Sometimes I wonder how my life would have been, had I grown up in some fancy neighborhood. My college roommate grew up in the Hamptons. She’s now studying to be a lawyer. But me- well I grew up on the corner of Avenue I and Flatbush, and I still don’t know what the hell I’m going to do with my life. (See the correlation?) Don’t get wrong, it’s not the worst neighborhood in the world. It’s actually quite residential, and reasonably safe. Even so, the Hamptons sounds much better…
I used to visit Renaa’s house on weekends, weekdays… you name it. You could always find me there. Renaa – or Nay as I called her, lived down the block from me. I guess you could say she’s my ex best friend. I don’t exactly know what went wrong with her. I mean – she has a mother and a father, and although they’re currently separated, they lived under one rooftop. They always spoiled her (to the best of their abilities). She could always hit up her mom for cash, and then turn to her dad for some more. To me, it seemed like the best of both worlds. I say this because I grew up with my grandmother. My mom passed away when I was twelve from cancer. (Well not really – one night she was complaining of pain, and an at home hospice nurse actually overdosed her with morphine. This explanation is rather graphic and much more difficult to explain, and therefore I usually choose the first one). Since then my grandmother took care of me, and my father chose to live his own life, at his mother’s house… where he currently resides.
When Nay was about sixteen she became addicted to pot. I don’t know if one can actually become addicted to pot, because it’s a common defense for weed smokers to say that “it’s not an addictive drug.” So I guess I’ll rephrase that: Nay became dependent on weed at about the age of sixteen. Luckily, I dogged that bullet until I got older. Then again – I don’t know how lucky that makes me.
Nay was always cooking up some kind of scheme to get money. When we were in about the twelfth grade, she told me that she was going to deposit a fraudulent check into her account to get the money. I was always the more logical type. Although I absolutely despise philosophy, I can always devise up some long logical reason for or against something. I’ve always been good in manipulating the English language – however I’m slightly better at it on paper than in person. When Nay came to me with her plans, I told her that it was absolutely absurd and that she would surely get caught. Sure enough, she did. She was actually arrested, taken to bookings… you know the whole process. She was eventually charged with some kind of money misdemeanor in exchange for community service.
I never quite understood the weird dynamic of our friendship. Besides participating in increasingly mischievous behavior – she always found a way to betray me. There was this one time when she came to my house with my other best friend Nikeya (whom I call Ki) filled up my purse with shirts, jeans, and jewelry and then left. I was distracted because I had other friends over, so I didn’t notice her until I saw her leaving the house with my belongings. There was also the time that she took my brand new pair of orange-stripped air max 95’s to borrow (still in the box I may add), and then claimed that she lost them.
When I first met her, I admired her because I was so shy and quiet while she was so loud and daring. She knew what to wear to get attention, and she hung out with some of the popular girls. She even had a boyfriend in the sixth grade. She was cool, and even knew how to talk to boys. But somewhere along the way, my definition of cool changed. I don’t think hers ever did.
It must have been two or three years ago, when Nay, Ki and I were driving to McDonalds. I had noticed a riff in our friendship that had slowly begun to get bigger. Ki had recently obtained her mom’s old car, and we decided to spend the weekend together. Ki was blasting the newest Drake song, and as the wind whipped through our hair we began to enjoy a night on the town.
“Omg, we’re finally getting older”
“I know, and you’re driving now. You finally got your own whip”
Of course, Nay already had the privilege of driving her dad’s car. He would have given it to her, but she was always in the middle of something, so he was hesitant.
“Remember, when we were younger how we used to be jealous of Krystal’s hair?”
The statement kind of came from left field. It was like a group of people playing a football game, when suddenly a random ball was tossed into rotation. When we were younger, Ki and I had long hair, and Nay did not.
“Um… no that was just you”
Nay wasn’t the prettiest or brightest of the bunch. She never really cared about school – she was more interested her social life and physical appearance. At a young age, she would often wear makeup such as colorful eye shadows, extravagant costume jewelry and hair extensions. Ki was always more interested in school than Nay, and although she didn’t get high grades like me – she always did well. I was always placed in the advanced class, so for me that meant that I was usually one of the very few Black girls in my class. This continued from junior high to high school. I always understood this intellectual division between us, but disregarded it. Throughout our friendship, she would often make comments about me being tall and awkward or my feet being too big, because she was shorter than I, with smaller feet. I remember trying to squeeze into shoes a size smaller, because of her. (And yet, as I got older, I realized that my feet were actually small for my height.) She would often make jokes that got on my nerves – but I ignored them. I remember in the sixth grade, when she curled my hair and pressed the curling iron directly on my forehead, leaving a large box mark on my face for months. (Now, I wonder if this was intentional.) When Nay made her jealousy comment to me that night, it kind of marked the start of the decline of our friendship. She simplemindedly laughed it off, and if I was younger I might have done the same. But now that I was older, I thought it explained too much and I couldn’t understand why my friend of so many years still felt this way.
Our friendship finally came to a ‘sad’ conclusion during my third year of college. She had begun to make up stories about me, and tell a mutual acquaintance. I just couldn’t take it anymore. I never explained to her how I felt – I just kept it inside. I never answered her calls or texts again.
Of recent, Renaa has become a stripper. It’s news that affected me at the time she told me – but now I could actually care less. Sometimes I wonder how two people who grew up in the same neighborhood, with the same values could turn out so different. I mean, the first time I went back to church in my teenage years was with her! Her mother was an active member of the Christian church that was about two blocks from her house. It was actually her that encouraged me to go to the prayer group with her. Until today, everything that transpired between us seems to be a mystery that’s not worth solving.
I resent a lot of my childhood days, and she played a huge part in that. When I look back on everything that happened when we were younger, I often find myself angered about how heavy of an influence she was to me, and how my grandmother was not able to be emotionally available for me. I know it’s not healthy for one to blame anything or anyone for their past actions, but damn it… someone’s got to take part of the blame. Sometimes I wish I grew up anywhere else, with different friends, in an entirely different demographic… like in the Hamptons. Yea – sometimes I wish I grew up in the Hamptons instead of Avenue I….