Friday, November 15, 2013

Chasity's Lesson

When I was in junior high school – a seventh grader – I had a best friend.  As a seventh-grade girl, this title of “best friend” was tossed around a lot, but not by me and Chasity.  We lived a mile apart, which is extremely close when you’re growing up in rural South Dakota.  We were nearly inseparable for about three years, until after our freshman year of high school.  After that year, her family moved half an hour away to the city of Watertown and she switched high schools. 

By this time, we were old enough to drive and I had gotten a very old and semi-unreliable car from my parents.  Chasity did not have a car, but since I did, we determined that we wouldn’t grow apart despite her not returning to our same school.  After all, in rural South Dakota, thirty miles is also quite close.  

As our sophomore year of high school commenced separately, we did begin to grow apart.  We now talked only once a week, and slowly, even less often than that.  Finally, after Christmas break arrived, Chasity called me to tell me that she missed me, and that we ought to get together to catch up.  I missed her too, and so agreed to make the drive.  We made plans to go to the mall and then see a movie.

I came inside her new house and received a tour, and then we went out the door.  When we got to the mall, however, I was surprised and annoyed to find that Chasity had arranged for other people to meet us there without telling me first.  I let it pass, thinking that she had only wanted to introduce me to new friends, though I was very disappointed.  I had wanted to spend quality time with her and really catch up.  Over the course of the next couple of months, this happened several more times.  

It took me a few more visits to realize that Chasity was only using me for access to a vehicle, and because her mother trusted me.  If her mom saw me in my car outside waiting to pick Chas up, she didn’t worry that her daughter might be up to no good, or at the very least she didn’t worry as much.  This realization hurt me, and infuriated me.  After all, I was driving thirty minutes to spend time with her, though time with me apparently meant little to her.  

The last time I allowed this to happen was the last time we spoke to each other face-to-face.  I picked her up, and hoped against hope that she would not have arranged to meet anyone at the mall.  As you know, teenaged girls are disinclined to tell each other what they really think, and so I postponed the moment when I would have to say anything.  I was also hoping to give her the benefit of the doubt, and that maybe this time, we would actually just hang out.  

Unfortunately, I was disappointed.  Chasity had indeed texted some of her guy friends to meet up with us.  I find it pertinent to mention that the only people we ever met with were guys, because it was another reason for the growing rift in our friendship.  I was never a flirt like Chas was, and I felt left behind.  I remember feeling defensive of the “compliments” the boys threw my way, but Chasity liked the attention.  I was always rather put off by the things her guy friends said.  I did not encourage any of their interest on the few occasions when I met them.  They were not always the same guys.  All I knew at fifteen years old was that I was in unfamiliar territory, and I was confused and probably a little frightened by the flirting, which was on a more advanced level than what I was used to.  I think back then though, Chasity had more curiosity than I did, and I might have been jealous.  If she had ever talked to me about these things and kept me in the loop of her life, things might have gone differently that night.  As it was, we were immature teenagers who didn’t know how to communicate with one another.  I don’t know whether it ever occurred to Chasity to simply tell me that she wanted to meet up with other people when we got to the mall – perhaps if she had, I would not have felt betrayed and then left out by the flirting that ensued.

The mall was never a busy place in Watertown, South Dakota,  especially not on a weeknight.  As we walked inside and rounded a corner, sure enough, I saw a small gang of guys strutting cockily towards us, and I turned to Chas in disgust, and our confrontation began.  I don’t remember what we said, or how it escalated, but before long we had started shouting, and I remember that we had to take it out into the parking lot because it had been inappropriately loud in the empty mall.  I know that I said the cruelest things I could think of to her, and she defensively shot back the corresponding insults at me.  I called her things like “skank” and “slut” etc., and she called me a baby and a prude and told me to grow up.  I remember getting into my vehicle and yelling after her before I drove off, “Have fun slutting around, hope you don’t get knocked up!”  

That was not the last time we saw each other, but it was the last time we spoke.  We didn't interact if we saw each other, but made awkward eye contact and then looked pointedly away.  This continued for the remainder of our high school years.  However, after our dramatic and extremely final fight, I did not take the high road.  I doubt she talked about me respectfully after that either, but that doesn’t change anything, especially not now.  I returned to my high school the next day and abused her thoroughly to the other girls who had known her, and she was our topic of cruel gossip for the next week or more. Throughout the year, occasionally her name would again crop up for negative discussion.  Even after I graduated and went off to college, I would still sometimes bring her up to new friends of mine if it happened to be relevant somehow, and cut her down all the more. 

She did eventually reach out to me on Facebook in the fall of my sophomore year in college.  She informed me that she had had a daughter, and told me that her baby’s birthday was 10/10/10, and she loved that her baby had such a unique birthdate.  October 10th is also my birthday, but instead of offering her a half-hearted congratulation, all I could say back to her was something indifferent and along the lines of “Yeah, that’s my birthday too.”  The conversation fizzled, and I made an excuse to get off my computer.  She never reached out to me again.  I was at a friend’s house at the time of this exchange, and as soon as I closed the laptop, I proceeded to – you guessed it – bash her.  I told the whole stupid story of how she used me for my car and to lie to her mom, and called her a whole host of cruel names again.  I even said some pretty low things about being annoyed that she’d had her baby on my birthday.  

Chasity died on August 4th, 2013.  She was in a vehicle accident north of town somewhere, and I don’t know anything else about the circumstances of her death.  I found out about her on the radio while I was driving out to the Sturgis motorcycle rally.  I felt like I’d been hit in the chest with a battering ram.  I immediately pulled over and called my mom, and then my sister, and then my dad, to tell them what I’d just found out.  My mom cried with me over the phone… I couldn’t have stood it if none of them had picked up my call.  I needed desperately in that moment to have someone to listen while I cried at the loss of an old friend’s memory.

I think about Chasity almost every day since I heard the news about her death, though had she not died, I probably would have gone years without paying her a single thought.  Unless perhaps a new opportunity for talking trash came up.  We did, after all, spend immeasurable amounts of time together, and we had so many great memories.  You do a lot of growing up between the ages of twelve and fifteen, and we had had everything in common once.  I remember the songs we liked, and some of the silly dance moves we made up to them.  I remember climbing trees together in my shelterbelt, and how once we had laughed so hard that she had fallen, though thankfully not far enough to be injured, and we had laughed even harder.  I remember how we’d endlessly play volleyball, or play catch and practice batting in my yard.  She once hit a ball and broke a window on one of my dad’s trucks parked out in the grass.  We got into trouble that day and hadn’t been permitted to see each other for a week.  I remember what an awful week it had been.  

When I think of her now, I don’t remember the things that led to the end of our friendship, except to feel deep shame in my behavior.  I don’t know why I thought it was okay to say the things that I did about her – I think I told myself that it didn’t matter, and because I was telling people who didn’t know her, what I said would never get back to her or hurt her.  I was right about the second part… what I said never did get around to her or hurt her in anyway as far as I am aware, but I could not have been more mistaken in thinking that it did not matter.  

You see, the main reason I think I talked so much trash was that I thought I was right.  I knew that she was wrong to use me for my car, and I knew that she was wrong to lie to her mom, and I knew that she was wrong to lie to me about it.  But how trivial do those things sound as you read them?  It is tragically comical now, yet those things were enough to tear our friendship apart.  I clung to the knowledge that I was the wronged party, and that she was the bad one, making all the mistakes.  I felt quite high and mighty knowing that I was resisting attention from boys and that I never had to sneak away from my parents, because I was an angel and they trusted me.

When I learned that she was gone forever, I think a part of me realized that also meant that any lingering thought I had entertained of making amends with her was also gone.  I would never get to try and make up for all of my trash talking, and worst of all, I would never get to tell her that I didn’t mean the things I said the night we “broke up."  Worst of all was knowing that she had tried to bridge the gap and I had denied her the opportunity.  I could have let my curiosity take over, but instead I let my own bitterness and superiority rule me. 

So, every day for the past few months, Chasity has crossed my mind in one way or another, and the fact that she never heard my mean words directed at her doesn’t ease my guilt anymore.  Instead I feel disgust, and shame, and regret.  I let my need to be right ruin what might have been one of the closest and longest friendships I ever had.  The cruel things I said about her didn’t hurt her one little bit.  They hurt me.  Those careless, stupid, bitter words hurt me every day, knowing that there is nothing I can do to take them back. 

I will never get to be introduced to her daughter, who I hope has her beautiful dark eyes.  I bet her baby’s eyes sparkle and crinkle at the edges when she laughs just like Chasity’s did.  I can never make right the things I said to her in a moment of anger.  I can only learn from my immature mistakes.  I know now that “being right” will never matter as much as a friendship matters. 

I have since found her mother and younger sister on Facebook, but I don’t yet have the courage to reach out to them.  I hope that sometime soon, I can contact them and find out where Chasity is resting.  I’d like to visit her grave, and pay my respects, and maybe if I am extremely blessed, I might get to meet her daughter after all.   

Pamela Parliament
Guest Blogger

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