Reality Check| May 23, 2023
Sori asked me to and I wouldn’t tell her no. Not for anything in the world. And anyway, anything with her is fun, much more fun than with my mother and pesky younger sisters
The shrill singing of my phone abruptly jolted me out of dreamland.
“Hey, wanna come shopping with me for the new season?”
It was my BFF, Sori, the only neighbor my age. Well, delete that. To be completely honest, Sori is not the only neighbor my age. In fact, she’s actually not my age at all. The only neighbor my age, Baila, is awkwardly shy, our every encounter leaving me with a burning throat after attempting to keep far from any and all awkward silences. Whatever. To put it mildly, I do not enjoy Baila’s company.
So that leaves me no one. Well, no one until Sori became super into me. She loves DMCing with me until the wee hours of the morning, talking about things that make me feel two heads taller and three years older. You see, Sori is in the 11th grade and I’m in the eighth. I find it funny how she seems to forget that I’m so much younger. When I questioned her on that, she explained that I’m super mature, even for her age. I blushed.
Being neighbors with such a fun person is, well, fun. School kind of feels like one period melds into the next, one hour into the next, until all you’re left with is a messy puddle of thoughts — and a shooting migraine. So I count the hours, impatiently, every single day, for school to sluggishly go by. Then the wait begins again, the wait for Sori to come home from high school. And once she comes home, if you want to reach me, just give her a ring. (I don’t have a phone. My parents say I’m too young!)
And so, that freezing winter day found me browsing in a mall I’d never been to, for I hate malls. And I’ll repeat that for emphasis. I H-A-T-E malls!! Why then did I go, you ask? Sori asked me to and I wouldn’t tell her no. Not for anything in the world. And anyway, anything with her is fun, much more fun than with my mother and pesky younger sisters.
“Ma, can you get the oats for me?” I yelled, exasperated. I didn’t even realize the disrespectful tone of voice I had used, because I was so afraid Sori would leave. It was an ordinary Wednesday night, and she had come to borrow oats for her mother. Now, she obviously only agreed to do this favor because then she would pick me up for a drive around town. Super stressed, I ran upstairs to my mother, who was putting my little brother in for the night. I was so aggravated, I shouted. Mom looked at me disapprovingly.
Five hours later, I bounded in, visibly on a high, my mind on replay of the night’s events. My jaw throbbed from the perpetual smile planted on my face. We had driven from one friend of Sori’s to the next; she is sooo popular. I actually had no patience for their high school hock, and felt so out of place, unable and uninvited to share in any of their convos. But I wouldn’t dare tell that to Sori. She would promptly drop me off at home and continue on her way, or she would snob me out, mockingly saying that I can’t handle mature conversations.
So yeah, it’s funny that I actually came home feeling so good about myself. I don’t know what it is about Sori, but she infuses me with this self-assured potion and plants a sparkle in my eyes. Basically, she makes me feel on top of this world and so mature.
My twinkling eyes were met with razor-sharp glares from both my parents, which slashed into me like a butcher’s knife. Ouch! The smile that once hurt my jaws instantly jerked back to its natural position. I knew my parents and I had conflicting feelings about this relationship with Sori, and I knew I was in for a lengthy lecture. I wasn’t wrong.
Ahhh. The bliss of being greeted by a magical winter wonderland while your eyes and mouth are still crusted over from sleep, your mind still wishing it could live in the dream you were just in the middle of. The bliss! The world swathed in a blanket of white flurries meant no school for me! It was only a couple of days after the oat fiasco, and I bounded out of bed a little too eagerly and excitedly for my weary bones, ready to just chill through this school-free day. I barely slept last night for I was rudely awakened by Sori, who desperately needed someone to pour her hefty heart out to, and none of her other friends were available. If I had hung up, she wouldn’t have spoken to me for forever.
After dressing and davening, I phoned Sori of course. A groggy voice answered. But before I could respond, that groggy voice quickly transformed into that of an angry villain. Gosh, I never knew about this part of Sori, the really-bad-morning-person part. Just for waking someone up one deserves such jeering mockery and insults? And to think she did the same to me yesterday, without an apology, completely expecting me to remain on the phone with her.
Yet when she called a few hours later, her sugary voice spewing compliment after compliment, I bundled myself up in mere seconds and bolted out the door. Trudging through the knee-deep snow, I headed for her home, dreaming of the coziness of indoor heating and being in her company. Obviously, Sori refused to come to my house in this storm, and obviously, I didn’t think twice about going to hers. After finally arriving and peeling off my wet gear, we were snugly drinking hot cocoa with cinnamon on her shag rug. Literally two minutes after settling ourselves down, Sori’s mom hollered for her. She needed her help, forcing me to brave the elements once again. My toes hadn’t even been granted the decency of warming up yet, and I still couldn’t feel them. But I couldn’t stay at Sori’s house, as it wasn’t a good time for her to have company.
And you know what else? I didn’t even have the chance to yank on those sodden boots. I was so pressured to leave the house at Sori’s command that I walked home barefoot. I’ll repeat that. In the biggest, angriest snowstorm to hit our town in nearly a decade, I walked home barefoot! After multiple falls into the soft, plush snow, while lugging myself and my cumbersome winter gear, covered in snow, after wiping away my tears so as not to cloud my vision, I made it home in one piece. As soon as my numb body wobbled through the door, the contrast in temperature nearly sent me to the ER, or worse. I was shaking like a newly planted tree in the vicious winter winds and squealed for my mom’s help with the remaining strength I possessed. My mother was visibly shocked and upset. I was crying uncontrollably.
Hot chocolate in one quivering hand, hot water bottle in the other, I reflected on all that had transpired. I even challenged myself to probe deeper and think about this relationship as a whole. It was far more challenging than any intense workout I’d ever done, and I’m not in shape at all. Sori hadn’t kicked me out the door, forbidding me from a trek home in proper attire. Then why had I impulsively disappeared the instant she told me to? Was I afraid? Was she causing me to actually feel lesser about myself while I erroneously believed that this relationship was pumping confidence and a “be sure of yourself” air into me?
It was so scary to face the truth head-on — it was so frightening and humiliating to realize the reality. Yet at the same time, it was so soothing and invigorating.
Like a cup of hot chocolate on a frosty winter day.
Ahhh. The bliss.
(Originally featured in Teen, Issue 97)
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