Stephanie Green’s parents built her a detached apartment in the backyard. Stephanie says she’s been living there six weeks.
I’ve known Stephanie for three years.
This is the first time I’ve heard of the apartment.
On Friday nights, the Friday night Sleepover started. Kate. Patti. Me. The apartment in the backyard. We’d watch tv, make prank calls, apply makeup on each other, and gorge ourselves with food and Stephanie would regale us with questions we didn’t want to think about.
What were we wearing to school on Monday?
What new boy did we like?
….Be careful, she warned. The people we liked may end up liking us.
Instead of answering, we just gorged on fluffer nutter.
Better to fill up the despair with food than think inward to our own existence.
Next Friday we gathered. And the next. Friday Sleepovers became our new unit of time. It was getting harder to live my non-Friday life. One Saturday my mother sent me away from the dinner table because I almost fell asleep in my PB and J sandwich. I sneered at her and a snot bubble exploded out of my nose.
he didn’t mention it to me after that.
At lunch one day Patti pointed out that my sweatshirt had some dried up guacamole on it.
The school cafeteria doesn’t serve guacamole.
The days in between Fridays didn’t seem to matter. Nothing mattered anymore, except Sleepover Friends and her apartment in the backyard. I began to keep track of the days of the week by the color of the jumper our fifth grade teacher wore.
Red. With the little flowers. It must be a Wednesday.
Stephanie and I sit on the stoop outside the school way past the last bell, drinking Capri Suns. “We could make more Sleepover Friends” she tells me with a belch. “We have the people. They’re talking about them at the junior high now.” She throws the shriveled Capri Sun in a perfect arc, landing directly on top of a discarded Lunchables Tray.
I silently seeth. I am filled with rage and bile. What is this? It’s jealousy. I didn’t like the feeling. Sleepover Friends was ours and ours only. It was like a beautiful, individual flower. And Stephanie wanted to make it into a Walmart- franchised, copied, ordinary, with every common kid, jock, nerd….and boys.
It’ll be the first coed Sleepover in the history of the school, Stephanie says. It will be something everyone will remember.
I stand up and begin to aimlessly write on the basketball court with chalk. Where did I get chalk from? We weren’t aloud to take it outside.
Stephanie’s fingers are already stained with chalk.
I write out “eskimo”, “lunchbox”, “parabola”, “starfruit” like they mean something. Like it’s the answer to the whole fucking universe.
“Pete Black wants in” Stephanie says to my back. My bile creeps up to my throat.
Sleepover Friends was feeling less like friends.
On Friday, Patti and Kate are standing outside Stephanie’s private apartment in the backyard,, screaming at Pete Black as he stands perfectly still.
“Go home, you can’t be here” screams Kate.
“We don’t except BOYS in this club, asshole” Pattie says into his ear.
“Stephanie’s parents won’t ALLOW boys to sleep over, you disgusting miscarriage of a deformed elephant” Kate screams in his face.
Stephanie is standing in the doorway, wearing her signature black, white and red and eating S’mores. “It’s part of the ritual,” she tells me, already sensing what I was about to ask her. “You tell them to leave and if they stay, they are ready to be recruited.”
After an hour goes by, it starts to rain. Patti and Kate and I go in, but Pete Black stands in his same posture, even though the rain is gathering in puddles in the pockets of his Bugle Boy pants.
We stay inside and play truth or dare, Two Truths and a Lie. We don’t mention Pete Black.
Pete didn’t show up to school that Monday. Monday meant the blue jumper with the gingham trim. We were studying vocabulary, but I was writing meaningful limericks and handing them out to the class.
There was once a girl who was told to study math
But in protest she refused to ever take a bath
The world’s going to end
Why can’t you comprehend
That everything you do and say doesn’t fucking matter anyway because ot all sounds like the whining of corporate drones sent out on a ledge to junp off like a group of pathetic lemmings
Mrs. Blue Gingham found the Limerick and told me she was calling my mother.
Mother, I repeated the word. I didn’t know the meaning. The only family I knew was Sleepover Friends.
The third Friday after the Limerick incident Pete Black was in Stephanie’s backyard apartment when I arrived with an industrial sized can of Chex Mix..
Pete’s new, Kate said. The first rule of Sleepover Friends is that if you are new, you have to make a prank call..
The second rule of Sleepover Friends is that only one MASH game at a time, Patti added.
The third rule of Sleepover Friends is no shoes, no school clothes, just pajamas.
The fourth rule of Sleepover Friends, snarled Stephanie, is don’t talk about Sleepover Friends.
Just as Pete was about to pick up the phone, it rang.
Lauren, said Stephanie. Pick it up. My hands are covered in cookie dough.
When Stephanie asks, I can never refuse.
“Hi honey”. Mrs. Green sounded like she just came from a tupperware party that suddenly turned into an orgy and they all took a blood oath not to tell anyone. “Don’t stay up too late, you have an orthodontist appointment in the morning.”
“Stephanie, I mean it this time. Be in bed by midnight.”
“What did you call me?” Throats sure can close up quickly.
“Don’t be fresh with me, Stephanie.”
I looked down. My hands were covered in cookie dough.
Sure, mother.Whatever you say.
[Photo made by my friend John.]