a musing on zaire (my friend, not the country).


i grew up in this town called ‘downey,’ just outside of l.a. suburb, white bread america boring, the type of town that cast me as town weirdo. and the type of place from which all town weirdos inevitably long to escape.

did eight years of catholic school, then two years in public, first time since kindergarten for high school. drama geek, no surprise there. and i’m not sure when just exactly it was that i started hearing talk of it, a performing arts high school out in the city somewhere. like ‘fame,’ apparently, with dancing on the tables at lunchtime and everything. called 411 one day, out of the blue, out of nowhere.
“los angeles. the high school for performing arts?”
and i got the number.

walking into king hall that first day, i felt like i had finally found my people. my fellow town weirdos, some obvious, some not. l.a. county high school for the arts. kids walking the halls with paperbacks tucked in back pockets, dancers so sexy, so at home in their bodies. the artists carrying and artboxes, portfolios. musicians had lockers for their instruments, i think.

i was a first year junior, she sophmore. zaire. tall with a caramel complexion, she looked like a younger version of vanessa l. williams. only funnier. like really funny. like getting kicked out of class every day funny. sometimes she’d come to school well put together. skirts with tights and flats and the like. her hair and make-up done perfect. but then there’d be days when she just didn’t give a fuck. i don’t know how many times the girl came to school in her jammies. punk rock outlaw and rebel.

our beginning lost, i now remember it always being her and i. partners in crime. little hot mess that i was. geeky, closeted, mousy brown hair, my favorite outfit plaid pants with purple and blue tie-dye, bought on sale at miller’s outpost on an awkward excursion with father.

havoc our forte’, every day a tear up anew. on campus at cal state l.a., there we were, running up the down escalators and down the up. kicked out of algebra daily by a teacher we called ‘skipper,’ a tall, portly man with locks of white hair. every day eating stolen grilled cheese sandwiches from the food court. you ordered first, you see, at a buffet sort of thing, then you had to stand in line at the register. we’d stand in the middle of the food court and hug each other, then we’d slip our sandwiches under our clothes and walk out. we also stole from the food carts outside of king hall.  one time she even made the front page of the university times for playing in one of the fountains. it was her and i, and oftentimes marc, my best friend and beard at the time. and sometimes the grip of kids i babysat in downey, my lost boys.

i was falling apart when she left for new york. wrote a few letters back and forth. i was out by then, to myself, at least. i laughed out loud when i read in one, “how are you and marc doing? or let me guess, you’re both bisexual and have each taken lovers… sorry, one starts to think everyone is bi after living in the village a while…” called her laughing and told her, of course.

and then we lost touch. but she was always someone i thought of. she was always the one i wanted to find. and then a couple of days ago, i did. by the (horror) magic of facebook. and i must say, it’s a lovely feeling, having a missing piece back. makes me wonder, ponder the nature of friendships. sometimes it’s them and sometimes it’s you. sometimes you just drift apart for no discernible reason at all while at other times it’s simply growth in different directions. i wonder the difference between the friends that drift away and that find their way back and those that don’t. it doesn’t matter so much in the end, i suppose, for it is all part of the journey.


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