When I was a kid, I really, really wanted friends. I wanted them to worship me with as much passion as I had with the idea of having them. I wanted them to want to be with me and buy me presents and I’d buy them presents.
Some of you have seen this image before. It’s a picture of me taken when I was 10.
Currently, this picture is hanging on our refrigerator at home. There is a rather pathetic story behind it. A story I am going to share with the Internet this morning.
When I was around 11 or 12, we moved from New Cumberland, Pennsylvania all the way to Raleigh, North Carolina where my brothers and I were to start new lives and make new friends.
I didn’t know anyone in Raleigh. And so it was time to begin anew, create new fantasies about all the friends I didn’t have and the people I’d keep. I hung out with my head a lot back then. I fantasized about everything from horses to future boyfriends to becoming rich and famous and having a house full of cats. I was, for all intents and purposes, what one might call, Michele “total dork!”
Toby Joe jokes about the photograph often. The other night he came into our bedroom right before bed. He interrupted my nightly stab at arranging words perpendicular to one another with something that seemed important. I looked up right away.
“You know if there was one word – no, one phrase – I’d use to describe you, do you know what that would be?”
“What’s that, baby? “
“It’d be Crazy Nut! You’re a Crazy Nut! Quotation marks and everything.”
“And that’s why I love you, Beaner.”
Several months ago, after rediscovering the photograph for the fourth time, Toby Joe made fun of the bubbly cursive handwriting written strategically on its backside. “What’s this all about?” He had asked. Knowing I’d never be able to pawn that atrocious handwriting off onto my mother (who writes like an angel) I said, “Someone must have written that on it when I was a kid.” I took the picture away from him.
“What’re the quotation marks all about? As it reads, it’s as if you’re saying Crazy Nut! and not that it’s about you.”
“Yeah. Kids are stupid.”
Stacy and Sherry and Kimberly and Jenny all had pictures of one another with bloated bubbles written above them, stuffed full of words and phrases like, “Best Friends, Forever!” and “I Heart You!! Stacy-Bee!” Kimberly penned “You’re so nuts girl! I love you!” above her picture in Jenny’s yearbook at the end of a grade. Girls everywhere plastered their pink walls with poster boards sporting images of them and a few hundred of their closest friends with things written on them—things written on them about how cute and zany they all were. I wanted to be on one of those poster boards. I wanted to have a name ending in the letter “y” or “i” so I could dot them with hearts or underline the rest of the letters by overextending the tail of my name’s last letter. But I was often the new kid and not only the new kid, but the weird kid who contorted her hands into pet horses and had the same hands gallop along imaginary mountain ranges in a brown customized Ford van.
Years after that picture was taken and we were living down south, I rediscovered it in a drawer of our ranch house in Raleigh. I took out a pen and got started. I had to make the handwriting look as real and un-Michele as possible. I vividly remember picking the quotation marks so that people would think there was a third party present at the time it was written. I remember messing up my cursive M so that folks couldn’t trace it back to me. And that Z, I wrote much better cursive Zs. “What do I want this person to write about me?” I thought.
A few weeks ago, while Toby and I were making dinner, I found the picture again on the floor under the table in the living room. I picked it up and walked it into the kitchen and put it below a yellow magnet shaped like Pennsylvania.
“There is something I want to tell you. I haven’t ever told anyone this before. No one. Really.”
“It’s about this picture. Promise not to divorce me from shame?”
I poured him another glass of wine and told him about the time I created my own friend and forged what they thought about me.