"Hey! Long time no see!" Some one exclaimed across the street pointing at me.
It was Declan. The kid from middle school who could hit the ball further than anyone in the school, and could make anyone laugh. He was the kid who knew how to paint a story like no one I knew. With such a vibrant perspective he was unforgettable.
His arm was wrapped around the shoulders of a girl who looked really familiar. As I approached them I realized it was Haley, a friend of mine from 3rd grade. She recognized me and squealed, and ran to give me a jumpy little hug which left me stunned.
Haley was the girl had heart to hearts with the 5th graders and never ran around unless she had "digested" for two hours. Slow to answer any question, she was thoughtful and insightful, and made you think.
She pulled away, and asked what scented lotion I was wearing, then to gush about this new store that had simply the best fragrences. She then proceeded to update me on everyone else from our old life, spewing gossip that left Declan cornered out, arms crossed, eyes glazed.
I turned to include him and fill him in, but he was listening to my boobs. His face was rippleless as he stonewalled my voice, attention centered on my chest.
He glanced up and smiled. "She's such a woman isn't she? So gossipy?" A smile teased at his lips.
"I am not!" She pouted, and I wondered where her maturity had gone.
"Look at her, just chirping away. She could knock someone over with endurance!"
She tried to give him a nudge but he jumped back and slapped her ass. She shrieked in a high pitched tone, and then tried to kick him, only to stub her toe and whine about how unfair he was being.
"Such a woman." He smirked.
Haley then began to set the stage for leaving, asking for my number and cooing about all the fun we used to have and how we should see each other again.
I felt like I had just met a new person however, and was convinced he would toss my number away first chance she got.
She suprised me by calling that weekend, and to my surprise we met up Saturday. She suggested we go see a film, but I wanted to talk to her. I was curious to see where my friend had gone.
We ended up walking along the beach, and at first it was the surface chatter like the achievements we had beheld since we'd last seen each other, but quickly I began to see she was unhappy. Slowly bright cheery answers gave way to what was really happening, but then she would believe she was becoming too dreary, and made more effort to entertain me with what she thought I wanted to hear. It wore out after I asked the right questions.
When I reminded her of some of her childhood dreams, she began to choke up and was furious for herself for appearing anything less than absolutely put together. She told me she starved her mind so the boys wouldn't be so overwhelmed and could look her in the eyes. She'd began to do poorly in school because it made people more comfortable. Suddenly she had nothing to talk about. She filled her space time with things girls were sopposed to care about. She researched make up brands and techniques, in styles, and hair products. Then she had things to talk about, and surrounded herself with girls much more experienced in the world of appearance.
She became one of them, and had no way to distinguish herself from her peers, so she plunged further into make up and clothes, adding sexuality with it. She competed with the masses for attention, and after covering her old personality completely, THEN people began to accept her. The less she thought, the less ripples she made, so she stopped fueling her mind and went only outer shell.
At this point she had to go, and we went to meet Declan who offered me a ride. He dropped her off, and I asked him why he didn't tell stories any more.
He said stories didn't make money, and thats what girls wanted. Stories didn't make guy friends, b*tch stories got you guy friends. You got close to the dudes by making fun of women.
He said he got by with that. At least he was still making people laugh. I told him it was laughing with scowls, but he said emotions scared people. It was a volnerable place too personal to talk about, so people didn't. Emotions were feminine. The worst thing in the world was to be compared to the women you were making fun of. He didn't want to be called gay.
He looked at me from under his sideways cap and grinned a grin sopposed to win over the heart of some pretending to be dumb girl, but instead it made him looked trapped. He was more than that, and yet he was severing what he loved for the sake of reputation.
As I stepped from his car I realized how ironic it was he was making fun of the people he wanted to be most like, so he couldn't be like them, and he was making the people he liked most ashamed to be who they were.
And then Haley was trying so hard to please him when he was already impressed that she lost herself and made him believe she was happy with the way he treated her so he would be afraid to change.
As he drove away, I pictured them side by side, each with so much to say and too much fear to utter a word. They could have an amazing relationship if they knew the true person they stood next too, and yet because they were afraid to bend that shallow relationship it could never grow depth and strengthen, and be what they really wanted.
By shutting off what their minds needed to grow so they could please others, they weren't actually pleasing others, and were making themselves miserable in the process.
As I walked away I wondered how I had changed. I wondered how much I had starved my mind. I looked around, and wondered why we all starve our minds if we all want the same thing: to be a part of something and feel accepted as who we are.