I texted Sara S. to warn her I was writing about us and she reminded me about some of our highlights. I can’t believe I forgot about this one. Idiots. Lucky to be alive and walking.
During the summer after 9th grade, me and Nadia went with Sara S. up to her family cabin in Tahoe for the 4th of July holiday. The cabin was across the street from the lake, and a short walk to Homewood Ski Resort. It was summer. No snow. Used to wandering neighborhoods on foot and with time to kill before watching the fireworks at the beach, we wandered over to Homewood and found it deserted. We climbed up to one of the chair lift platforms and we thought maybe we could get the lift going by climbing up to the engine and cranking it. The three of us climbed the ladder up to the engine and I remember pushing the ignition button and the engine turning over but not firing up. Like it had a kill switch just for this reason: unruly teens trying to live on the edge. Edge of what, I don’t know. Stupidity? So of course we couldn’t get the chair lift running and we started to climb down the black metal ladder attached to the lift tower. Sara climbed down first, followed by Nadia. Then me. I don’t know what happened, but the next thing I knew I was falling. From the top. In a split second I thought if I land on my back it’s going to fuck me up and knock the wind out of me and I hated that idea. So in mid-air, I turned. Sara said I looked like a spider falling from the ceiling. Spread-eagle. I landed on all fours, like a cat. Kept my breath, good plan. Oops, broke my left forearm. Both bones, right below the wrist/growth plate. Shaken up, we walked back to the cabin. Mrs. S said go to the nearby Fire Station. They splinted my arm and said go to Truckee ER. It was the late afternoon of the 4th of July! In Tahoe! Do you know what traffic is like on the 4th of July, one lane around the lake? Everyone trying to get to where they were going to watch the fireworks. It’s nuts. So I ruined everyone’s 4th. But did I?
Mr. And Mrs. drove for hours around the lake to take me to the ER. We got there, got xray’d, Doc said yep, it’s broken. Here’s some Vicodin and follow up with an ortho in Sac. So back to the cabin we went. No one made me feel any worse than I already did.
I hate that word.
It was late when we got back, and we were in our LL Cool J phase. We were camped out in the loft and we played I Need Love over and over again on an old cassette tape player, to learn the lyrics. Play. Stop. Rewind. Play again. Over and over again, writing down the words, high on Vicodin, creating core memories for the three of us. Forever bonded.
When I’m alone in my room sometimes I stare at the wall
And in the back of my mind I hear my conscience call
Telling me I need a girl that’s as sweet as a dove
For the first time in my life, I see I need love.
Those words are engraved into my brain. At age 49, I can still recite it all. I’m sure all three of us can. Maybe we should start an old lady rap group. The Dumbasses.
I need love.
We used to call Nadia Nad-Mom cuz she was a rule follower by nature. But we were trying to be naughty by nature. Not cuz we hate ya. So Nad-Mom was frequently herding cats. Good thing cats have 9 lives.
Nadia’s momming probably kept us alive. But don’t get it twisted. That girl became an expert at flying below the radar. Fun, but smart. Like Kermit the Frog. The smartest muppet of all. I was Fozzy Bear. Buh dum bum.
Eventually, the triangle drama won and we migrated to other friends. Never a big blow-out or betrayal, just a slow fizzle with overlapping circles.
I started hanging out with Katie, 24/7. My new best friend. Naughty by nature. Katie had her driver’s license before I did. Hell, everyone had their driver’s license before I did. I was at least a year younger than all of them. I was put up a grade and did 4th and 5th in the same year. They said I was smart. They never said I wasn’t a dumb teenager, though.
Me and Katie became inseparable. Both of us part of several circles by that point, but not into girl drama. So we hung out with the boys. Yep, those boys. You know them. Everyone knew them.
I have thought about changing some of these names for the sake of privacy. But I realized that the only people that would care about who they are in real life will know exactly who I’m talking about anyway. If I describe them well, that is. So fuck it. I’m naming names.
Our crew became me and Katie and Cam and Brandon, Matt and Brad (when he wasn’t with Amy), Joe D., Larby, J-Dog, Rich and Jeff and anyone else hanging out on Vallejo Way. Beto and Peter and Sam and John B. and Danny and Joel and Danilo and Todd x2 and Ray (when he wasn’t with Jenny, that’s a theme, too) they were all mixed in. And me and Katie. All the other girls didn’t matter. We were the ones they kept around. Cuz we didn’t bring the girl drama. La Di Da Di, we like to party, we don’t cause trouble we don’t bother nobody…
We walked to the twins house for lunch nearly everyday, poor Toby. I don’t know how she kept those boys fed, cuz everyone ate there. She always seemed to have tortillas and cheese. A staple. She was an artist, with beautiful paintings covering the walls of their home. She would take a favorite photograph and turn it into a life-sized moment in time. My favorites were at the ocean. She knew how to paint the sea. I always wanted her to paint me, but I didn’t make the cut. Kari and Mashari did. Did Lucy?
All I got was a stolen teddy bear. Sneaky. Me and Cam were mostly on the DL. He was dating Amber, a Junior or Senior. And gorgeous. How could I compete? I wasn’t giving out what some of the other girls were, so maybe that limited me. Or maybe he felt guilty. Or maybe he just wasn’t that into me.
Not like Matt. My friend that always wanted more.
Matt drove me everywhere. He taught me how to drive a stick in his parents’ Vanagon. We went to the gym together like 3-5 days per week. He would come and push the buttons on the stairmaster and crank it up to max to try and kill me. Me, Katie, Matt, and Brad (when he wasn’t with Amy…this is a theme…he loved her before he knew he loved her. Later, he married her.) We went to parties together. We laughed and talked shit and drank and did drugs together. Mostly smoked a lot of pot. A. Lot.
The day I found out Matt like-liked me, I kissed one of his best friends. Cuz I like-liked his best friend more than I like-liked him. I feel bad about that now, but I didn’t then. It was fun to make-out with someone I wasn’t supposed to make-out with. Cuz when it’s bad, it’s good, am I right?
Somewhere mixed in there, my mom left. All that meant was we had another place to hang out, no parents. Where was everyone’s parents?! Like for real! We are truly the generation of latch-key kids. Neglected. Under the radar. Survivors.
Those friendships with the boys carried on through 12th grade. My friendship with Katie, did not. The sliding door of girl friendships and drama and lies and betrayal finally caught up to me and Katie and we went our own ways. I fell right into the arms of the ones I call ride or dies. My forever friends. My Ya-Yas.
I did reconnect with Katie, as adults, even our kids were friends. There was some more girl drama and subsequent separation. After a few years, we reconnected again when our friend died. Cuz we both loved him. I just can’t quit her. I’m her Foofer. And she was there for me when my mom left. Like really there for me. She did my laundry and took me grocery shopping. She got me high and she made me laugh. Cuz if you ‘ain’t laughin’ you cryin’. I drove her grandpa’s truck to take my driver’s test to get my license. No parent there with me. Just her. She got me Butterfinger Blizzards, hers with M&Ms. She made me salads with sprouts and cucumbers and tomatoes and shredded cheddar cheese and 1000 Island dressing with bacon in it. She can be in my cookbook, too. She made me laugh until I peed my pants and she has a magic cooch. Yeah, I said it. She dropped Skittle and out came a Starburst. Like magic. A Sometimes Forever Friend. No matter what.
Nadia, never far away and always my friend, found her way into all of my phases. The glue. Then around the same time my mom abandoned me, Cyndi’s mom abandoned her. We both had our own apartments, so we became best friends. Kindred. Through Cyndi, I met Feli, and Ange seemed to always be there. Cyndi and Tenley knew each other from Cal Middle. Tenley’s parents kicked her out around that time, too. That’s when the three of us, me, Cynderella, and Ten moved into Greenhaven Lake Apartments at the end of 11th grade, none of us yet 18. This part deserves it’s own chapter. I will get there.
One autumn night we all got dressed up looking cute to go out. I had a brand new outfit on. Some cute green paper-bag shorts with a floral pattern and a white off-the-shoulder lightweight sweater. We went to meet those boys at the river. They were having a bonfire and kickin it.
We were late to the party. Everyone was already drunk. Matt was really drunk. Maybe wired, too. And I don’t know for sure how it began, but he was mad at me. I don’t know if he found out I kissed not one, but two of his best friends or if he heard about me and Teddy or if he just got tired of liking me without reciprocation. He was one of my best friends. He took care of me. We spent so much time together, just he and I. I can see now how that probably hurt him. I didn’t mean to lead him on. I loved him. As a friend. I didn’t want to lose him.
So that night, he got mad at me. Matt was larger than life. He picked me up and threw me in the river, kicking and screaming. Not laughing. It wasn’t funny to either of us. I was pissed. And soaked. My new clothes forever stained and ruined by the dirty river bank. While I was crying, Matt was yelling at me. “No one likes you! We all hate you! Why are you here?!” In front of all of them. The people that I thought were my friends. Quicksand. What I thought was my safety zone. He hit on my biggest insecurities that night. I was devastated. I just wanted to get out of there. Of all people, it was John B. that comforted me and told me Matt didn’t mean it. He was the one that put his arm around me and helped me to the car. Cuz I was hurt in addition to being wet. And ruined. My knee was bleeding. John being nice to me that night is something I will never forget. It was rare, to be real, but I was a wounded animal and he recognized that.
That was the end of my friendship with Matt. I kept waiting for him to apologize to me. He never did. He broke my heart and he humbled me. Perhaps I did the same to him. We were never ok again. And loyal to their core, those boys kept me at arms length from then on. Like I was the one. Like what Matt said was true. Logically, I know it wasn’t and you can’t take back those years of shared memories and laughter. I will always love those boys. All of them. They were mine, too.
Before they were yours.
And PS: I know it was you that tipped my red VW Bug on its side when I parked it at Nadia’s house. I lost count at how many times we would get home from a party and find my car on its side. We would just push it right back onto its wheels. No harm, no foul. What’s another dent in the fender of life?
Don’t get it twisted.
I ran into Matt around town now and again over the years. I saw him at Raley’s and Fuji, Melarkey’s and the fish store. Did I tell you Matt gave me a 40 gallon hexagon fish tank, completely set-up? Ask no questions on where he got the money for all of that. He was generous beyond anything legal. He once stashed a very large bag of I don’t know what in my closet in my apartment. Do not open it. Do not tell anyone it’s here. I will come back tomorrow for it. Don’t ask. That fish tank was badass and the center piece of my apartment. Someone stole it off the porch when we moved to Greenhaven. Easy come, easy go, right?
We kept it short and fake on the rare occurrences that we saw each other. Still, he never apologized for that awful night. Not until about a year and a half before he died.
Before he died he reached out to me in Facebook DMs. We first kept it light and he asked about my life, my kids, my career as a nurse. He shared that he had tried his hand in Med School and that he had spent a lot of time as a patient. He told me about his adopted son and how he was his pride and joy. He told me I was “the bomb.” We went back and forth for a few days, but it was starting to get uncomfortable for me and the last thing I wanted to do was lead him on in anyway. And that was it. Until I heard that he killed himself.
And I know I was one of his 13 reasons why.
I’m sorry, Matt. I’m sorry you were hurting. I’m sorry for my part. I’m sorry I hurt you, way back then. I’m sorry we didn’t know each other as adults. I’m sorry you never made me carnitas.
I’m sorry I couldn’t be what you wanted me to be.
I’m not sorry I loved you.
Whenever I am alone in my backyard there is this dove that flies close and sings to me. I never see the female.
I only see him. My long lost friend.
Matthew Jacob Heine
September 29, 1971 – April 16, 2017.