For a period of time several years back, my two best friends were named Jennifer. Our lives intersected and orbited and careened off of each other as lives often do. A few weeks ago, I watched Jennifer say “I do” while Jennifer beamed proudly on as the maiden of honor.
The bride shall henceforth be known as Jenni, as that was her name when I met her in my junior-year English class at Gallup High School. If I remember correctly (and I often don’t), she had just transferred there from Italy—in a military capacity, though, meaning she was 100 percent American with a distinctly East Coast accent. All of the boys in class were endlessly fascinated with her, and it wasn’t at all difficult to discern why. She was stunning—what with her olive skin, dark brown curls bouncing off her shoulders, and the biggest, brightest eyes anybody at Gallup High had ever seen.
Being an antisocial, antiestablishment tool, I chose to ignore her. At least I pretended to. At one point, I distinctly recall her slipping into class wearing a leather jacket and a deep green turtleneck. The combination of that with her intense curiosity and focus, aggressive kindness, fluttering energy like that of a hummingbird, and the way her pen twirled around her thumb when she was bored made me think, “She is so cool!” Being an antisocial tool, however, led me to denigrate the pom-pom dance squad for which she was trying out, and that put the kibosh on that relationship.
That is until a year later. For reasons I, for the life of me, cannot recall, I earned myself an invitation to have lunch with her and her mother in their large, split-level home. The invitation stretched out into a regular, twice-a-week date. I wonder what the rest of the school saw when the awkward, long-haired, grungy Jeremiah folded up into a sky blue hatchback with the graceful, classy Jenni and rode off to parts unknown.
Something you should probably know about me: I fell in love easily, particularly at that age. See, for the vast majority of people, adolescence really messes with them. For me, adolescence dragged me outside, smacked me around a bit, gave me a wedgie, and sent me on my way. It also whispered things in my ear. These things tended to give me The Wrong Idea—this Idea being crippling crushes that irreparably damaged friendships.
I didn’t have one of these crushes on Jenni, and I’m not sure why. She has always been one of the most beautiful people I’ve ever met, both physically and spiritually. Hell, I remember how—many years later—she invited me out to the beach at Coney Island, and I thanked the lord that she hadn’t been sunbathing, because if I’d seen her in a bikini, that would have meant that it was okay for me to die.
But I digress. The point is, I was free from my hormones to be friends with Jenni, and as such, I was able to relax in ways I couldn’t anywhere else in my life. And it was good.
And I haven’t even mentioned our low-budget dramatization of The Taming of the Shrew wherein she played Petrucio and I played Katherine. And I won’t mention it because I have my dignity.