I wrote briefly about painting my legs with oil based paint and getting it all over a friends pool deck (it was more or less that someone else painted them, but I digress…) in a recent post and it reminded me of that very same friend. Her name was Julie and if I remember correctly her mom was Brazilian and her father wasn’t around very much. Come to think of it, neither of her parents were around much…which is how my sister and I spent a very strange summer one year with someone completely unlike us.
Julie went to Public School which gave her instant street cred with my sister and I who at the time had only know the cocoon of St. Coleman’s Catholic School (Go Chargers!!!) and the adorable seersucker smocked dresses and saddle shoes of that time in our lives. (Little did we know one day we would face the harsh realities of a small, quaint, country elementary public school before being released in the real Wild West – a public middle school…). But at the time of meeting Julie, we rolled with the kids who went to school with us and the kids who lived in our neighborhood (who, indecently, also went to school with us).
Julie was long limbed, freckle- faced and very mysterious. She was also rebellious and anti-authority. I knew this specifically because when I mentioned that we should probably ask her mom before we lit incense in her room (the first nine year old I knew that had her own Bic lighter) she exclaimed “no way, I’m anti-authority, man”. Just like Bart Simpson! I couldn’t believe she wanted to hang out with ME.
One day, I watched as she laid down in the street (a side street on a cul-de-sac in a quiet neighborhood with no through streets, but still) and yelled out to no one in particular “Hit me, I need the insurance”! (I didn’t even know what insurance was). I adored her and thought she was clearly the most well-adjusted kid ever. My sister (who from a very young age could identify pretty much anyone’s motives) wasn’t so sure, thinking mostly that Julie needed a little more guidance and saying she was “deranged” after Julie once stuck firecrackers in the mouth of a dead frog, threating to blow him up. My sister turned on her heel and dragged me from the possible bloodbath, saying that “serial killers start out by torturing animals”. “But it was already dead”, I wailed, feigning protest but turning into her shoulder as she led me away. I don’t remember seeing Julie too much after that day. But I have wondered about her.
It’s funny to think of the people in your orbit at various times of your life. Maybe Julie did need a little more attention. Tonight, as I took out the trash after a long day that wore me down a bit, a car approached carefully and a tiny part of me thought of the recklessness of Julie’s “insurance exclamation” in a different light; for the briefest of moments, when she had said it, I sat transfixed and unable to take my eyes off her, giving her exactly what she needed. It’s not until I zoom out again that I can see it all more clearly. There was my sister, just on the periphery, taking it in and seeing my neediness to be accepted by this cool girl and shutting that down immediately, in the only way she knew how. As I pushed down the garbage can lid, I hoped that Julie was somewhere safe doing something very similar.