Tag Archive for Friends

Guys, Get Up!

“Guys, get up! Breakfast is being served in a half hour. You’ve already missed the morning service!”

I groaned. My whopping three hours of sleep had not served me well. I rolled over and saw Andrew looking up at me. Andrew had dark hair, a yellowish tone of skin and eyes with a slight slant to them—Asian. In fact, everyone in the room was Asian, excluding myself.

It seemed a strange idea initially, but when my friend Alvin invited me to come on a previous retreat of the Cincinnati Chinese Church six months before I figured it was better than gazing at a glowing monitor all weekend. I had been having trouble making friends at my family’s church; they just weren’t the kind of people I fit in with. The youth at my parent’s church seemed to me the perfect stereotype of teenagers—no ambition, only caring about the moment, and doing everything for the sole purpose of fitting in. I dreaded going to church each Sunday; I didn’t want to become one of these people. The Cincinnati Chinese Church offered a fresh start.

I was amazed at how quickly I assimilated into the social world of the Chinese Church. It was the first time I had ever felt “popular,” so naturally I continued to return. It was a wonderful atmosphere—a place where I could worship the God I loved and enjoy the company of the people who seemed like me—not externally, but internally. As I continued to return to the Chinese church, a lot of my “friends” made fun of me. They called me an “inverse Twinkie,” a clever racial slur referring to Caucasian people who are under the impression that they’re Asian. I simply smiled and played along. I found that I cared less and less what they thought—I had discovered a place I loved, a place I belonged, and I was happy. The reason I fit in so well with the youth group was a bit oblique at first, but eventually it became obvious to me. They’re scholarly people, intelligent; they love God and have a knack for computers—which also happens to be a perfect description of myself. I climbed out of bed and got dressed. I was sore from the previous night’s festivities—nothing quite like Frisbee Football, or Ultimate Frisbee as my Oriental friends had dubbed the game. I smiled to myself as I walked down the dimly-lit hallways of the campus. “I am at home,” I thought.


I was so excited. I could hardly breathe through the hour-long drive there. I was squished between my two ten-year-old best friends (whose names have been changed here to protect the innocent) in the back seat of a white Saturn, but I didn’t care. I was practicing over and over in my head what I was going to say to all the smart-aleck adults who would tell me I was too young to ride the water slides. I was simply going to reply, “Actually I’m ten, going on eleven.”

On the right of me sat the girl I met in preschool, the swimmer who was named after a state, like me: Tennessee. She was the observant artist. She sat there holding a deck of cards, trying to find all the queens. I could tell she was nervous. Her hands were sweating. The cards were damp and at one point they slipped from her fingers. She giggled unhappily. I looked down and realized mine were sweating, too.

On my left was the girl who spoke for the three of us. She was the big cheese. Anna was without a doubt the most daring of the three of us. She was the one who started the famous food fight of ’95 in the Travis cafeteria. She told the entire school that her sister ran away to join the circus in ’96, and in ’97 she broke a boy’s arm, wrestling. It was obvious that she was going to ride the infamous “death slide.” In fact as soon as we jumped out of the car she screamed, “I’m going to ride the biggest ride at Schlitterbahn, ‘The Death Slide.’”

I was still debating whether or not to go on the newest and scariest ride of Schlitterbahn. Anna was humming “Jon Jacob” and acting like it was no big deal. Tennessee was practically shaking and saying, “Everything will be fine. I’ll ride the kiddy slide.” She was joking, but I knew that thought was probably going through her head for real.

And there was me. I’m the one who would rather write an essay than talk. I’m like the invisible one.

We are all exact triposites, if there’s any such thing.

I was so nervous and excited at the same time that I practically leaped out of the car with my Gap backpack and my Wal-Mart towel flying behind me. I could hear the screaming and crying of children.

After we went through the long line to pay and put on a whole tube of sunscreen, we were ready to have some real fun. We wandered around trying to find the perfect ride.

Tennessee and I had decided on the water gym when Anna suddenly stopped short. She pointed way up in the air. Our eyes slowly followed her finger. Through our ten-year-old eyes we saw what looked like the scariest ride in the entire world. It was a fifty-foot tall sky blue slide that went straight down into a giant pool of deep dark water.

Anna looked around and smiled. Her short brown hair jumped and fell each time she took a long stride. Her brown eyes twinkled as she walked to the slide. She seemed so proud about being brave and daring to walk up to “The Death Slide.” Tennessee and I felt embarrassed that a girl six months younger than we were was going to ride it while we were going to play on the water gym. But Tennessee and I had a plan to cover up our embarrassment. We were going to act like we were going to ride The Death Slide, and then, at the last minute, say we forgot something and wait at the bottom for Anna.

As we stood in line, slowly approaching the fifty-foot ladder I tried to gather my strength and suddenly knew I wanted to go down that slide. I stared at Tennessee and suddenly whispered, “I’m going to do it.” She was in awe.

I looked at the ladder and I looked at my friends. Tennessee was smiling but Anna was looking very serious. She had wrinkles in her forehead and her eyebrows were down over her eyes. She was looking up to the top of the ladder, which was hardly visible at that moment. All of a sudden she started crying. It was like a low siren. Then it got louder. “What’s wrong?” I yelled over the voices of the screaming children. Anna didn’t answer. Her face was like a wrinkled prune. She had tears coming down her red cheeks. She didn’t answer me, she just ran to the water gym without a word, to her four-year-old sister. I looked at Tennessee uneasily. I knew it was too late to go over and comfort her. There were already thirty people behind us. If we got out of line, I knew we’d never get back in. If you give up your place in line at Schlitterbaun, you might as well go home.

Tennessee and I sucked in our fear and decided to ride the scariest ride in Schlitterbahn.

The climb up the ladder was long and miserable. Everyone pushed and shoved, not caring about the people above or below. I was surrounded by those adults who were thinking I was too short for the ride. We were stuck near the bottom for five minutes and didn’t make any progress. So many people were cutting in front of us that we were actually moving back down the ladder. Tennessee and I, the innocent daisy pickers, decided to let out our fierce side. We stuck out our elbows and pushed our way to the top. It only took about ten minutes.

When we reached the top we looked down. I suddenly got dizzy but thought about how much fun I’d have during those few seconds that I was riding the ride of my life. The lifeguard yelled, “Keep your hands and your feet together.” I sat down on the edge at the very top of the slide; he gave me a hard, fast push and I was off.

It was like sliding down a vertical stick. I had to squeeze my arms to my chest and keep my clenched feet together. I was screaming so hard, I had a sore throat the next day. But I wasn’t screaming from pain or fright but from excitement.

When we got to the bottom Tennessee and I were laughing and throwing up our arms in victory. Anna wasn’t too happy with us at first but she got over it, though she never did go down The Death Slide that day.

I know it was just a ride in a park, but I always think about day when I’m feeling too scared to try something new. I remember what it felt like to fly down that big blue slide. I realize that I might be quiet, even invisible, but hidden inside me is a brave


She had a ring around her


a purple ring.

She took off her glasses so I could see where her father’s fist had framed

her lashes.

“Look what my dad gave me.”

I looked at her but I did not say anything.

For Greg

You’re not a zombie. You toke it and you smoke it and you drink it and you

think it, think things like the zombies in the songs about people like you.

But you don’t look like them; you can’t be like them. You hang with your

non-zombie friends who are just like you but really not like you, who talk

like you and walk like you. You and your non-zombie friends, who when we

talk about what you do and why you do you deny you do at all. I’m sober,

you say as you walk up to one of non-zombie friends with a 20-dollar bill in

your hands, and I sit there and don’t think I’m stupid like you. You who is

so smart and so sweet and so caring and so stupid as to throw everything

else away for the high because you like the high and your friends like the

high and why not get high? Why not get high? But hey, if you don’t want to

it’s cool because I kinda like you even though you know you are lying and

you want me to be like you so you don’t have to throw me away too. I wish I

could be like you, but I won’t throw me away for you because even though I

like you I like me too. You and your non-zombie friends. You lead such

normal lives, you fool everyone by looking so damned normal, and you do it

on purpose so you do I know you do. Maybe you are normal, because isn’t

normal what the majority’s doing? Maybe everyone’s used to everyone because

everyone and their mother does it too, they toke it and smoke it, drink it

and think it those thoughts just like you, they dress like you get in to

messes like you skip their classes like you but they’re not like you. They’

re not like you. And anymore you’re not like you either. You wear the mask

you and your friends like to share, and I put up my barriers like I do when

I don’t trust you but I do trust you, when you’re you. But you’re not

because you’re like your non-zombie friends now, having fun like they do but

we had fun too, you know. We had fun when you were you. I’ll make you a

deal. Don’t be like me and I won’t be like you and that’s OK so long as you’re

like you, OK? Just so long as you’re really you.

Falling Action

My best friend Erin Rogers and I were together all the time, doing nothing without the other. But one day I realized that somewhere along the road somebody failed her, and every day I cannot help but wonder if it might have been me. Everything she went through, I was there for her, but I guess some things are too hard for even friendship. Not a day goes by that I don’t remember. How could I ever forget? I’m sharing this story for the first time since it happened.

The last time we had no worries, well, that were apparent, was on August 20 of ’97. We spent the night in her basement under the stairs. I can still taste our dinner of cold macaroni and cheese on our breath, and feel sticky sweet butterscotch on our fingers. Rebecca St. James’s “Side By Side” blared through our ears. “Together forever, that’s the way we should be,” we sang aloud. We laughed, and talked about everything and anything. I will never forget that night, one of the best nights of my whole life,and the night where it started to end. A climax of sorts—the end of the rising action; the beginning of the falling.

Erin’s parents divorced when we were in sixth grade. Erin was torn apart mostly because her mom wouldn’t keep her, and her father was an atheist. Erin and I both had sadistic older brothers at this point. In March of ’96 my brother was sent to Three Springs, in Paint Rock Valley. Today I refer to this place as hell. Erin’s dad quickly remarried—a prostitute. Erin was always upset, but we always talked and prayed about it, so it seemed to be resolved. Still, one day I noticed her smile drop just slightly, only enough for a best friend to notice. I tried to talk to her but nothing seemed to help. At first it was just not being together at all times, and then it was her eyes. They became so sad, making the hurt so visible.

By September ’97 she had started to waste away. She wore all black, practiced self-mutilation, and obsessed over death. I had never been so worried or scared in my life. I never wanted to leave her alone with her thoughts. But the inevitable happened. The last time I saw her in a way that broke my heart was at church. It hurt so much to see her in such despair and know that I couldn’t help, so I stopped going to church altogether.

On November 12, 1997 I got a phone call. “I’m going to Three Springs. Don’t forget me. I love you,” she tried to say through her sobs. I can safely say that I hate Three Springs. I told her I’d love her forever, that she’d always be my sister at heart, and to stay strong. She didn’t take that advice. January of 1998 she was free. I never saw Erin again. My best friend forever decided forever had to be cut short. I like to think she took my smile with her.

For a while I struggled with depression and suicide. We moved to Madison for a fresh start, but every day I’m reminded of her in some way, and I cannot help but think, What if? Her parents and I have a mutual disrespect for one another right now. A great person was destroyed. By what, I am not sure. But that makes it no less real.