted.
It took a promise to someone I valued as much as life itself to help me stand up for myself.
That promise to Ray very well may have saved my life. I have discovered years later Who really saved my life. I will be writing, (hopefully soon), my theories on misplaced worship.
NOTE: Obviously, I changed the names in this story. Not sure why. Anyone who knows me well, knows who these people are.