I decided not to like her the moment we met.
Her appearance completely clashed with my shallow friendship guidelines. I didn’t want to be seen with a pint sized brunette that wore studded belts with giant mouth shaped buckles and said insanely inappropriate things at inappropriate times. I didn’t want the other servers to dislike me either. I had a lot of bad habits at that time, but being a people pleaser was perhaps my worst. The girls that looked like “my kind” called her weird, though they had no problem laughing at her antics.
She didn’t seem to care that the female staff didn’t want much to do with her. She smiled, did the robot or the worm across the floor, flashed the kitchen boys, and went about her business. Occasionally I would have a section next to hers and watching and listening to her handle her tables was a learning experience. I’d been a waitress before, and I was a good one, but she could wipe the floor with me. By the time a group finished eating they weren’t just her customers, they were her friends, and they would come back and ask for her again and again.
Most of the serving staff was over 21 or damn near, but I’d only just turned 18. There was a bar right around the corner owned by a lecherous foreign guy that would let us in no questions asked. It became a ritual: Work till around 10-12, get off, sometimes change clothes, go to the bar with the others, get wasted, and go home around dawn. She never came with us, though I’m sure the guys probably invited her.
One Sunday morning, after a particularly rough all-nighter at the bar, I decided to call in to work. I was living alone at the time and hadn’t yet gotten a phone hooked up, so I drove the five minutes into town and called my manager from a payphone to beg off.
There were two managers, Brad and Ronnie. Brad was the GM and though he could be fun and had a mouth like a sailor, he didn’t tolerate any bullshit. Ronnie, on the other hand, was a lackadaisical pot head that liked to hide in the staff bathroom and smoke. If we ever needed anything while he was in charge, we had to hunt him down...follow the smell, as it were. They would both go out drinking with us occasionally.
I knew that I couldn’t use the “I’m sick” excuse because they were all well aware that I hadn’t left the bar until 6am. So when Brad answered, I said the first thing I could think of, “Dude, my car won’t start.”
“What the fuck!”
He bitched and moaned at increasing volume and I held the phone away from my ear.
“I had to walk to the payphone to call and tell you.”
After a few more seconds of swearing, he suddenly became quiet. I was terrified that he was going to fire me, but instead he shouted “RACHEL!”
“Rachel, can you go pick Alyson up? Her car won’t start!”
I heard a chirpy “Sure!” and then Brad said to me, “Here! Give Rachel directions to your house, she’s coming to pick you up!”
“But Brad”, I stuttered, “I live over half an hour away...”
“Can’t be that far”, he boomed, and handed the phone to her.
I reluctantly gave the girl I’d pretty much managed to avoid, until that moment, directions to my house. I warned her that it was a “long way”, but she said she was ok with that. I hung up, heaved a great sigh, and drove back home to get ready. In reality it was a 25 minute drive, but I was hoping she’d get lost. Most people did.
She made it in no time at all. I answered the door, said a sullen hello, and plopped down on the couch to put on my sneakers. She stood in the doorway and silently looked around. I was just finishing with the knot on my second shoe when she said, “There’s nothing wrong with your car, is there?”
I stared at her and she stared back, a small smile on her face. It was plainly obvious that I was miserably hungover so rather than deny it, even though I wasn’t yet sure of what she’d do with the information, I simply said, “No.”
Her grin got a little bigger, but all she said was “Ok”.
I grabbed my purse and apron and followed her out the door. She had a black Dodge Neon and I had a blue one, though hers was covered in band stickers and the like. We climbed in, she started the car, and heavy metal came blasting out of the speakers. I winced and she immediately turned it down, but even at low volume the squealing and wailing was enough to make my head pound.
I was trying to decide if I should suggest she turn it off or switch it to a pop friendly radio station, but I was worried that either option would be met with a disagreeable reaction. If we turned the radio off, the silence would be awkward; we’d have nothing to talk about. And the pop station route might make her laugh at me. Whether I liked someone or not, I still didn’t want them laughing at me and I had a feeling she would.
While I was having this internal battle she was pulling out of my driveway. My stomach growled. I hadn’t had time to eat before I left. Some people can’t eat when they’re hungover. I HAVE to. Even if it makes me feel worse.
I don’t know if she heard my stomach chewing on itself or not, but she turned toward me and said, “Hey, do you wanna go to Wendy’s?”
She was smiling at me in a mischievous way and I understood what she meant before she even explained. I grinned back at her. “Hell yes.”
And then we had an actual conversation. We talked about work, my hangover, how hungry we were, and the story we’d tell Brad when we returned. She would claim that she got lost on the way there and as added ammunition I would throw in that I had tried to tell him it was a long drive to begin with.
We went through the Wendy’s drive through and she surprised me again. “Let’s take this to the park.”
We sat on picnic benches, ate our food, and talked some more. She was funny and smart and completely different from what I imagined her to be. By the time we got to work I was ashamed of myself for the way I’d treated her before. I’d deliberately avoided her because of what she looked like and what other people said. I’d never thought of myself as a snob until that moment.
We were so late to work that I think we only had one table a piece before we left again. Poor Brad. We had a good laugh over his exasperation.
I continued to go out with the other people from work, but I started talking to Rachel a lot more. She even started coming to the bar. One of the girls that was supposedly “my kind”, Kelly, moved in with me because I was scared to be alone out in the middle of nowhere. Call it a hormone thing brought on by pregnancy (long story).
And wouldn’t you know it? “My kind” of girl turned out to be a cokehead that threw massive drug parties while I was spending the weekend at my mother’s. I kicked her out the minute I heard about it and found the evidence. (After I, at around 7 months gone, attempted to murder her at work.) Having a father that snorted your grocery and field trip money up his nose has a tendency to make you a little unforgiving in that department.
When I left the restaurant and moved back home, all those girls that I spent my nights partying and hanging out with disappeared. But Rachel didn’t. We talked on the phone and we went to lunch. When they finally induced labor, she was the only person that wasn’t family that I called.
Six years later she’s still the first person I call when anything of importance happens. She’s my daughter’s godmother, a huge part of my immediate family, and the best friend I always needed, yet never knew to ask for.
She is quirky, outspoken, honest, obnoxious, and unfailingly witty. She still wears studded belts with enormous buckles, band t-shirts, and no makeup. She’s shaved her head twice in the six years we’ve been friends – Once because she wanted to and again just recently for a very worthy cause (and she manages to pull it off, like a tiny rocker version of Demi Moore).
She’s an atheist and a self-proclaimed medical research analyst (which is a nice way of saying she’s a hypochondriac that loves Google). Her favorite author is Chuck Palahniuk and she listens to music that makes me cringe. (Yet oddly enough, also loves Britney Spears.) She collects dinosaurs and all of her dance moves are from decades past: the peewee herman, the worm, the sprinkler, etc. She’s pretty much what I used to say was the complete opposite of me.
My mother claims I’ve changed since Rachel and I became best friends, that I’m not myself anymore. She says I’m more combative and less spiritual. She’s only partially right. I have changed, but I’ve never felt more like myself. And she did that for me. She helped me be honest and original again. Being her friend allowed me to show my quirky, slightly shocking side without fear of ridicule or rejection.
Though I realized we have a good bit in common, we each have our own distinct role in the relationship. And, make no mistake, it is a relationship. (There’s nothing sexual about it, though we did make out once when we were shitfaced drunk.) She’s the dependable to my flaky, the rock to my rap, the understated elegance to my over-the-top glitz, and the reasonably grounded to my overactive imagining.
After thinking about it, just this moment in fact, it’s a wonder that I can commit myself to this person even platonically for the rest of my life yet in the past committing to a man would be giving in to the masses. We’ve had our arguments and our disputes, and I’m very much the woman in our relationship. I feel out of sorts when she’s angry at me and set out to fix it immediately. Well, unless she’s in the wrong. Which, because she’s clearly the man in our relationship, she never is. (That’s a joke. Sort of.) It’s strange, isn’t it? That women can form a bond that tight with each other and yet shy away from anything else?
My gawd. This post about my best friend has turned me into a raving lesbo.
We’re taking a trip to Alabama this weekend for her cousin’s wedding. Maybe the five hour drive will be a good time to discuss our gender roles. And that talk will be quite appropriate after I first mention that I wrote about our friendship and receive her response, which I’m 99.9% sure I already know.
She’ll flash me a coy grin and say:
“Lesbian! Wanna spoon?”
1 week ago