You shouldn’t have called me a friend.

In grade school I had friends. Just a few good ones. My one saving grace in life when I was younger, between the ages of 8-12, is that I had some good friends to walk to school with. Every morning I would walk a block to my friend K’s house. Then we’d walk a few houses over to A’s house. A’s mom worked a Monday through Friday and was up early in the morning. Their house had a specific smell to it. One that has stuck with me to this day, 22 years later. As a kid I didn’t really know what it was, but now when I think back it was mainly coffee with some fruit and the normal smells of a home mixed together. Occasionally you’d be able to smell a home cooked breakfast mixed in. It was such a calming smell. Each morning I’d walk into A’s house and the smell would greet me and linger in my sense of smell. I loved it. If for some reason we were running late and I didn’t get to go inside A’s house, it made me feel like I missed out on something. A morning ritual. I’ve come to realize with time that it wasn’t just the smell that brought such joy to my morning. I enjoyed going to A’s house because it was like an alternate reality to my life. My life was chaotic. My mother and I were poor and I never knew any other way of growing up than without money. I didn’t know how it felt to have new shoes, how it felt to have brand new clothes, how it felt to not have to rely on the kindness of others to get the things I need or wanted in life. I constantly reeked of cigarette smoke and my (future) beautiful curly hair was always a mess. My mother worked hard at a job that barely brought in enough to pay the bills. At the time I wasn’t aware of her addiction to scratch tickets, but now in my older years I realize a lot of things my youthful naivety kept me from noticing. Going to A’s house was like a breath of fresh air. A’s mother was also divorced with a young daughter but she worked a decent job that brought in enough money to pay the bills and mortgage on a really nice house located in a safe neighborhood in a good school district. A didn’t go without. She had everything she needed. She had long blonde hair, THICK, with braces and she walked with terrible posture. She wore glasses. And she was the stereotypical nerd. She was extremely intelligent and if you needed help with your homework she was the girl to ask. I don’t know why she was my friend but I didn’t deserve her.

The truth is, I bullied her. I was mean to her. K and I were mean to her. Me more so than K. I made fun of A a lot. For being nerdy. For being smart. For being such a good kid. I was jealous because she had more than me. In my stupid little kid brain I was jealous because she had things that were out of her control. I was jealous because she had a mother that worked a normal job so her family didn’t go without. Jealous because she didn’t live in the neighborhood crack house. Jealous because she didn’t have to share a room with someone else in a house where multiple people chain smoked cigarettes and did crack in the master bedroom for days on end. At least I can credit my mother with that: She never touched the drugs. And before we moved into that home (that was owned by her best friend at the time) no one was doing crack. Times changed and things got crazy and it’s a long story. But I was jealous so I was cruel. And I am ashamed of that.

I found A one day on Facebook and messaged her. I apologized. Not to make myself feel better, but just because I wanted to let her know she deserved better than that. And I was so happy to hear she was living an amazing life. Her brains got her far. She got her braces off and improved her posture and turned into a woman as physically beautiful as she is on the inside.

I didn’t deserve to have A as a friend, but I am absolutely grateful she accepted me for who I was even when I couldn’t do the same for her.

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