“Bats!” Kim yelled.
“Wahhhhhh!” Our midnight screams weren’t new to the neighbors.
We started swimming toward the yellow lifeboat which was way across the giant inground pool. We reached it without the bats tangling in our hair or biting our necks with their tiny teeth while we turned it upside-down to hide underneath it. Our giggles echoed against the vinyl raft as we waited for the bats to leave.
Years earlier, when I met Kim, she was wearing a hunter green and navy-blue plaid Catholic school uniform. Although we lived only a few houses away from each other, we were technically in different counties, so we never went to the same school. I was five and she was six when we met 42 years ago. Still, she’s one of the few who doesn’t take my flakiness personally, and someone my kids and I can run to for anything. She’s my safe person.
There will be more Kim stories in this 543-day writing I’m doing. All of our stories don’t need to be told, but there are some fun moments we shared growing up that I want to bring back to life, to remember, like dancing. She taught me how to do that slide that Bobby Brown does in his “Every Little Step” video, and we would practice in the reflection of the windows in her enormous living room. I can still do it, as long as nobody is watching, and I’m wearing a decent bra.
On the weekends, we would show our moves at Studio 91 in Easthampton, MA, an under 21 club. Getting ready was always a competition to see whose hair could stay higher and who’s skirt was tighter and shorter. Thank you, Dearest Lord, for not allowing into existence cell phones with cameras yet, because although we would be able to see our fresh young selves, we’d also be able to see our fresh young selves.
We’d spend hours getting ready, spraying hot pink Aqua net, then drying them with a hair dryer. Spray, dry, repeat, making our bangs one solid, firm piece that glowed orange. Our Wet n’ Wild eyeliner was the blackest and there was always a pastel eyeshadow, usually baby blue. After a good dousing of Exclamation perfume we bought at Brooks Drugs, we were on our way, tugging our skirts down at the hem with each small step.
“You girls look like dogs in heat!” her dad, Father Richard, would say as he rocked his recliner back and forth back and forth. He didn’t love the idea of us going into public like that. We were 15.
The club was always steamy and hot with scents of Liz Claiborne, Polo, and young bodies. One wall was dedicated to mirrors so we could watch our own dance moves and compare our progress with the others. The bathroom walls were painted black, and the hairspray that lingered in the air went straight to the lungs. Girls were leaning forward toward the mirror and applying whitish pink lipstick and more layers of hot pink blush. We were always disappointed when the club closed, and our night ended.
One time, we lied and said we had a ride home from Studio, but we really didn’t. We planned on walking the entire seven miles home. As soon as we began walking, two men in a pickup truck stopped.
“You girls need a ride?” the driver asked.
“Yes,” we answered hesitantly. It would have taken us hours to get home.
We sat in the bed of the truck with sweaty palms and sick stomachs. We were so lucky they actually brought us to Kim’s house. It seemed like the truck was still moving when we jumped out of it and yelled “thank you” as we ran to the house to exhale.
Although we had fun dancing with our friends, my favorite part of the night was when we got back to her house and put comfy clothes on. We would clean up our faces, but not our hair for some reason, then make a snack like fried ham on light toast. Kim would fry the ham in a hot pan in real butter, and I would make the toast. After the ham was crispy and brown with curling edges, it was ready. We would pour the extra butter onto the sandwich and quietly eat together. They were salty and delicious.
Much of who I am is because of Kim. We spent every day together and drew strength from each other when we needed to. We weren’t two separate kids running barefoot around the neighborhood, but one strong force who learned together, gobbled down O’Grady’s potato chips, and kept many, many secrets from the world. I’m not done making memories with you, friend. I love you.