When VH1 plays their show, “I Love the 80's", I always tune in. To me, it is a reminder of a decade that was much more than just Madonna and He-Man. For me, it was the calm before the storm. No footprint had yet made its biased imprint on my subconscious. I cared not whether elephant or donkey. The world was a playground, free and always open. Stress was something that happened only when the teacher saw the note you were attempting to pass and read it to the class.
Rhonda Farris and I had been best friends since kindergarten. She made me smile. She put a substance called "afro sheen" on her hair. She said if she did not apply this, she would get a "nappy head." I loved the word "nappy" but found little chance to use it.
Rhonda's afro sheen left a greasy spot on the bus seat. Her white bows got oily and sometimes pieces of lint would find their way into her hair. I spent a good while picking them out. Her knees would flake a whiter color than the rest of her legs. She said she was “ashy” and I smiled. I noticed that her gums were purpler than mine and that her lips were much bigger. Best friends who were slightly different and definitely equal.
When we were in fourth grade, we loved to sit in the classroom loft and read books like Old Yeller, Bridge to Terabithia and Indian in the Cupboard. In fifth grade we agreed that My Side of the Mountain was our favorite book.
The summer after fifth grade, we enjoyed the "stone washed" jean trend and listened to Salt and Pepa and Run DMC. It was something new called "rap." It was fun and had a great dance beat.
In sixth grade there was a strange vibe. I knew we were different because of "becoming adolescents", but there seemed to be different styles emerging. Some of the black boys had picks in their hair and their pants were sagging. Rhonda was interested in boys and nobody wanted to read The Hardy Boys or play dodgeball, anymore.
One afternoon, Rhonda and I were talking by the basketball court. A group of Rhonda's friends laughed that she was "trying to talk white." I crinkled my nose and told her that was silly. She didn't say anything. Yes, it seemed things were changing. I didn't mind.
O.k, I minded a little bit.
I didn't see Rhonda outside of school after that summer.
Two years later, in Junior High school, Rhonda was noticeably pregnant. I was hit by a foreign emotion. Was I too young to be nostalgic? I was still proud of my "arm wrestling" skills and thought boys were just..."ok." Rhonda would give me no eye contact those three years of middle school. Had she, she would have seen the same ole naive grin of her elementary school friend.
In high school I was introduced to "cliques." It seemed there was a group for every individual. Blacks seemed to be a group of their own, but the whites didn't stop at color! Oh no, there were jocks, theatre students (one table for the actors and actresses and one for the "tech" guys), band members, sluts, and nerds, freaks (future Columbine suspects and Halo War gamers) future politicians and wiccans. I had a friend at every table. I didn’t know where to sit. I was a nomad. Looking back, it makes perfect sense that I would have no group to call my own.
I wanted a table of friends, not look-a-likes. What was wrong with everybody? While my peers were discussing what to do on Friday night, I was looking around and pondering the distinct divides in the lunchroom.
We may not be in school anymore, but we don’t sit together. My town has a clear divide between west and east side Montgomery. East Montgomery has mainly white residents while West Montgomery has mainly black residents. There is a “black” mall and a “white" mall. Of course the signs do not read that way, and we certainly don't talk about it in mixed company.
Maybe that’s the way it has been and will always be. I feel like the only adult on the highway and I want to pull everyone over. Pull them all over and force them to get in a straight line. No talking. That's when I will begin to count to twenty and shout...
READY OR NOT HERE I COME
...and we all play games until the street lights come on.
We all know it's time to go home
when the street lights