The Prodigal Friend

January 5, 2017

Taylor and I, freshman year at FAMU.

Taylor staggered into my dorm room in the middle of the night. Her speech was slurred, so I could only make out the part about her coming from some type of initiation party. She was wearing a short, light blue dress, and she had brown, curly braids. My roommate must have let her in.

Taylor said a few words, then giggled. Then she fell into our dresser and giggled more. She was annoying me, but I watched her for as long as I could, until my heavy eyelids dropped shut, and I went back to sleep.
The way she barged into our room that night was the way she barged into my life…without invitation. But sometimes the best gifts come unexpectedly.

It was our freshman year at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University. My roommate, LaTanya, and her friends were from Miami and seemed to know each other before we moved into our dorm. They were always in our room, laughing and talking, sitting on my bed and at my desk. They thought I was bitchy because I would ask them to move. They weren’t my friends, and I didn’t mind keeping it that way. I was an only child. I liked my space.

While most of LaTanya’s friends talked about me behind my back, Taylor, who had been LaTanya’s best friend since high school seemed unfazed by my bad attitude.

“You’re really from Connecticut?!” she asked excitedly.
“I’ve never met anyone from Connecticut. I’m so jealous that LaTanya gets to have a roommate from Connecticut. My roommates are from Florida, but I’m from Florida too, so it’s not really a big deal. What’s it like there?
“It’s okay, I…“
“What made you come all the way to Florida?”
“I wanted to be in warmer weather, and I wanted to go to a black…”
“Are there a lot of black people there?”
“Yes, actually there’s a…”

I couldn’t answer her questions fast enough.

A short time after Taylor’s interrogation, she learned that I was going to try out for one of the school’s dance groups. Without hesitation, she took me down to her room. She showed me how to use her scanner so that I could type up my application to make it look professional. It was with her help, that I became one of a few freshmen to make the dance group.

When Taylor learned that I was dating someone, she wanted to help with that too. Whenever people called the room phone for me, LaTanya wrote their names down with a blue dry erase marker on our mirror. When the name “Michael” kept appearing, Taylor got “Connecticut” excited all over again.

“So, who’s Michael?”
“Where’s he from?”
“What’s he like?”
“What’s his major?”
“Do you like him a lot?”
“Do you like having sex with him?”
“What?! You’ve never had sex?!”

At that moment, she planned a trip for us and my roommate to visit Victoria’s Secret in the Tallahassee Mall, so we could shop for some lingerie suitable for virginity loss. The three of us decided on a satin green bra and panty set.

When we got back to our dorm, Taylor became the project manager for my Virginity Loss Mission. The job would go down after a Valentine’s Day dance on campus. She also helped me plan my outfit for the dance, a fitted black skirt, a sheer black top and black boots. We decided that I shouldn’t tell Michael…that I would surprise him instead, so that he wouldn’t be thinking about sex the entire night, even though he probably was anyway.

Taylor and my roommate didn’t go to the dance with me, but Taylor told me to let her know as soon as I got back to my dorm room. She said she wanted to be there while I got ready for my big night with Michael. Boys weren’t allowed in the dorm lobby after 9 p.m., so he waited outside in the chilly northern Florida weather. All that I told him was that I wanted to spend the night in his room with him.

Taylor sat on my bed as I showered, re-shaved, and drowned myself in Cucumber Melon Bath & Bodyworks lotion and body spray that my roommate let me use. The three of us talked about how excited we were.
About an hour later, Michael called me from his dorm room to tell me he got cold waiting outside for me.
“No, come back!” I said with a pained urgency. I didn’t tell him why.

“You can come over tomorrow,” he said. He wouldn’t budge.
“Okay,” I said, hanging up the phone slowly.
“What’s wrong?” Taylor said.
“I took too long.”
We were crushed, but Taylor looked at the bright side. “Well, just consider this a dress rehearsal,” she said. “It won’t take you as long next time.”

We laughed.

The following week, the mission was completed without a hitch. Taylor was right, I got ready in about 45 minutes that time. I got back to my dorm room the next morning, while the sun was still rising, but I called Taylor to come down to my room anyway.

“Why are you back so early?” she asked concerned.
“I had to pee so bad,” I said laughing.

She laughed too. It was one detail we hadn’t thought of. I couldn’t use the bathroom at Michael’s dorm because girls weren’t supposed to be there. I thought I would get caught and fined if I used the bathroom there.

“Well, how was it?” Taylor asked, with her eyes wide open.
“It hurt! It felt like I was getting stabbed with a knife.”
She giggled. “It will get better. You might even like it soon.”

I found that hard to believe.

From then on, Taylor was my go-to person for any sex information. It seemed like she knew everything, and she wasn’t shy about sharing her knowledge. Our sex talks evolved into philosophical talks about life. Eventually, she and the other Miami girls were convinced that I was nicer because I was now having sex regularly. But I think my blossoming friendship with Taylor was a big part my attitude change. College life was much easier with a good friend.

Sophomore year, Taylor, LaTanya and I moved off campus and into the same apartment complex. LaTanya and Taylor moved in together. I moved in with a girl that I danced with. Michael and I broke up the summer after sophomore year, and I became Taylor and LaTanya’s unofficial roommate.

After junior year, I decided to leave FAMU, and that’s when Taylor and I really became close. She sometimes joked that she stole me away from LaTanya, but it was just that she and I seemed to have more similar personalities. I could talk to Taylor about things that I didn’t even feel comfortable sharing with my best friend from home. I didn’t tell my best friend I lost my virginity for like a year after it happened. We had committed to staying virgins, but I didn’t keep the pact.

Taylor and I talked several times a week. I told her about my experiences at my new school and job and about the boys in New York City. She talked to me about applying to law school. She wanted to move to the northeast, and I was so excited about the idea, but she ended up staying in Florida.

We were great at staying in touch. Taylor came to visit me in New York with LaTanya. I went to visit them in Florida. We all went on a cruise together shortly after we graduated. Taylor called me every year for my birthday; I called her too. When I decided to join a sorority, she knew it was happening without me even having to tell her. And after I got engaged, she took a Greyhound bus from Florida to be at my bridal shower in Connecticut, so of course she was in my wedding. She was my best friend; but I could never say that out loud because we were committed to other best friends.

Things changed after I got married.

Taking on a husband and moving to Los Angeles seemed like an exciting adventure at first. But six months into my decision, I realized that being thousands of miles away from Taylor and the rest of my friends and family was sending me into a dark emotional hole. Whenever I posted a bizarre or depressing away message on AOL Instant Messenger, Taylor immediately called me. “What’s up with that message?” or “What’s your deal?” she asked. I can’t remember if I told her how unhappy I was. When I realized that I no longer trusted my husband with my emotional well-being, I started second-guessing everyone else’s intentions too. Taylor and I were talking less and less.

After a long, miserable year in Los Angeles, my husband decided that we should move back to Connecticut, but I had abandoned many of my friendships by that point. My husband became very sick, and we were spending too much time in doctor’s offices and hospitals. There wasn’t much time or money for anything else.

About two years later, my husband and I were separating and divorcing. At the same time, Taylor had met the man of her dreams and was planning to marry him. I didn’t even get to meet this man. Her sister called me to make sure I was coming to her bridal shower, but I didn’t know how to tell her that I was too broke and too emotionally drained to make it down to Florida. It just seemed like an unacceptable answer, so I didn’t respond. I missed Taylor’s bridal shower. I missed Taylor’s wedding. After that, Taylor and I stopped talking completely. That was about three years ago.

A few months ago, when I was in bed and on my way to sleep, Taylor popped into my head, and I just started crying. I don’t why I missed her so much in that moment, but I did. I couldn’t believe that three years had gone by since we talked on the phone. I told myself that I was going to write this story then, but it was too hard. My other stories had been about others’ indiscretions towards me, but this time it was my fault. I was the prodigal friend.

Coincidentally, a few weeks later, I received an invitation to her baby shower in Florida.

“I cannot miss this damn baby shower,” I told myself. It was an opportunity to save our friendship. But guess what? I missed the damn baby shower. A combination of knowing about the baby shower only two weeks in advance and having no real travel budget as a result of being unemployed, halted my plans. This time I emailed her and let her know what was going on. She seemed to understand, but it didn’t take away the sting that I felt when I looked at the Facebook pictures from the shower and wished I could have been there.

I’ve missed so many important milestones in her life, and even if she’s forgiven me, I haven’t really forgiven myself yet. Perhaps that’s why I haven’t had this conversation with her. It just seems like so much stuff to be forgiven for: pushing her away, missing her bridal shower, missing her wedding, missing her baby shower, not being there for the birth of her child…how would I even begin making up for that?

It’s crazy how when you’re in grade school, you can have a different best each year, and it’s not a big deal, but when you get older, best friends are harder to come by. When you lose a true friend, you lose a part of your history. I don’t know if me and Taylor’s friendship will ever be like it was, or if it at best, it will be some watered-down version of what we once had. If things never get back to being how they once were, I’ll remain grateful that I got to experience such a unique and special friendship. And if I ever get another Taylor, I’m never letting her go.

Related Story:
Getting Over My First Love, Part One

More about Stacy

On this blog, I’m sharing some of my personal memories of pain, shame and embarrassment. Hopefully they help you in some way.

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