It was the third Monday of freshman year and the first day of swim practice. I had expectations of lots of friends, but being new, I had yet to make a single one.
As I entered the art classroom, the scent of clay and oil pastels hit me like a truck. I looked at the two, long wooden work tables. I sat next to a talkative group, leaving an extra seat between me and them. Then I looked at everyone's pastel crayons in shades of blue, green, and yellow, and then at my own red. When I noticed a girl with long, brown, messy hair, sitting by herself, highly focused on her pastel crayon. I recognized her from the swim team meeting. I realized that if I was going to make my high school social butterfly dreams a reality, I would have to act.
I walked over.
“Hi, my name is Abby. What’s yours?” I stuck out my red-stained oil pastel hand to shake her blue-green one. Her hand stayed right by her art on the table. “My name is Victoria,” she mumbled.
“Hey you’re on the swim team, right? Do you wanna meet in front of the gym after school to walk over?” After I blurted this out, she just stared at me. It took about 30 seconds of the aloof gaze of her blue eyes before she mumbled, “Yeah, all right, I guess.” I walked away with a frown and slumped shoulders. I felt quite sure that I would be stood up.
Three hours later, I left my last class. My heart began to race. I was insanely nervous. What if Victoria didn’t show up at the gym? I would have to deal with the awkward interactions from being dissed at both swim practice and art class. Finally, I reached the doors and took a deep breath.To my surprise, standing between the columns in front of the gym was Victoria. I raised my red pastel-stained hand in greeting while her blue-green one, yet again, hung by her side. Her giant furry sunglasses and her long, brown, messy hair blocked her face, only adding to the cold indifference. We started walking across the field.
“So how was your day?”
“Meh,” Victoria mumbled. Definitely not the chatty friend I had envisioned. So, in order to make it less awkward, I talked about my day.
We didn’t need compliments to bond, because a bad joke would do the trick.
Flash forward. It’s our junior year, and it’s our last class of the day. I look to my left to see Victoria cleaning up her giant acrylic painting of a bright-blue drumstick, while I cleaned up my small watercolor of rock candy and Swedish fish in vivid reds and pinks. We finished cleaning and grabbed our backpacks to head out. I opened the back door with my pink and red-stained hand and held the door for Victoria’s blue one to catch it. The smell of paint and Clorox was replaced with the smell of trees, and the quiet of the empty art room was replaced by the sound of sophomore boys playing soccer. Neither of us felt any desire to join in, and we walked to our cars in the junior lot.
“Ugh! I hate my painting. It’s garbage,” Victoria yells, throwing her arms in the air.
“No, it's not. You’re just in that weird middle school phase,” I smile at her. This was pretty warm and fuzzy as far as our conversations went. Usually, we’re messing with each other, like right now, I’m getting a kick from her being uncomfortable, since I'm talking about our friendship in front of the entire school. I think the fact that we both needed a friend who wasn’t afraid to mess with us, and our sarcasm and blunt honesty with each other, led to us becoming friends. We didn’t need compliments to bond, because a bad joke would do the trick. We reached her car, and I clambered into the passenger seat.
I didn’t feel like I had to be included in everything or try to be “cool."
The familiar musty scent greeted my nose. Once comfortable, I looked at Victoria. She asked what we should play. I rooted through her CDs to find the one with the rainbow spaceship.The song “Mr. Blue Sky,” our pump-up song, plays and we violently head-bang and throw our paint-stained palms in the air. As we sing the lyrics in glass-breaking, choir-like imitations, vivacious laughter bubbles from both of us. I look out the passenger window and see some of our classmates heading off to their weekend get-togethers. Unlike freshman year, I didn’t care. I didn’t feel like I had to be included in everything or try to be “cool." The song comes to an end, and we play it again. After jamming a good four times, we let the next song play. Talking falls to utter silence. Victoria looks over at me.
“You’re my best friend,” she says, and before I can even respond, “Now get out of my car. It’s time for practice!”
My message and advice to you all is this: you don’t need a hundred friends.
As a senior looking back, these memories bring a smile to my face, but they also cause my chest to tighten and palms to sweat. As a freshman, I had these crazy expectations of lots of friends, the way every single high school movie shows. Victoria made me grow past those expectations. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t talk to people or avoid forming connections. In fact, I almost didn’t give this speech because I worried that the message could be misinterpreted as such. My message and advice to you all is this: you don’t need a hundred friends. You only need one best friend, one friend who truly gets you, who sings a song as badly, and loudly, as she can in her car, and who gets her hands as paint-stained as you do. That is what I found in Victoria, and that is what she found in me. And that is what I hope you find in someone else. A great friend who is always there for you.