We ran home from Rugby Road, from the fracas and faint gold light of the frat house. It was long past midnight, and her hair shone blue in the moon, and we were laughing.
Down the lawn, past the Thomas Jefferson statue, weaving around stumbling classmates and a cluster of ring-wearing fourth years smoking cigarettes, our forms illit then illuminate in the staccato floodlights,
And she stopped by the amphitheatre to catch her breath, and we grinned at one another, at our secrets, at the distance between the children we were at home and the women we were in college.
“Never change, Jen,” she said, and she swung her arm around my neck. “Never change.” She had a baby face, and a Tennessee twang, and I loved her. She pronounced my name like the booze we’d been drinking, “gin” — an unapologetic transposition of vowels. Most of the Southerners I knew, which is to say, most of my classmates — the Virginians, the Texans, the South Carolinians — softened the sound by adding an extra vowel, so it’d come out “jee-inn,” but with her, my name strode out clipped, pert, urgent, and I found the idiosyncrasy of this pronunciation as appealing as secret code.
We walked slowly, then, ambling up McCormick towards our dorm, the boys behind us as immaterial as tomorrow’s schoolwork. We’d tired of our beaus and, wordlessly, she’d slipped her hand in mine and asked after the bathroom. We’d walked down the dim, squalid hallway of that teardown house together and then made a run for it. A perfect Irish goodbye.
Back in our dorm, we saw the boys from earlier in the night standing in the quad in front of our building, calling out names that belonged to neither of us. It was not a malicious visiting — they appeared effete, impuissant — but we both saw immediately the haphazardness of their desire, the way it pointed lackadaisically in the direction of any first-year girl, and we had the good sense to shelter in place, together. They hadn’t cared to listen to our names, and we’d grown bored of them anyway. Besides, we were in our pajamas, with retainers and PanOxyl patches, and we were happy to be alone. She was a Harpeth Hall girl, and she observed sisterhood the way my Visitation classmates did: its intimacy something hallowed and holy. She was the type of girl who was immediately on your side, shouldering against the callousness of boys and the overlording of adults. We would figure out how to deal with those boys, or we wouldn’t, but none of it mattered, not that night.
That night belonged, both at that moment of midnight in Charlottesville, and forever in my memory, to my friend and I. To the way girlhood friendships are nearly too intimate to make sense of. Is it maturity, or the introduction of significant others, or the bearing of children that attenuates that intensity? Of all the things I have shed in my 20s and 30s, the friendships of my youth are the most-missed. The way I could hardly wait to call my friends on the phone after spending all day with them at school. The colossus of emails between my best friend and I in college, journaling every last detail about the cute e-school boy she’d introduced me to (Landon!), and the car he drove (Party Girl!), and the way he mostly ignored me. The fact that we always had a better time getting ready to go out — listening to music, comparing outfits, wargaming AIM messages — than actually attending the parties. The notion that on the night I met the boy who would become my first college boyfriend, I mainly remember laughing with my girlfriends in the corner of his room.
I think sometimes we undermine the heft of these relationships because they look like squeals and preening. But that sisterhood was how I first learned to separate, safely, from my parents and stand on my own fawnlike legs. With the cover of girlfriends, I could navigate the scary world of boys, and living away from home, and missing my siblings and the blue carpet of my childhood bedroom and the sound of my father opening his briefcase on the third step of the front stairs each night. They became proxies for family, and structure, and they were always the softest of landings. In the shapelessness of adolescence, they helped me draw a silhouette.
Honoring those sisters today, especially my Tennessee girl.
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+Ordering this $35 denim shirt.
+Everyone’s favorite vitamin c serum is BACK. It is EXCELLENT! Thanks to a Magpie for the tip! The best product for achieving brightness/glow in your skin on a daily basis. You will radiate from the inside out.
+I bought these mama-and-son “first day of school” bracelets for my son, who is starting pre-K at a new school this week! This style is cute if you have a little lady going off to Kinder!
+This blush eyelet top is so pretty. Reminds me of SEA.
+Cleobella always does such interesting prints for fall/winter – love this dress.
+My most-used eye shadow palette. Great neutrals with staying power.
+I just received this beautiful stone strand necklace from Dorsey and it’s SUCH a great layering piece, but also looks spectacular on its own against bare shoulders. Cannot believe it’s only around $250!!!
+Cute puffer vest for a little love.
+This waffle maker makes waffles in the shape of TRUCKS! Major birthday morning upgrade.
+Our favorite game comes in a travel version! Ordering!