Crunch Wrap Supremes and Frenemies

It started with a homemade Crunch Wrap Supreme. I left a comment on Lucy’s Instagram picture and within minutes we had exchanged phone numbers and began texting as if it hadn’t been fourteen years since we had last seen one another. A quick hit on the fast forward button and we would be equally worried if we hadn’t heard from one another in two days. She lives in Raleigh, North Carolina with her wife Lisa. I live in Louisville, Kentucky with my dog Gigi. The more we communicated, the more curious I became at what made us frenemies in years long past.

We attended middle school and high school together, graduating in 2003. After ninth grade, we transferred from a conservative private school with uniforms and a lust for field hockey, to another private school with liberal clothing standards, where students could sign out to eat lunch at restaurants downtown, and more famously, smoke cigarettes openly.

My memory is a bit blurry, but I do remember the day I found out she would be transferring schools with me. I had been at the conservative school since the second grade, and due to a youthful melancholy and a grade of disheartening classmates, I wanted to move forward. Lucy had transferred in during the seventh grade, and I remember bits and pieces of us in minor social settings, even bonding over a mutual teenage affection for Ben Affleck.

Lucy and I played softball and field hockey together, although we didn’t actively hang out with one another. She was attractive and popular and had this air of unproblematic youth. She was in with the in-crowd, while I was stuck somewhere in the middle. I was surprised when I heard we were both transferring to the same school, her unhappiness didn’t wear on her face the way it did mine.

Ninth grade was my pitfall. I had cut off my hair and cried for a week because I was convinced I looked like a boy. I vaguely remember a popular boy telling me I looked like Patrick Swayze. So, I began to wear makeup and bought a bottle of Manic Panic hair dye at the local record store. Ninth grade got so bad I remember at one point my father coming into my bedroom and having a kind of heart to heart, leading him to ask me if I actually wanted to die. I wish I remembered the context of this conversation better, but I can’t forget those words. I was probably listening to Hole’s Live Through This a lot. I had been prescribed Zoloft in the eighth grade.  

My flight from Louisville connected through Baltimore and that’s when I began to get nervous as if I were preparing for a first date. I was wearing a long cotton gray dress with white tie-dyed lines climbing the dress, resembling the rings of a ladder. I wore a brown belt with a turquoise fascinator slightly under my breasts to make the dress appear more fitted. My sandals were brown and new, a mistake realized upon walking feverishly throughout the Baltimore airport to get to make my next gate. My heels were angry and blistered, the rouge color indicating I find somewhere nearby to obtain a small first aid kit.

On the flight into Raleigh, I wondered how many people would spontaneously travel to see someone for the first time in fourteen years. Someone they only knew now through the lens of social media and hashtags, rather than yearbook pictures. The trip began to form into a promise. Now that we were different people, fully formed humans, we were less breakable. More self-assured.

I arrived in Raleigh around ten at night. The airport was quiet, the air exhausted from a full day of walkers and runners. The overhead lighting was bright and fierce, almost demanding my attention. I was awake and walking towards the baggage claim. I thought about the way the cold sweetness of a margarita would taste going down my throat. The texture of the salt on my lips. The carousel made the large sound announcing the bags were on their way. I stood, waiting to spot the red bandana I had tied to the handle of my black luggage.

I took my luggage upstairs to the guestroom and kicked off my shoes. Back downstairs, I stood on the hardwood floor and was offered a glass of wine. This seemed so surreal, I mentioned. It would continue to feel that way throughout the long weekend. In the corner of the living room, next to the sliding glass door there stood a cage with a navy-blue blanket covering most of it. There were sharp, piercing squawks coming from underneath the blanket. The bird’s name was Jay, after The Great Gatsby. A small parrot breed. His coat was a striking yellow, with trims of red and green.

A bottle of vodka was opened by Lucy’s wife Lisa, who kept referring to the liquor as Gay Vodka. The bottle was decorated in an iridescent rainbow aesthetic, a limited edition celebrating LGBTQ rights. Love Wins. I was chasing vodka shots with white wine, the shot glasses rarely reaching empty. The taste was fruity and sweet, a fragrant drinkable perfume. My head was going to hurt in the morning, but we were together and committing a celebration.

In the morning, Lucy and I would wake up early because I had asked specifically if we could make the drive to Wilmington, North Carolina. It was where they used to film the beloved 90’s teen soap Dawson’s Creek, an almost religious anecdote of my teenage years. My mission that weekend was already one of youthful transference, and therefore decided I would approach with full steam ahead.

The trip on the road would take us a little over two hours. My head was still drowning in a vodka hangover, barely keeping it together and sipping on a McDonald’s Diet Coke. Rolled down windows and cigarettes, together we discussed the names and lives of people we once knew. Perhaps the most meaningful conversation that would transpire during the car ride, and the rest of the weekend, would be of fallen friendships.

The road was gray and flat. The sky a thick baby blue, no clouds. Trees stacked high with their green leaves lined the highway for over a hundred miles. We both discussed the significant exits we’ve made over the last few years, a youthful arrogance penetrating the air at 70 miles per hour.

It was a Saturday during Memorial Day weekend at Wrightsville Beach. As we got closer to the beach, the windows were rolled down and the smell of salt and sand swam onto our skin. The water was glowing, almost smiling. People sitting on docks in straw hats, thick rope tied to thick wooden stumps on the side of the street. The houses were painted outrageous colors, turquoise or burnt orange. Their driveways were empty and mocking. Families in SUVs waiting with fervor. Driving through what seemed an endless neighborhood of houses with porches stacked like pancakes. Realizing if we did find somewhere to park, we still didn’t have sunscreen. We drove around for an hour with the beach just out of reach. Knowing when to admit defeat, we gave up in search of substance.  

We turned away and went to an oyster restaurant in downtown Wilmington, less than ten miles away. Though neither of us ordered oysters, we sipped on cold draft beers. Lucy ordered a salad, and I choose a chicken sandwich. We sat on the weathered gray dock overlooking the water. Not too far away, there was an aquamarine colored bridge with cars crossing to the other side. This was the restaurant used during the last season of Dawson’s Creek, working as the restaurant for the character Pacey Witter. This gave me a small thrill I couldn’t easily ignore. The sun was warm and humid, and it felt good to be out of the car, letting the water breath fresh air onto our legs and into our lungs. There was a walkway on the dock, our table separated by thick, black weathered rope tied to wooden poles across the length of the dock.

The sun was high and rude when we left the restaurant. We walked back up the hill towards the car, which had been parked in a neighborhood filled with houses with wrap around porches and high windows. The drive through downtown Wilmington was quick and filled with tourists. There was an art fair taking up a block, cars stopping to let people cross the street. Our next destination was finding the filming location for Dawson’s house. It was a few miles outside of town and led me to consider how they had managed to locate this house nearly twenty years ago. We took a right onto a quiet road that seemed occupied with neighbors and shadows. There was a fork in the road and a line of black mailboxes on the right side of the gravel road. A black and white sign indicated it was a private driveway. We sat in the car overlooking the driveway. The road was long and narrow and shaded, with lines of light stretching across the way. Did we dare? Would I be willing to go to jail for this? Slowly, we began to drive down. My heart was racing, beating in time with the thought of getting caught. We passed a house on the left, and on the right. We stopped again, at another bend and considered how committed I was to taking a picture of a house from a show that ended the same year we graduated from high school. Just ahead I could make out the head of the silver-blue water and could picture the secluded houses without having to trespass any further. We turned around and drove slowly back up the driveway which was unable to acquire more than one vehicle. Two hours later, we were back in Raleigh and exhausted from missed opportunities.

“9/11 was fucked up, but Human Centipede really takes the cake.”
“It takes a special kind of person to know who Brandon Sexton III is.”
These drunk conversation pieces perhaps seem out of context but are in fact the warmth of friendly hearts. The glue we need to remind ourselves that we can still find comfort in one another.

Sunday morning. I went downstairs to drink French Press coffee and watch the Sylvester Stallone movie Cliffhanger with Lisa. I remembered seeing the previews for this movie when I was a child and for some reason, the image of Sly Stone hanging on to the side of a cliff retained in my memory. There is another strange memory of purchasing said movie on VHS as a gift to an old boyfriend. Here I was in May of 2017 finally watching a Hollywood misfire that had contained my emotional curiosity for so many years.

Jay was often brought out of his cage in the mornings. I watched as he flew across the room. I admired his ability to move through the air delicate and quick. He sat on Lisa’s shoulder, providing an almost nautical presence. He often made me jumpy, his sudden indecisiveness causing my body to react.

Sunday evening. The restaurant was in a large space with white brick and a high ceiling. To the left was a brewery, minimal and clean. Everything was new. The drink menu specializing in picking out a beer or wine according to their hierarchy of adjectives. To the right, was the restaurant with dim lighting, and handcrafted wooden tables. In the middle, behind the hostess stand, taking in the open air was a small bookshop and an in-house florist. On the back wall of the restaurant, there were several shelves lined with the restaurant’s library.

After dinner, we drove to another restaurant that had the words Don’t Forget Kindness on the windows. The interior was dark, moody. The furniture was red. A modern Southern diner with cocktails. It was after ten in the evening, the smell in the air was hot and pungent. My friends each ordered a glass of wine, while I ordered a margarita. The glass was sweating, sticking to the white cocktail napkin that was absorbing moisture and falling apart. My drink was too sweet, a side effect of too much sour mix.  We headed back home after we finished our drinks.

Monday. Memorial Day. I woke up with the sun, bright and soaking through the thin, white curtains. Naked as a jaybird, I lightly smelled of sweat. After a quick shower and a few articles of clothing, I walked downstairs in my bare feet for a cup of French press coffee. Jay was out of his cage and present. He watched with curious eyes as I discarded the used coffee grinds and began brewing a fresh pot. I felt he could sense my reluctance to provide a perching shoulder. The rest of the morning was slow and easy.

In the afternoon, Lucy and I would be drinking lukewarm beer standing hip deep in an infinity pool. The backyard an oasis of outdoor activity. The pool was connected to a hot tub, surrounded by cement frogs. To the right of the pool was a brick pizza oven with a grill attached on the other side. To the left sat a circle of plastic chairs surrounding a fire pit. There were classic rock songs coming from the television that was hung on the wall underneath the roof of a dining area. I would get out of the pool when I needed a fresh beer and a slice of watermelon. The juice was sweet and warm, refreshing to my summer skin. Later that evening back at their home, we grilled dinner and watched a movie. I would be leaving the next day, heading back to a place I called home. A place where Lucy and I once knew each other as young and misinformed.

It was a Tuesday afternoon, and the airport was mostly empty. The white light followed me to my gate, never quite letting me out of the spotlight. My travel would be easy and light. A two-hour layover in Baltimore calling for cold beers.

It was dinner time when the plane touched ground in Louisville. The sky was burnt orange and a soft yellow, getting ready to disappear. The weekend had given me cause to consider how much we ever really know about someone else, and the ability for human change. There is an overlooked admiration for those who know who they are and recognize their ability to face it. This tends to come from a place where strength forms from struggle, leading to a kind of self-awareness that cannot be taught. Neither Lucy or I were who we thought each other to be, and I believe there’s something to be said for defying expectations. We should do it more often.  

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