Jamie recalls an old elementary school friend, and has a revelation.
I saw Nikki a couple of months ago on a trip by myself to Newark on a weekend. She was with some friends. The lot of them looked trashy, and they were all obviously high. She recognized me just as I did her, and she waved and beckoned me over. We talked for a while. She introduced me to her new boyfriend, who looked like the kind of guy who would carry a coke stash and a gun. She told me she’d dropped out of school a couple of years back and was now a hairdresser. She asked if I had any money to spare. Her hands were shaking. And that’s when I thought to myself – what good are friends anyway? I mean, what if Nikki never would’ve tried drugs if she hadn’t met those friends? What if she hadn’t dropped out of school? What if we’d stayed friends? Where would she be now? I guess my point is, friends can stop you feeling shitty, but they can also make you feel shitty. They can make you a shitty person. Who needs them, anyway?
My perspective on the whole ‘friend’ issue has been kicked in the ass recently though. Mikey Way, well, he’s no ordinary friend. He makes you laugh, he always knows the right thing to say and he also knows when to shut the fuck up. I’ve never met anyone like him. Frank Iero is just like a bonus extension package. A hilarious ray of sunshine. Frank makes my rainy days into rainbow-filled ones. I feel like a fucking loser for saying it, but these guys make me feel so much less alone. I got more than I ever bargained for when I agreed to hang out with Mikes and Frankie.
The other day, for the first time in my life, a guy called the phone at my house and asked for me. My mom was downstairs, making dinner, sober, and I was upstairs in my room when the phone rang. I heard mom talking, but none of the specifics. Then suddenly – ‘Jamie, phone!’
Mom sounded just as surprised as I had felt when Mikey had asked for my number earlier that day. I ran down the stairs and slid down the hallway in my socks, sitting on the counter and accepting the phone from my mom. She looked utterly bewildered, and I knew she would question me about it later.
I put the phone to my ear. ‘Hello?’
‘Hey,’ Mikey’s voice came over the speaker. ‘Your mom seems nice.’
‘Uh,’ I looked furtively over at my mother and scowled. ‘Yeah.’ I couldn’t push my burdens on him. He didn’t need to know about my mom. It could be kind of nice pretending to be slightly normal.
‘Look, I had a question about the English homework. I thought you might be able to help me because, when your eyes aren’t staring at the window, you’re actually pretty good at English.’
‘Yeah?’ I asked, my eyebrows raised.
‘Jamie, you know that nobody who does nothing in the class as often as you do could get the grades you do unless they were naturally intelligent.’
‘Oh... Well, thanks.’ I was kind of disappointed that Mikey had only called to ask about homework, I’d sort of hoped it was a spur of the moment, social thing.
When I was done answering Mikey’s questions about The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, he said something that surprised me. ‘You’re an awesome friend, Jamie. Usually people just get frustrated with me when I ask so many stupid questions. My brother, Gerard, asked me if I’d even read the book when I asked him those questions. I read it, you know that, I just have a little trouble understanding.’
‘That’s really nice of you to say, Mikey. It’s really no problem.’
‘Hey, if I don’t say it, how are you gonna know? I mean it. Thanks for helping me.’
I smiled. ‘So, you have a brother?’
‘Yeah, he’s 20. Goes to art school in New York. You got any brothers or sisters?’
‘Nope, just me.’ I replied glumly.
‘I always thought it’d be cool, being an only child, getting spoilt. But I don’t think I’d want a life without my brother in it. I think it’d be lonely.’ Mikey sounded thoughtful.
I said nothing, because he didn’t know how right he was.
Both ends of the phone were silent for a moment. ‘So,’ Mikey started abruptly. ‘The other reason I called was because I wanted to ask you something.’
‘Yeah, a favor.’
My excitement deflated. ‘Go on, then.’
‘Frank and I were thinking of having a movie night this week, we were wondering if you wanted to even the boy/girl ratio a little.’
My spirits lifted with his request. ‘Sure!’
I hung up the phone from Mikey ten minutes later after he insisted on reeling off a list of movies Frank wanted to watch and the ways in which we could deter him from watching the ones Mikey thought would be crappy. I loved every minute of it. Being included was all it was hyped up to be, in my opinion.
‘So, who was that?’ My mom asked curiously as she tidied the inside of the saucepan cupboard, occasionally causing a clanging, clattering sound.
‘My friend, Mikey.’ I replied, hopping down from the kitchen counter.
‘Oh, ma. He’s just a friend from my English class, I don’t see him that way.’
‘Probably a good thing…’ She muttered.
I chose to ignore her comment and simply leave the room, adding ‘I’m going to a movie night at his house on Saturday by the way.’ I heard her sharp intake of breath at the idea of me staying at a boy’s house, but she said nothing.
Fuck Nikki Moran, I was going to have friends, and they were going to make me a better person, I could feel it.