Friday, January 7, 2011

It Gets Better, Pt. 1

We never forget our first love. For some it comes in high school, or early adulthood. For me, it was the summer before I started 2nd grade.

It was the summer of 1987. Regan was in office. Russia was still Soviet. Guns N' Roses just released their first album. I was still a natural blond. My family had just moved to Littleton from Colorado Springs. My father, fresh out of the Air Force, worked for Martin Marietta (now known as Lockheed Martin) in Waterton Canyon, tucked away into a mountainside. It was better to be in Littleton, closer to his work and it was less expensive to live there.

We moved into a town home complex called Canyon Crest. It was a darling neighborhood: big trees, an open grassy courtyard, a playground with a giant slide, and a swimming pool. Down the street was an Albertsons where we could buy Tootsie Pops for 10¢, a Skate City, and a pet shop where we could buy goldfish for 25¢. Goddard hill was just a stones throw away, a prime location for sledding in the winter. As children, I do believe my brothers and I believed we had arrived in paradise.

The simplicity of making friends was something that never escaped me in my early childhood. I would simply run up to someone and ask them to play. My bullying years were shortly to follow, but as a 7 year old in a new neighborhood, the opportunities to make friends were abundant. There were plenty of children to play with at Canyon Crest. School hadn't started yet, so there was ample time and opportunity to go outside and meet them all, and I will never forget the day I met D.

D was my age. (I call her D to protect her identity, because she has an extremely unique name and though I doubt she or anyone else she knows reads my blog, better to be safe than sued) We were both 7 and soon starting 2nd grade at Centennial Elementary school. I first met her when she was playing catch with some neighborhood boys in the courtyard. I was just walking through the courtyard and I was captivated by this frizzy haired, wide eyed girl who could play with boys so easily. Being the only girl between two brothers, I was used to being told that girls didn't play with boys; D however, broke the social taboo.

I stood by one of the trees and watched for a long time. They laughed and tossed the ball back and forth, occasionally missing or marveling and celebrating when they caught an impossible toss. I remember being completely mesmerized by this scene, until D called out to me.

"Hey wanna play catch with us?"

I couldn't believe she was talking to me. That was the first time I remember feeling too uncool to hang out with someone; the start of my terminal uncoolness. Without waiting for me to answer she tossed the dirty tennis ball to me and much to my surprise I actually caught it. She cheered and smiled at me, a smile I'll never forget: she was missing her front tooth, and her whole face crinkled, almost like someone who was older.

I don't remember the boys; not their names, faces, anything. All I remember is playing catch with D for hours, and telling her where I was from and about my two brothers. She told me about her much older brother, and that she lived with her mother and blind Grandmother. Her mother was twice divorced: her birth father was abusive, so her Mom had left him and her second husband died of a heart attack shortly after they were married. D liked not having a Dad because her brother was like her Dad.

We played in the courtyard until the sun began to set. D's mother came down to the courtyard to collect her. Her mother was a typical 80's gal, with a deep Texan drawl. She appeared to be a lot older than my mother, though in hindsight my mother was a very young mother, so all of my friend's mother's looked older than my mother.

After that first encounter D and I became quick best friends. When school started we were both disappointed we didn't have the same teacher, but we were excited we were in classrooms next to each other. We walked or rode bikes to and from school together everyday. If a bully picked on me, D always stood up for me. We played dress up, and wore stockings on our heads like they were long pigtails. We stole from the Albertson's a tube of shiny bubble gum lip gloss together and were grounded from each other for two weeks. The adventures we went on in our little world were endless.

D and I also had a special secret part of our friendship. With endless sleepovers came opportunities for playing house, and someone had to be the husband and someone had to be the wife. I was always the wife. Though we were children experimenting, I loved D more than anything; as much as child can be capable of love. From the age of 7 to 10, D was my world. It never occurred to me that we were doing anything wrong; except for stealing that tube of lip gloss. The innocence and obliviousness of childhood was the safest place for our friendship. I didn't even know what gay or lesbian was; I only knew I loved my best friend.

In 1990 D's mother decided she wanted to move to Greeley in northern Colorado, to be closer to her family. I was devastated that I was losing my best friend. I was told by my parents I couldn't call very much because Greeley was long distance (remember long distance and budgeting your phone calls?), so we would have to write to each other. The letter's didn't last long, and I saw her one last time before my family moved to Castle Rock.

It was after the holidays, and I had just gotten home from a friends house early in the evening. I walking in the door and my dad said I had a visitor, and D jumped out from behind him. We threw our arms around each other and squealed, like typical 10 year old's do. We sat out on the front stoop and talked, and promised we'd be best friends forever. That was the last time I ever talked to her.

Well almost the last time. It was truly the last time I spoke to the person I knew as D. 17 years later, with the invention of MySpace, curiosity got the best of me and I found D. I sent her a message asking if she was the same D that I knew as a child and she wrote back, very excited to hear from me. I gave her my phone number, and she called the same evening.


"Is this Summer? Oh my gosh I can't believe it's you!"

I could hear children screaming and fighting in the background. "I know, I can't either. Do you have children?"

"Oh yeah, I do! I have 5 kids actually."

"No kidding!" The children were screaming and fighting even louder. "Are you married?"

"Well I used to be...if you goddamn kids don't stop fighting you're going to get a beating!...yeah I got married right out of high school, but that was a huge mistake. He was my oldest kids Dad."

"Oh yeah? How old is your oldest?"

"Oh he's 9...dammit you kids!" I could hear the fighting was not subsiding.

I did the math in my head; she would have been 18 when she had her first child. "So are you remarried?"

"Oh no, I have a boyfriend. He's my two youngest kids dad, he's a good guy but I don't know if I'll get married again."

I could feel judgement creeping up in my throat, so I swallowed my judgement knot and pressed on. "I'm engaged actually..."

"Oh my gosh that's great, to who?"

I actually started to get nervous. "Well, her name is Joscelyne...we live outside of Seattle, we've been here a couple of years now..." I started judging myself in that moment. It was the first time in years that I started feeling ashamed of being gay again.

"I'm sorry, the kids are so loud, did you say 'she'?" The kids were really still, very, loud.

"Uh, yeah, she. She's really great, I met her in Denver." The kids were getting loud, I was looking for my emergency exit.

"Oh wow...well that's awesome...good for you..." The kids were getting even louder, someone was crying.

"Oh wow, sounds like the natives are getting restless. I'll let you go."

"Yeah, I better get these kids under control..." I could hear the relief in her voice.

"It was great to hear from you, give me a call so we can catch up when you have some time." I was lying.

"Oh yeah of course, it was so great to talk to you!"

"Yeah you too..."

She tried calling me the following evening, and I couldn't answer the phone. She didn't leave a message and it was the only time she tried calling.

There were and are so many things I wonder, like if she loved me the way I loved her. Did she even remember our special friendship or did it escape her memory?

Looking back, she wasn't a girlfriend to me; she was just my best friend. I confided this friendship to a friend much later on in life, and she asked if I thought that is what contributed to what made me gay. I don't believe it made me gay; I believe it was because I was gay. D may not have loved me the way I loved her, but our friendship was part of what shaped the way I look at love.

This is the first part of a series of short stories in accordance to the "It Gets Better" campaign. I would have done a video but I hate talking to cameras.

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