the joke that launched exactly one friendship


[That’s a wall I climbed in Barcelona. I got stuck up there for a while.]

I started off today in a very important meeting over Skype with my best friend in New York. We talked until I was hungry enough that I started to believe that the food dancing around my head was real. When we disconnected the call, I thought, “Huh. I met that girl when I was fourteen.” I guess since my twenty-seventh birthday is next month, I’ve been nostalgizing more than usual.

So here’s some of it now! I was standing in the back of Mr. Lipitz’s history class on my first day of high school. The room was organized into rows of two desks pressed side-by-side, and as Mr. Lipitz called out names from his roll book alphabetically by surname, I figured out that for the next nine months, we’d be a zigzagging alphabetical surname snake.

And, more importantly, I realized that I didn’t have a choice of who sat next to me (not that I knew anyone). When called, I carried my books to a desk and studied the empty chair next to mine for a second. With the desks this close, I’d really have to like this person or spend the rest of my year in hell. (I didn’t have grey areas of thought at fourteen.)

When a beautiful, unsmiling girl sat next to me, I shared a glance with her and thought, “Bitch.”

…Unaware that she’d looked back at me and thought, “Snob.”

We settled into our seats, staring straight ahead with pointed disinterest in each other. We were doomed to sit side by side every school day until June, and neither of us was planning to pretend to be happy about this.

Mr. Lipitz beamed at us all, his newest class bursting with potential, and began his introduction lesson, of which I remember zero things. (I should point out here that he was a good teacher, but those intro lessons are really only meant to be absorbed and retained for forty minutes upon whose completion the information evaporates to make room for more Ocarina of Time music memorization storage.) The only part of the class I remember is this:

Somewhere in the middle, Mr. Lipitz made a joke. It was a terrible joke. A shameless joke that, by his tiny self-deprecating smile, he didn’t even expect us to smile tolerantly at. And in any other class, he might have been right.

But on that day, in that class, that joke made two out of his twenty-some-odd students laugh so hard they almost fractured essential parts of their ribcages. In that moment, a joke – one so ridiculous and so unworthy of laughter it had not only NOT made anyone else laugh but had earned their poisonous derision – made me and the girl sitting next to me immediate friends. In the middle of cackling, we looked at each other in shock and the expression of surprise mixed with cackling in an otherwise dead silent room only made the situation funnier and prolonged the laughing session for an extra twelve hours (or so it seemed).

Even Mr. Lipitz, to his credit, was staring at us in smiling bemusement. He knew his joke had been funny, but not first-impression-breakingly funny.

After we’d calmed down, Mr. Lipitz continued his lesson, our classmates gave us bewildered looks, and I and the girl sitting next to me grinned at each other with newfound respect.

We spent the rest of the year sharing history, biology, and the same lunch period. We memorized Monty Python and the Holy Grail sitting in the back of our biology class, watching it on mute and reading the subtitles on her school-issued laptop (our school-issued laptops were a very, very bad idea from a very, very optimistically innovative mind). Her dad helped us build a model of a castle for history class. We played The Sims together. She saw the entire span of my first relationship. We went through 9/11. We stayed friends after I moved away (repeatedly). She’s come to my family’s parties and I’ve been to hers, and this year we spent New Year’s at her cousin’s place in Brooklyn, where I developed a whole new appreciation of how awesome and warm her family is.

Whether she knows it or not (and if I haven’t mentioned it before, she’s going to find out now), her friendship’s enormously important to me.

Because: I can’t remember a fight that one of us couldn’t cure with a joke or a sincere apology (or both). We’ve gone weeks and months without talking and it doesn’t ever make so much as a dent in things. I’ve told her everything that’s conked around in my head no matter how terrible of a person I think it makes me come across as. No matter what I tell her, she never judges me; at most, she just asks questions to get a better grasp on the situation.

Knowing she’s a part of my life makes everything IN my life that much brighter, happier, and more fun.

…Unfortunately, she DOES find fault with my religious practice of replaying songs we like until she hates them, but I think she’s made her peace with that.

Thus, I dedicate today’s entry to *Best Friend’s Name. ♡

*Natasha…? Nicole? Nii? Damn it, I wonder if I have her on Facebook….


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