Ruby

Rows and rows of desks, dark gray, full of 15-year-olds who don’t want to be here. Well, they kind of do. They want the result: passing a class, getting a decent grade, getting into college. But nobody actually enjoys sitting in class for seven hours, even for driver’s ed.

I don’t know anybody here. It’s a feeling I haven’t felt in a while, and I realize how much I missed it.

I think back to this time two years ago. I had just finished eighth grade at that tiny Quaker school with no friends. There were a couple of people who were just beginning to pass the acquaintance line, but I never worked to make it happen. I didn’t know about or need friends. When you don’t have many friends or a social life, you’re left looking at things instead of doing things. It’s a freedom, of sorts. I had no social expectations or obligations. I was just the weird girl that some people supposedly thought was cool but nobody actually knew. Some people liked me, some hated me, and I felt exactly the same way about them. The problem for me was that everyone noticed me. In a small school, I stood out anyway.

Coming to high school was a dream. It’s the biggest school I’ve ever been to, and my black clothes and platform shoes turn far fewer heads. No one looks at you here.

When I got here I decided to try making friends. It was a reluctant decision—I would have to give up the freedom of not having to deal with social relationships and the risks that come with them (drama, fighting, rejection, being noticed). And it wasn’t easy to do it. I didn’t even know how.

When I hung out with people, I would take notes—facts about them to study and remember. I maintained a short bio for each of my new friends and I studied them. But soon I was speaking to too many people per day to keep track of each one.

I loved this new life. I had studied or this having-friends test and I had passed. I have friends now that I love more than anything. They’re a second family. Really.

But sometimes I miss being alone.

Awkwardly shuffling towards the back of the room, I take a seat between a blond girl in a ribbed white tank top and a guy in a snapback. The girl gives me a disgusted look and shifts her desk noticeably away from me, making her friends giggle. Inside, I smile. I feel utterly alone, and the nostalgia is overwhelming.

When the class ends, I walk into town alone. I loiter outside Dunkin Donuts and people-watch, listening to King Crimson. I go into the woods by the bike path and sit very quietly. I haven’t had a date with myself in at least a month. The breeze blows around me. It’s warm but not at all humid and the wind rustles the leaves just enough. The day is perfect. I remember life without friends. I remember the years when I spent every day like this, and I think of them fondly. I think of all the stories I wrote during that time, the books I read, the music I listened to, the hopeless celebrity crushes, the hopeless real-life crushes, the hopeless friend crushes. Being alone wasn’t all sad—I know myself very, very well because of it.

My cell beeps the Kim Possible pager tone. I take it out. It’s from Ben: What’s up?
And I remember that I have a boyfriend and I have friends and I have a social life and that I unexpectedly love it. I love every one of them. My first-ever friends.

I’m going to keep looking back fondly on those solitary years. I’ll spend days like this occasionally, just watching the day go by. I will always remember the great times I’ve spent with imaginary friends and fictional characters, but those years of romantic lonesomeness are behind me. Deciding to try out real friendship was the best choice I have ever made. ♦