Neighbor girl invites me to her 'End of School' slumber party.
When I stop by to say hi, she and 5 other girls are in their pajamas, foam curlers in various states of coming unraveled, rolling around on the floor while playing a board game version of 'Truth or Dare.'
I wave to her grandma, who is draped on the couch at the edge of the room in a way that can only be described as 'melty.' Her arm is thrown over her face, the crook of her elbow sort of pulling her nose upward into a porcine-like grimace. The girls are shrieking every 3 seconds or so, taking great pains to humiliate each other in that special way that girls do. Every shout for 'truth' sends out invisible little girl feelers, bristling with palpable tension, waiting for someone to spill their actual beans, giving the group the upper hand. Soon all of these girls will learn what we all had to learn the hard way: to lie.
I remember riding the bus on the way to some class field trip in second grade, when a pretty, popular girl sat down next to me and grilled me for information on the boy of my pre-adolescent dreams. Keep in mind that I'm only like 8 at the time, and the thought of boys frankly turned my stomach, but so anyway I look around on the bus and pick the blond haired blue-eyed son of a semi-famous baseball player because I thought it would be safe, after all, everyone loved him, so it wouldn't brand me as a freak to pick the person that anyone would pick. All this only after I swear this girl to secrecy. She swears. Crosses her heart and hopes to die.
"Darren," I say, thinking I might have passed this social pop quiz.
She stands up on the seat, grabs the one in front of her and screams, "Angie loves Darren! Angie loves Darren!"
To my astonishment and horror, the whole bus starts in with her. I shrink down as close to the floor as I possibly can, and listen with a totally new level of understanding of the word 'coward' as a girl with Downs Syndrome named Angie starts yelling, "I do not! I do not!" and basically taking the heat off me for the entirety of the incident.
But back at the slumber party: her grandma crapped out on the couch, her mom making about 50 hot dogs in the kitchen, as well as opening multiple bags of sugary snack food and gushing about John Travolta in 'Grease,' which they will be watching soon, if they can sit still long enough, and her brothers shipped out for the evening, I decide to beat a hasty retreat, but not before I congratulate myself on having lived through the stuff she's going through right now, and promising to look out for her as much as I can while we're neighbors.
As I read in a book not so long ago, "There is no worse training for adulthood than having been a child."