Me and Kylie were best friends, a mutual attachment bonded through empathy for each other's anxieties. I remembered the first day we met early in the school year in math class. I noticed her sitting in the back of the classroom trying to avoid the teacher's gaze by burying her face in her text book. She looked so uncomfortable and shocked when she was called out once to answer a question in front of class. I could see a reflection of myself in her, to have those feelings of inadequateness mixed with anxiety was difficult. She didn't know what to do with her hands as they stood limp carrying a small piece of chalk the teacher handed her. She stared at the board while everyone in the classroom waited behind her. I knew those seconds felt like suffocating minutes and those minutes like hours. Her voice cracked awkwardly as she admitted she had no idea what she was doing, it had lead to laughters in the background. I could almost watch her self-esteem deflating out of her body. She sat down resting her chin on her palms while her face sweltered into a cherry red. I quickly commented on her hand-woven colorful bohemian backpack to distract her from her embarrassment. She looked at me and back at her bag as if she had forgotten what it looked like and smiled. That was enough to blossom the friendship that day.
Kylie didn't express herself well through words but she did through her clothing and the items she owned. She enjoyed talking about the colorful bracelets and clothing she purchased during her trips to Mexico. Her interest stemmed from her dad's fascination of the culture; Kylie would soak up knowledge and they'd manifest in conversations.
Their interest in Mexican culture was unique because we lived in a small town school in Kansas without a lot of exposure to that particular demographic. I had learned a lot from her about the customs out there, we hoped someday to apply the bits of Spanish she taught me and take a trip out there ourselves. Once she came out of her shell I realized how much of a comedian she was, she'd love to share embarrassing details of her dad's artwork with me. We'd joke about his attempts at painting Aztec women, he could never manage to proportion their anatomies correctly. He'd accidentally accentuate certain features dramatically which lead to hilarious results. We got a kick out of it.
"So... how's Michelangelo?" I'd tease one day.
"Ugh, Why does he have to paint at all, he's a journalist for crying out loud, he needs to leave the painting to the professionals", Kylie shook her head and smiled.
"Oh give him a break, he's just finding out his breast, er- BEST talents!"
"Shut up Mary!", she'd snicker. "You won't believe it but he actually asked my mom if he could frame one of them and hang it up in the living room".
"No way, so what does your mom think of this newfound artistic venture of his anyways?" I'd pry.
"Don't even ask, she actually encourages him. Can you believe it?
"Your moms a saint, Kylie. Hey, I have a joke to cheer you up".
"Oh god, I don't know if I want to hear it..."
"So the other day I saw your dad drawing a woman with twelve breasts". Kylie rolled her eyes and smiled again.
"Sounds weird, dozen tit?", Kylie snorted and yelled "Estúpida". I knew exactly what that meant.
Though her dad was usually the butt of the joke in our conversations regarding her travels, she'd always take the jokes in stride. I always envied hearing about those amazing stories, the farthest my family ever traveled to was a few states away to D.C. It was funny how the teachers would always refer to us together as if we were inseparable conjoined twins, Mary and Kylie. It was never just Kylie or Mary. We had some of the same classes, but most of the time we'd see each other during lunch or before and after school. There was a certain sisterly bond we shared liking everything together, we even liked the same guy in school. His name was Lucas, if there was ever an epitome of perfection, he was it. He wasn't like the other popular athletic guys in school, he stood out like a sore thumb much like us. Kylie seemed to really obsess over him though as for me, it was a casual crush. The thought of saying a word to him and introducing herself made her stomach turn. I didn't blame her.
When Kylie went on her long family vacations, it was absolute misery for me. I'd spend my time walking around campus at lunch without purpose. I would be looking for a corner to eat alone and not look like a complete loser. When I couldn't find a place to sit, I'd devour my lunch on the way to the library. There I'd bury my face in a book thinking about cracking jokes with Kylie.
When I'd run into her other friends they would ask me where she was as if we lived in the same household, they knew I had the latest updates on her. I'd mumble out where Kylie was and when she'd be back. I never could think of a way to continue the conversations with them. I felt like I didn't know how to socialize with other people, my throat would close up and I'd sound incomprehensible. I'd wish I could speak with them like I did with Kylie. They seemed like interesting people though, I'd sometimes day-dream about being in group of friends with them and Kylie where I'd share my stupid corny jokes and they'd all laugh.
One of Kylies memorable trips changed the dynamic of our relationship forever, it was the trip she'd talk about several weeks prior. The trip to the old archeological site called Cañada de la Virgen in Guanajuato. She was excited about this particular itinerary because it was one of the best places for folklore stories. Its most famous one was about a brave man called Pipila, so courageous he was known for defeating the Spaniards and gaining independence. Another much older story about the great God of twins, sickness and misfortunes, Xolotl (Sho-lo-till). He was a dog headed man who guided the sun through the underworld recreating life every day and night. After her day back from her trip, school was cancelled due to a tornado warning. So me and Kylie didn't get a chance to catch up after those long two weeks. We had to stay home and prepare to seek shelter in a basement or possibly relocating. Luckily, the tornado didn't manifest and lost it's energy avoiding our small town by Topeka.
When I finally had time to spend with Kylie, I noticed she was a little different. I tried asking about her trip but she was very tight-lipped, something had happened during her time in Guanajuato she wouldn't share with me. Her stories were usually long and filled with enough details I could experience them vicariously. This time they were short and uninspired. She kept hinting at something without telling me as if she didn't trust how I would react. A couple days went on and I had forgotten about her trip and stopped asking. We would instead talk about our daily lives at school and about Lucas mostly. I wanted to tell her that Lucas had probably been in a relationship but didn't get the chance. Then something humiliating happened to her when she was waiting in line in the cafeteria room. The malfunctioned zipper she had been fiddling with on her skirt the whole day had ripped. She had dropped her tray of food when it happened which provoked stares from a full cafeteria room followed by laughers. Lucas had also witnessed her wardrobe malfunction too. She ran away dragging the remaining pieces of her skirt inside an empty classroom. I had followed her in and offered my sweater to tie around her waist, she had accepted it but not before pouring her entire grief out into her hands.
The next day had came and she had acted like nothing happened the day before. Maybe all she needed was a good night's sleep and a good cry. To my surprise when lunch time came around she even started talking to Lucas briefly. She came in that day a completely new confident person. During our walk home the conversation went great until I asked about Lucas.
"Well?" I'd say smiling and nudging her on the shoulder.
"Well what?" she said with a deadpan expression.
"What was that all about at lunch time with Lucas?"
"Nothing, we were just talking."
"Just talking? Kylie you've been obsessed with him for months, you know you've been acting kind of weird today, are you OK after what happened yesterday?"
"I told you I don't know what you're talking about"
"Whatever, Kylie you shouldn't pretend it never happened, it won't make you feel better if you hold it in. But, I'll stop pushing. Anyways I don't want you to get upset but during your two week trip, I noticed Lucas looked like he was dating that Connie girl".
She stopped on her tracks and looked upset for a moment but quickly changed her demeanor almost abruptly. "Oh... I didn't know". She had kept quiet the rest of the walk home.
We had a very nasty history with Connie. She would often bully other girls in P.E. for being heavier than her. She'd brag about being the most physically desirable in class and boasted about her cheerleading squad. She had bullied Kylie particularly bad while she was a Freshman. One time she snapped a photo of her and put her on social media to belittle her. She accused her of culturally appropriating while making fun of her for having "weird tacky Indian clothes". Kylie loved to wear those but for the first time she was too embarrassed for fear of being humiliated.
The very next morning, she wouldn't wait for me to walk home to school. I'd again see her talking to Lucas, dressed differently. It was like seeing a new person in front of me, a confident extrovert comfortable in her own skin. I thought she had found a way to deal with her anguish somehow, but the fact that it was an overnight transformation made it shocking to me.
Each day that passed she'd spend less time speaking to me, our conversations reduced to a greeting or two between classes. In one day, I had found out she had exceeded in learning Spanish, I caught her speaking it fluently to one of our teachers. Each day that passed there was a significant difference in her. I felt like I was slowly losing a good friend, the person I knew was no longer there. I watched her gain new friends and a new boyfriend. I guess Lucas had broken up with Connie overnight. This was when I had finally forced myself to speak to her friends one day between classes.
"Hey guys, W-what's up?" I cleared my throat stuttering nervously trying to catch up to them and get their attention.
"Oh Hi, you're in our math class right?" said Kim, one of Kylie's other friends who was walking with another girl named Abby.
"Yeah, what are you guys up to?".
"Nothing, just talking about if prom will be cancelled this year".
"Oh, why do you think it will be?"
"You know because of the tornado a few days ago, It's been a hot minute since we've gotten one this bad and I heard about a few people who went here were killed".
I didn't understand, a few days ago the news had said the tornado wasn't in effect and had suppressed completely. I had remembered those days being calm in our town. Then I noticed the school's monthly magazine subscription, a large photo of three girls and one guy who died in memoriam around the same time I remembered were regular days. I looked as if I saw a ghost, I couldn't believe it, did I get the days confused? I quickly asked Abby for the magazine copy then noticed there was also a picture of Kylie on another page. She was a delegate for a cultural exchange program for the school. I turned to Kim and Abby and pointed to a photo of her. I was really baiting to see what they would think of her, I felt I couldn't trust my own mind at the moment.
"It's so weird Kylie had come out of her shell so fast, do you guys still talk to her? And I can't believe she's also dating Lucas already too, I wonder what happened with Connie".
"Um, what have you been smoking?" they looked at me like I was an idiot.
"Uh nothing?, what do you mean?"
"You're talking about that girl Connie right? Who was expelled like two months ago, she posted that really messed up shit online?"
"Oh I uh... yeah sorry I'm being dumb".
I could swear I saw her a few days ago while Kylie was on vacation. Connie was holding hands with Lucas in campus and driving in his old beat up truck after school. Am I losing my mind? Everyday felt weird and out of place as if everyone else was forgetting moments that happened though it could be argued that it was me. I had a desperation to find Connie for a while thinking they were messing with me, but I had not seen her anywhere. Other people who use to know her confirmed what Kylie's old friends said. Kylie stopped acknowledging me the days that passed when I tried to mention Connie and her new boyfriend. She'd get really upset and tell me to back off. After all we've been through together she no longer felt a need to have me as a friend. I felt I needed to cut my dependence on her, I hadn't been comfortable in my own skin before or had really focused on myself. Most of the time I had felt I lived through her. I needed a healthy balance. For the first time I had a mixture of foreign emotions. I felt an invisible wall crashing down and suffocating leaving me disoriented and distrusting of myself. There was also a light at the end of the tunnel that left me remembering the old memories we shared when we first met, but for the time being I just felt idle.