It's 4:45pm. I'm sitting on the stoop--the warm Summer breeze flowing through my hair when I hear a pitter-patter coming from the left side of me. It's Cole--just coming back from a run. Cole is somewhat of an athlete. He always tells people how he met his first love--baseball.
"I was just three years old when I was first introduced to her," he would say, "I fell in love instantly!"
When I first met Cole he hated me. My family and I had just moved to the neighborhood and I didn't know he lived next door until the first day of fourth grade.
We were coming home from school. When the school bus stopped on our street we got up almost simultaneously and started for the door in unison. We were so silly, we tried to exit the door at the same time. After trying to budge for what seemed like forever he finally said, "Fine! You go first!", giving me a dirty look. I did just that and as he was getting off I stuck my tongue out at him, then I saw him walking to the house next door and realized thatthat wouldn't be the only time I'd have to face him.
He despised me for the rest of the year--until one day during recess, I was drinking from the water fountain when this boy named Bobby came over and splashed water up at my face. He laughed and taunted me, "Don't drown," he said as I was choking from water going up my nose. When I finally stopped gagging I realized what he was doing and I put my hands over my eyes--crying hysterically. He and his flunky just pointed and laughed. After a few seconds of them laughing I heard someone groan as if they were being hit. I uncovered my eyes to see Cole on top of Bobby, punching and screaming at him. Flunky was nowhere in sight. I couldn't believe my eyes. The boy who I thought hated me was coming to my defense. I was frozen, my mind couldn't process any emotion into my body to try to break it up--or run even! I just stood there, in shock. When the bell rang a teacher came out, seperated them and just as they were being dragged to the principal's office, Cole and I shared a glance--as if to say "Thank you" and he to say, "Don't mention it." I never asked him why he did that for me, even after all these years--almost ten years. And even after all these years he's still my best friend in the world.
Cole ran past me and went next door to his house where he'd left his shirt hanging on the chair on his stoop. He put his shirt on and walked back over to me, taking drinks from his water bottle on the way down. "Hey Soph", he said walking, drinking and still trying to catch his breath.
"Good run?", I say.
He sat down next to me,"Eh. It was what it was." A phrase he said often.
I gave him a confused look--noticing the sweat dripping from his dirty blonde hair, which when grown out long enough looked like a shade of light brown.
He continued, "So, are you excited?"
"For?", I looked at him confused again.
"Don't tell me you forgot? How could you forget? It's only a week away."
"A week?," I turned my face to him, "Is that all?," I turned my face back to the view of the city in front of me, "I thought I'd have more time."
Nowhe was the one looking confused. "More time? More time for what?!" Now he looked panicked.
"Relax, I'm not dying."
"Well, then what is it?", he said in a soft, worried tone.
I don't want to tell him. I have to tell him. If I told him he would just blow his lid. He does tend to have a short fuse sometimes. How would he react if I told him what I'd been up to these past few weeks? Would he understand? Would he totally shit? I decided to risk it anyway.
"Well ... remember when Karina and I had that fight right before the end of the school year?"
"Yeah," he said.
My older sister, Karina had come over to visit for the weekend. Things were going pretty well until late Saturday night, when Karina came back from the movies. She said that it would just be she and I, spending quality sister time. I was getting ready when a couple of Karina's old friends came over and paid a visit. They were chatting and laughing when she invited them to tag along. I was still getting ready at the time and when I was finally ready to go, I came to find that Karina had left without me. When she returned around 11:30pm,I confronted her about it--turning it into a shouting match. Words were said, names were called and secrets revealed. One secret revealed that was never to be revealed was that the man I was raised by, the manI knew asmy father, was indeed notmy father at all. The argument ended there. How wasI supposed to respond to that?I didn't. I stood, shell-shockedfor a moment before deciding to go to bed. The subject was never brought up again. At least, not until now.
"I've been trying to look for him," I say.
"What?!" He says, eyebrows raised.
"I just. . .I mean, maybe he's not so bad?"
"Or maybe he's a total fuck up whose life is to shit and has nothing to offer--not even a dime to his name?" He continued, "Come on, Soph. He left your mother broke and alone with a toddler and a kid on the way for some young Coke whore who could score him some free Blow! If he really gave two shits he'd be here right now."
He was right. It's not like I had any leads. I don't know what he looks like. I don't even know his name. I was starting to realize that the whole search was pretty far-fetched from the jump. I'd put too much to the imagination. He, my biological father, had left for his own selfish reasons. That was fact. I wanted to think different. I hoped for different. But Cole was right. I sat there picking at my nails. I didn't feel like there was anymore I could say to contest his very valid point.
I felt his stare burning at my side. "I'm sorry, Soph. I didn't mean to make you feel bad. I just don't want you to get your hopes up looking for something that's not there."
"No, you're right. It was stupid."
"I didn't say it was stupid."
"But it is. I shouldn't be trying to track down somebody that obviously wants nothing to do with me. It's a waste--huge, fucking waste."
We both stayed quiet for a moment, staring at the city before us. Awkward silence almost. Cole couldn't stand awkward silences. So of course it would be him to break the ice.
"You going up tonight?" He asks. What he meant was: Am I going up on the roof to star gaze? It's something we both did often. Sometimes together. Sometimes not. Sometimes one of us would go up and find that the other had the same idea. And sometimes when we were up on our rooftops at the same time--we'd sit at the edge of our rooftops, facing each other and just talk. Sometimes for hours.
"I don't know. I might go do something."
"Not something that includes looking for a certain deadbeat, right?" He gives me that "you-better-not" look.
I smile in reassurance, "No. Fairie invited me to this party tonight. I told her I'd think about it."
Fairie was my other BFF. We met in junior high and have been thick as thieves ever since. Her parents are kind of what you'd call "hippies"--hence her name being Fairie.
He raised his eyebrows, "Sophie Luciana Pavao," I hated when he called me by my full name like he had authority over me. He continued, "I can't believe my ears. The girl who swore of parties, sex, drugs and alcohol, is actuallythinking about going to a party?"
"Don't make me sound like a square--I've done all those things before."
"Once. When we were 14."
It was our 8th grade graduation and a girl named Violet Fioré had invited everybody in our grade to her house for what was supposed to be a graduation party. It ended up being the worst day--actually weekend--of my life. Cole and I had gone to the party together and somehow got seperated and left without each other. I remember I'd met this older guy, he was seventeen. He was tall with black hair, bright blue eyes, tanned skin and a light scruffy beard. He was skinny, but muscular--not buff--just muscular. And he had long arms. At least they looked long. He asked me if I wanted to join him for a smoke. I told him I didn't smoke. He chuckled, then asked me to follow him to his room--said he wanted to show me something. I followed him. He opened the door like a gentleman and said, "Ladies first." I walked in and observed the room, a mess. Bed not made, clothes just thrown every which way, dirty dishes everywhere, some with food still on them. It was disgusting. I felt like I might catch a disease in there, it made me hesitant. He closed the door behind him and went straight to his closet, shuffling through things like he'd forgotten where he put something. At last, I saw him reach up to the top shelf above the clothes rack and bring down a shoebox. Shoes? I thought, That's not so bad. Walking back toward me, he gestured that I take a seat on his bed, so I did. He sat next to me and said, "So pot's not your thing. That's cool, but maybe this is." He opened the box--nothing but ecstasy.