It was it a night like any other. No it wasn’t. It was raining that night, I remember, and it doesn't often rain in Southern California. I lived with Richard. I lived with just Richard from the time I was two, when Beth and Richard got their divorce, until the time I was 6. Then there was quiet and cynical Linda, my almost stepmother who lived with us for a few years, then just me and Richard again.
Anyway, it was a dark and stormy night. It was around 8:30 and Richard was on a date when Josie called me, crying. She was my best friend for three years, and I was a little in love with her, the way in books and movies sometimes and I’m guessing in real life too (with other girls besides me), teenaged girls become obsessed with each other when they become close friends. It was hard not to; she understood me so perfectly, from all the many hours-long conversations we had the endurance and the enthusiasm for, at the zenith of our friendship, and I understood her so perfectly too, I thought, and we were always touching, always sleeping in the same bed when we had our almost weekly two-person slumber parties. Sometimes her breasts looked so nice I couldn't stop myself from eyeing them covertly, it gave me butterflies in my stomach, but other nights, I got frustrated with her for taking too long to put on her makeup and her clothes – - I was anxious for us to be on our way to the party or concert we were going to on these nights because some boy I liked was supposed to be there, and on these nights, Josie wasn’t the beautiful girl who knew all my secrets, she was just the impediment to my fun night starting, and not the fun itself. She did the same type of thing to me. She was boy crazy, but sometimes, at a party, she’d push through the crowd to find me because she was bored with everyone else, and we’d spend the rest of the night connected at the hip, as they call it, holding hands and whispering insults about everyone else in the room, which is what friendship is, being able to relate to someone else, but the way we breathed on each other’s necks as we whispered our gossip, it felt romantic.
"Molly," she said to me over the phone on this rainy, rainy Monrovia night, "Calvin's been outside my room since I got home. I'm so scared."
"Really? You can see him?"
"No, not fully. I just know he’s there. I've just been sitting in bed pretending to read. I can see the tip of his head when I sit up more. He must be crouching under the window." Then in a quick whisper, "I was hoping if he heard me tell you all this over the phone, that I know he's out there, he'd just leave. But can you come over? I'm so scared. This feels unreal."
"You want me to spend the night?"
"If you can. Is your dad home?"
"No, he's out. I've never gone out on a school night before, I don’t think, but I’m sure it's fine. I'll just leave him a note explaining that it's an emergency." I actually wasn't sure it would be okay, because I was shy of dad, Richard, when I was younger, and he was of me, too. I didn't have a handle on his personality or his motivations, though I knew he was kind. But he was strict sometimes, and I didn't know whether or not he'd decide to get upset about me going out on a school night, even if it was under these special circumstances, to help Josie, mildly suicidal Josie whose demeanor was meek but who was always getting herself into bad situations she never let on about to her aloof parents or the authorities; she was always having to cope with some awful situation like the one she was in now, waiting for her stalker to leave for the night. There is a whole world of masochism and danger that only teenaged girls offered sheltered lives know about. Bored or just curious, these girls turn the shelters upside down and make canoes of them; then they sail to the least friendly island and dig in their heels there, welcoming storms and starvation. There are reasons, when you are one of these girls, for cutting into your own tender upper arm, that seem inarguable, sometimes. There are reasons for going to a man’s house that seem almost not like free will but like fate. Sometimes, it is impossible not to become hypnotized by curiosity, or by the heady draught of pointless, youthful self hatred.
"I'll call George to give me a ride."
"Thank you, Molly, thank you. Do you think you can get here soon?"
"Yeah, probably within a half hour. Just hang in there, babe. Just wait for me. We'll figure it out."
"Okay. Thank you. My parents are asleep. Just come in quietly."
Beth didn't used to know how to drive, and Richard used to always be too busy, so George was the one who took me places when I needed a ride. Every Friday afternoon after school, he picked me up where I sat, waiting for him on a strange household's lawn a block parallel to my school building, and we went to the library, to wait for Beth to finish her shift. Then he drove us to his bookstore, where mom and I either waited for him to get a chance to drive us home, or else waited for one of the buses to pick us up. During all these years of this particular routine, the mood between George and me was always convivial, comfortable, but definitely not open. We didn't talk to each other very much at all. I could never tell him, "I love you, George," for example, even though it was the truth (I was only finally able to say those words to him the last time I saw him, in fact, when he was so bodily depleted from cancer that he was dead the next morning). We spent entire hours on the freeway together without so much as a comment about the weather or the relief of an upcoming weekend passing between us, I guess because we weren't peers and we weren't family either. But it was never an uncomfortable silence. It was a silence full of our silent observations of the wild city around us co-mingling in the still air of the car, all silent, but our thoughts were in unison. Oh, I miss you.
Anyway, when I called him to ask if he could give me I ride, I was relieved when he didn't ask where Richard was or if I had permission to go out on a school night. George knew what was truly important.