Life Lessons From a Bad Girl
My best friend, Jamie, was the devil on my shoulder
Jamie was my desk mate in 8th grade. She was vivacious, fearless, and funny. All of the adults called her a bad girl. Every kid wanted to be her friend.
In contrast, I was shy, quiet, and compliant. I concentrated most of my attention on not being noticed. It worked. I was invisible.
It surprised me when Jamie sat with me in the cafeteria one day and said, “Hey, New Best Friend! Can I have your pizza?”
I passed her the pizza slice on my lunch tray and offered her my chocolate pudding.
“You’re the best!” Jamie mumbled through a mouthful of pepperoni and cheese.
I worshipped her instantly.
Jamie loved to push me out of my comfort zone. We tasted every single icecream flavor, even the gross ones. We road the most dangerous ride in the carnival- twice. She pointed out interesting looking people and dared me to ask them questions like,
“What is your favorite memory?”
We did plenty of “bad girl” stuff, too. We sneaked through her bedroom window to meet boys, smoked, shop-lifted and raided her grandmother’s liquor cabinet.
Jamie had another friend at school named Victoria. I was jealous of her. Victoria was just a normal girl, but she had the audacity to say Jamie was her best friend!
Jamie assured me that Victoria wasn’t even her second best friend.
“She’s basically like a sister, so I can’t get rid of her. I wish I could. She’s such a bitch,” Jamie said.
I was shocked the first time I heard Jamie say “bitch”. I couldn’t even say “crap" without having a giggling fit. I didn’t feel comfortable with the name-calling, but I went along with it.
Any time Jamie spent the night with Victoria, she called and whispered, “I wish I could come over, but I already promised to stay with the bitch.”
I cringed every time Jamie said “bitch” at first. However, I also loved it. It meant Jamie liked me best. It didn’t take long for me to feel comfortable and anticipate her saying it.
One weekend, I was home alone and bored. I clicked through the T.V. channels for the hundredth time when the beautiful jingle of the telephone interrupted. I grabbed the receiver before it could ring a second time.
Jamie said, “Hello.”
Her voice was hoarse, and I commented on it. She responded that she had a sore throat.
We talked about unimportant things like homework and school for a few minutes. Then she coughed loudly.
“What do you think about Victoria?”
My response flew from my lips as easily as my name, “She’s a bitch.”
“Oh yeah?” Jamie’s hoarseness was gone.
“This is Victoria! I’m glad to know what you think about me!”
She hung up.
I was stunned, not only because I was tricked but because of what I heard in the background. I’d heard that giggle a hundred times when Jamie said mean things about Victoria.
I unraveled myself from the snake-like coils of the phone cord and checked the caller I.D. The call was from Jamie’s number.
My best friend had set me up.
My friendship with Jamie ended that day. I realized with that phone call that she’d been playing Victoria and I against each other.
I also realized some hard truths about myself. The phone call taught me to never say anything about anyone unless I could say it to their face.
I also realized how easily I’d been lead to do things I knew were wrong. This made me determined to follow my own path.
Jamie wasn’t all bad. She showed me that I could be brave, speak out, and try new things. I began to dare myself, the way Jamie once dared me and became an outgoing and friendly person.
In retrospect, Jamie was just a messed up 13-year-old kid reacting to living in a tough situation. She had very little adult supervision, and her home life was abusive.
She and I had that last part in common.
Perhaps that’s what drew Jamie to me in the first place or maybe she was just in the mood for pizza. I’ll never know for sure.
Either way, I like to imagine that Jamie is out there somewhere, still tasting every single flavor.