The Breakfast Club
(Since it's perks week, I've decided to finally give a blog entry a shot and see whether it's worth shelling out for PMship. If you like this blog, great~! If not, it's okay not to like things~!)
Last night, the real feel was 97 degrees and our AC had decided to take a vacation last night. Nobody in the house had any particular idea of what they wanted for dinner, and we were so apathetic about anything besides playing Left 4 Dead 2 (my little brother), reading TMZ on one of the family tablets (my mom) or watching Arrested Development (me, alone, which is both the best and the worst way to watch Arrested Development) that nobody really cared much about eating dinner in the first place. As you can imagine it was pretty dull and made me pout and stuff.
Now, the people reading this blog who hang around the same Skype chat with me or know me well will know that there's a spot in my city (as there is in a handful of other cities across the Carolinas and Virginia) called Cook-Out. While it doesn't hold a candle to my home state of California and its burger chain in shining armor In-N-Out, a Cook-Out tray consists of a burger with any number of combinations you want, plus two sides (the local favorites are fries, bacon wraps, or one of both) and one of thirty six flavors of milkshakes. A Cook-Out run is more than a local choice for fast dinner, it's become a sort of memetic thing for nearly everyone at my high school. Cook-Out trays are like currency for us, and it's common courtesy to go on Twitter before a run and ask if anyone is willing to buy a seat in the car when they go.
Last night was the first night I had the chance to go to Cook-Out since school got off, so the combination of convenience plus a craving in my stomach (and, admittedly, my heart) finally drove me away from the misadventures of the Bluth family and into the foyer, where I asked my brother if he was down for a Cook-Out run. All I received in turn was a low, bored groaning grunt sound, which in hindsight may have been the Boomer he just shoved back but at the time I took for a simple no. My mother is a vegetarian and so I knew that one was a lost cause, and so I drove off to Cook-Out with the sweet, sweet sounds of Justin Timberlake (be mine you majestic hunk of talent you) and Anna Kendrick (you're cool too I guess) in my ears and the windows down.
When I got to Cook-Out, it was like one of hundreds of runs I'd taken since the place opened on the tail end of my freshmen year. Now going into my senior year, the words came out by themselves: quarter pound cheeseburger with bacon, lettuce, tomato, pickle, ketchup and mayo, two orders of fries and a massive Hershey's Chocolate Shake. The price was $5.58, a far cry from the $7.25 I normally spend on my tray - I only found out later that the bacon had been knocked off the price by the cashier, who has my eternal love and undying loyalty. As I drove around the other side and picked up my tray, I decided, for the first time, that I'd rather not eat this in the car, or sitting at the waterfront, because I'd rather not get in a wreck or get pulled out of my car and mugged (as tends to happen around the waterfront past 8 o'clock at night) and that I'd sit at one of the picnic tables set up outside Cook-Out and eat there.
And that's when I heard the high, excited shriek of a girl screaming my middle name. Only one girl in the world knows my middle name and can scream it like that, and she just so happens to be my best friend in the entire world.
A few words about Ashley: first, she's absolutely beautiful to me even though she would tell you that she's the most average girl ever. The one year we went to school together, when I was a freshman and she was a senior, she was about 5'5 with hair that could have either been blonde with really black highlights or black with really blonde highlights; since then her hair's gone through a variety of colorations and changeups before settling on the black and scarlet color it is now. I, on the other hand, grew from 5'7 to 6'0 and only gained about twenty five pounds since then, and my hair got cut by a considerable length, and I got a car, and I decided where I wanted to go for college, and I got a 25 on my ACT and an 1800 on my SAT, and...well...I grew up. So for the first couple seconds, before anything else, all I could think was How did she recognize me?
The last time we'd seen each other was eons ago. Back, back in the day.
I looked totally different than I had the first day we'd met, in second period Career Management on my first day of freshman year - and therefore, first day of high school in general. By the dawn of the next semester, I would be drastically more confident in myself and my place in high school, by sophomore year I would be able to stand with the upperclassmen and not only take jokes but also fling burns back at them, and by junior year I walked around the school with my friends like I owned it. But every time I look back on that first day of high school, remember me sitting in the back of the classroom with my arms crossed tight around my ribs and my eyes staring dead forward at the projector, I still get a chill in my chest and I remember how frickin' terrified I was of everything.
Like I said, I was sitting in the back so I had a chance to dart my eyes at everyone who walked in, and Ashley was part of the last third of people to walk in. I had no idea what grade she was, her name, or anything about her, but she smiled brightly and waved at the Career Management teacher before turning to look at me. We kind of stared at each other for a couple seconds before she turned around and walked out. I nearly had a coronary.
So, if that scared me, imagine how I felt when she took the detour through the supply room and walked out behind the last row of desks. I practically froze up from the moment I heard her footsteps. All I could think was oh god i'm gonna get joked gonna get joked gonna get joked, and then she ran her fingertips sideways through the back of my hair just enough so that I knew it was on purpose, but lightly enough so that I could fool myself into thinking it was accidental. I didn't say a word the entire class period, especially not to her, up until the last couple seconds.
The only exercise in Career Management for the day was walking up to the projector and selecting, from a group of eight jobs, what your dream job would be. Ashley and I were the only people who picked "rockstar." Naturally this gave me another little chill (god, I was so adorkably nervous back then) and I didn't so much as look her way for the next fifteen minutes. At the end of the period, when I was walking out of class to lunch, I heard her come up behind me and say, in a bright, chirpy tone of voice that I'll remember forever, "Rockstar, huh?"
My muscles clenched, and all I could think to say was, "Better than farmer, right?"
She laughed so hard I thought she might choke, and after a second we started laughing together, and it was the last time I was ever afraid of anything about the social half of school. The next day, when I walked into Career Management, she patted the empty seat next to hers as she hummed, looking up at the ceiling, which was her way of screaming at me to take it.
Over the next semester, I went to my first concert with Ashley. I went to my first party with Ashley. The way I dress now is the way Ashley thought I looked the most handsome. The music I listen to now, Ashley gave me a couple introductory bands and let me find my way from there. We listened to music videos, came up with zombie survival plans, debated endlessly the merits of being a pirate or a ninja in a war between the two factions, slept on each other's shoulders whenever Career Management got too dull, and other cute stuff for couples-who-weren't-really-couples. She's still the best hugger I've ever met. Even when we didn't have classes together the following semester, I'd be working outside on a spray painting project for English and she'd poke me in the butt with a can of spray paint and then help me tag stuff. Even around Christmastime, when she learned my middle name from casually peeking at a class roster and started spamming my text messages with the same name, over and over again in all caps, even when she gave me my gift with my middle name written in bold black sharpie all over the wrapping paper and box, I always just had to laugh at her because she was so innocent.
We gave each other one last, enormous hug on the final day of my freshman year - and her final year of high school - and she gave me a quick little kiss that I, again, will probably remember for the rest of my life. Then the bus came and I had to go, while she stayed for graduation practice.
Before last night, I hadn't seen her since. She was busy, day and night, working on her cosmetology degree: lunch dates fell through, she was always off duty whenever I needed a haircut, and, of course, I still had school taking up the majority of my Mondays through Fridays. That isn't to say we didn't talk - I still come to her for advice constantly and she, in return, tells me what classes to take, what to avoid, sends me quick little cheat sheets before tests and even gets me massive discounts at Buffalo Wild Wings, where she works as an assistant manager to pay her way through school.
But none of that came close to the huge, leaping feeling I got in my chest when I heard her shriek out my middle name and turned around halfway through a giant sip of my shake (not really giant, I suppose; Cook-Out's shakes are notoriously thick if you don't wait to drink them before you finish your burger and fries) to see her already powerwalking towards me with arms spread out wide. None of it could really make up for the forty or so seconds that we just squeezed each other, Ashley and I, and the hour we spent after that just eating lunch together, catching up, enjoying life. She's going to be a junior in college soon. She's got a couple tattoos, and more than a couple ideas for tattoos fermenting in her head. She's still got a good thing going for her in the music business, if she ever wants to give it a shot; that chirpy voice can go into one of the cutest falsettos you can imagine. Nothing I can write will describe how that hour at Cook-Out turned into one of the best of my life, or how two trays of bacon cheeseburgers and sides (she got the bacon wraps, sans ranch, plus a Cookies and Creme shake) could get me back in touch with my best friend.
The closest I could come to describing it would be something like...
TL;DR: Last night, I reunited with the girl who made me what I am today, and today I feel happier than I think I've ever felt in my entire life.
That's my story. How about yours? Anyone ever had an experience - or a friend - like this? Open up in the comments!
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