There I was, straight out of middle school, and thrown in with the high school wolves. As scary as it was, it still excited me to be among older peers because, according to me, I was mature now. This is when life started to get a little more interesting.
In high school for the first few months it was me and very few familiar faces. I wanted to seek some form of guidance from the girls I already called friends. They were girls I knew and hung out with regularly. One had a car and the other worked mostly nights, so she spent her days sleeping. I didn’t want to go to school, so I quickly fixed that issue by skipping school to go visit my friends. I soon realized hanging out with them wasn’t going to work.
First, because one friend spent most the day asleep and the other friend – the one with a car – kind of sucked at being a friend. I often slept over at her house because she had her own bedroom and her mom gave her a lot of leeway. She once left me at her house babysitting her younger brother to visit another friend. Another time, when I stayed over at her house on a Sunday, she disappeared on me while I was sleeping. The only reason I had stayed was because I thought she was going to at least take me home the next morning so I could go to school. Well, when I woke up Monday morning she was gone – and so were my shoes. She had left me again, but this time she had also taken my shoes without even asking if she could borrow them.
Now that I think about it, I don’t think she liked me. I needed new friends or at least to find a different high school. Both of those things happened eventually. But first, my new friends.
“Hey! Psssst! Hey.” – I hear someone whisper, but not really because they are really trying to get my attention. I turn around trying to see which girl behind me is talking to me.
“Where are you from?” – She asks.
I look at her and try to smile lightly because I understand this is the kind of question that can get you into a fight if you don’t answer correctly.
“From the other side.” – I answer.
The other side indicates the other side of the train tracks right next to the middle school. These are the train tracks we have to cross over to attend that high school. Those train tracks are what separates my neighborhood from the rest of the outside world. Many a fights have taken place at those train tracks without an obvious cause. That you simply lived on that side or this side was cause enough a lot of times.
“Oh! By where?” – She asks with a softer tone.
“By the new elementary school.” – I reply
“Martinez?” – She tries to confirm.
Just like that I had new friends.
She herself had an older sister and a host of other friends. It didn’t take long for me to make more friends, and a few enemies. These girls were much older than me. At 17 and 18 they had a lot more life lessons under their belt than me. I was only 14.
Pretty soon I was hanging out with them on weekends and staying at their houses skipping school. We would leave the school around the same time all the time. Getting picked up by different friends and so on. They taught me my first lessons on confidence. Accept the world as it is and to do your best to thrive.
They weren’t leaving me behind nor were they unwilling to teach me. I wasn’t just surviving, I learned how to thrive.
It’s unreal how much fun we had around each other all those years hanging out. For sure we had heartaches and maybe a few fights too, but we always moved past the difficult times collectively. Different friends and familiar faces would come in and out of our lives at different times, but the core stayed together. We had a network that was hard to invade and disband. Even now as I write this I feel like that same girl. It was truly an exciting time. I had finally learned to take care of myself… well mostly.