|There was an old wood planked fence separating our yard from the neighbors but it didn’t take long for us to notice there was a girl my age living next door. It took even less time for us (my sister and I) to make friends with her and to start talking over the fence for hours everyday. By the time that fence had to be replaced the planks where we stood, in between two trees, had been worn smooth by our hands grabbing them to pull ourselves up on the cross plank below to see over and on the other side there was a bench that had served the same purpose so sunken into the ground that it had to be dug up.|
The girl on the other side of the fence was called Jennifer and she was absolutely stunning, my mother commented on it often, but more than that, she was also energetic and fun.
Oh, she was fun. I don’t know what we’d have spent our summers doing if she hadn’t been next door but I do know my sister and I would have spent a lot more time arguing. Instead the three of us walked to 7-11 for candy to play poker. Danya would eat all the Atomic fireballs, I’d eat all the Tootsie Rolls, and Jennifer would eat the Laffy Taffy, telling us the lame jokes under the wrappers as the candy dwindled and the game got boring.
When we didn’t have change for candy we’d sit around playing Go Fish with a regular deck of cards in our version you had to collect all four cards before you could put them down as a set. It was an infuriating way to play and more often then not instead of a simple “Go Fish,” Jennifer would say, “Go Fish in a lake and drown,” which would then escalate into a contest to see who could come up with the worst way you could possibly die while fishing.
Then there was the summer we goofed around with divination; Ouija boards, tarot cards, and ridiculous séances held in Jennifer’s garage. More than once they were interrupted by the garage door opening and us almost being run over by someone returning home.
I got all my best clothes from Jennifer’s hand me downs. My favorite shirt is still the red plaid thrift store find that’s so threadbare it’s nearly unwearable. It had a cigarette burn in it to begin with and now it has two missing buttons, and is spotted with paint from when we painted her room. I always think of her when I pull it out of the closet, it reminds me of all the afternoons we spent lying on the shag carpet in her room while she forced me to listen to The Cure as if the constancy of it would suddenly endear it to me.
Ah, the music. I can’t think of her without thinking of all the bands she introduced me to, some good and some not my taste no matter how hard I tried. She was the first one to play me a Sex Pistols disk and for that I’ll be grateful forever. She also opened my eyes to The Ramones, Elvis Costello, Iggy Pop, Velvet Underground, Joy Division, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Dead Kennedys, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I can’t say I loved it all but I can say I was more prepared to find my own niche in the music world because of Jennifer’s fervor. I held my own in the punk scene because of the solid background I got from her.
I remember her distinctive walk, her weird phrases, her odd style, her super short bangs, her talent for painting, her stint in The Starving Artists Club, and how the other Jennifer around the corner was banned from hanging out with us because we were a bad influence. I remember her swearing me to secrecy that she like d No Doubt. I remember her taking up smoking those ridiculous Virginia Slims Ultra Luxury Lights, the air in LA has more of a kick than those things. I remember her working at PetSmart and bringing home a houseful of pets (not the least of which was the eel she named after Sid Vicious who promptly ate the other fish and threw itself out of the tank repeatedly until it finally succeeded at committing suicide). What I remember most is just her standing there on the other side of the fence laughing and talking, about everything and nothing for all those years.
When we moved we tried to stay in touch with her but her life was just starting to take off and she was hard to get a hold of. When she moved out her dad wouldn’t give me her phone number and I lost track of her. My sister and I inquired about her when we saw people who knew her but never got a real solid answer. We always assumed we’d eventually run into her again. We didn’t know she had moved back to Texas, we didn’t know she got sick, we didn’t know that she had passed away until a few days ago when I ran into another old high school friend. It was so shocking that I didn’t believe it until I saw the MySpace page with the pictures of her.
I’m so sorry that I didn’t try harder to find her. I’m sorry that I missed the last years of her life. I’m sorry that she’s gone. I’ve missed her and now, I’ll always miss her. She was very dear, very special, and very loved.