She had this dirty blonde uncombed hair, and was wearing a plaid wool skirt and combat boots. In August. I wanted to be her friend. I can’t remember how our friendship came about. Most probably in the awkward ham-fisted way I begin most of my friendships: “You’re [enter desirable characteristic here]. Let’s hang out.”
At least once a week, that was her plea for me to grow an afro. She was working on locking her hair, but would always tell me how she wished her hair could grow “up.” (“Please?! Seriously! It would be awesome. Come on *huge grin* do it for the white girl.”) My refusal to let her live vicariously through my follicles was deemed selfish.
When she bought her first car (a 1976 Skyhawk), we ditched school perpetually (every class except English, and – oddly enough – Russian History). Mushroom Records, Ted’s FrosTop, The Fly, and Taco Bell were the preferred destinations. My senior year was the most tumultuous, since that was the year my mother’s health really began to decline. My mornings and evenings were dedicated to setting up for nurses, cooking dinner, cleaning and church. She worked not one, but two jobs on evenings and weekends.
I had plenty of friends who I would have considered “closer” at the time, but when I think of the best times of that year she was right there. We’d trade stories loaded with events far too heavy for our adolescent selves to rightfully carry. Climbing into that old Buick and blasting 90s alternative and punk was the only real opportunity we had to feel like normal 17 year-old girls. Neither of us were terribly preoccupied with sex (though I was the only one of us who still had my v-card). We just wanted to feel like kids.
In high school, you think your friends will always be there. You’ve been young forever, so forever is the only concept you truly understand. I saw her once after high school. And that’s it.
It’s weird when people impact your life in such a way, then vanish. I’ve searched for her here an there over the years, but no luck. Not through high school friends or Facebook. She’s just in the ether. I like to think that I’m “okay” after Katrina, but when people just disappear, avoiding morbid thinking is hard. So I try to think positively. She’s married somewhere in the Midwest, to a big, strapping corn-fed husband and a couple of kids. She’s still wearing combat boots and refusing to brush her hair. Everyone has that thing they can’t bear losing. My thing is hope.
When I moved here, I decided that finding a new stylist to relax my hair was my line in the expatriate sand. I’d been toying with the idea of going natural for years. As I looked in mirror and weighed my options, I thought, “Maybe Sherie was right. An afro would be awesome.” As the sections of shorn hair fell around my face, I couldn’t help but giggle and think about her.
Even now, when I’m choosing whether to go for ringlets or a blow out, I hear her voice in the background. Come on. Do it for the white girl. On those days I reach for my pick and style the afro that you guys seem to love so much, thinking about my friend smiling the whole while. I bet she loves Nebraska.