We sit on her bed, talking about our hair. She pulls out a magazine and shows me a picture, says she’s going to get her hair cut like the model. I shrug. My hair is too fine and straight to look cute in that style, but her thick waves would look perfect. I tell her so, and she giggles.
We’re quiet for a few minutes, and then she says, “I have to tell you something.”
“Okay,” I say.
“You’ll think I’m weird.”
“Weirder than I already do?”
She grabs her pillow and hits me with it. “Yes.”
“Okay,” I say again.
She leans over the side of the bed and pulls out a box. Inside, there are half a dozen Barbies. I can feel my heart pounding. Does she know about me?
She hauls the box onto the bed and hands me one with a sparkling pink dress and bare feet. She apologizes; she tells me she lost the shoes ages ago. I take the Barbie.
We play for a long time, this game we should have given up years ago when we started buying our own ninety-nine-cent lip gloss from the corner drug store. It feels good to slide back into our past together–to have someone to share this secret with.
She says, “Want to have a wedding? I think I still have all the dresses and stuff at the bottom of the box.” She rummages around.
“Who’s going to get married?”
She shrugs. “Um…how about these two?” She holds up a doll with unnatural red hair and one with a set of painted-on tan lines.
I make a face. “But they’re both girls.”
She huffs. “Well, I don’t have a Ken.”
“I could bring mine next time,” I offer.
“Okay. But for now, these two can get married. Anyway, it’s legal.”
We hold a wedding ceremony for them, complete with a Smurfette figurine as the flower girl. There aren’t enough dolls to fill our makeshift church, so we line the bed with stuffed animals to serve as witness to this momentous occasion.
When we’re through, we carefully lay the Barbies back in their cardboard prison, and she gets up to slide it back under the bed. I lay on my back, staring upside down at the poster above her headboard. It’s that girl who was on some reality music show last year, and she has it in exactly the same place where I keep the one of the cute boy from all those movies.
I roll over and press my cheek into her pillow, my head turned to face out into the room. She is sitting next to the bed, her knees drawn up and her head laying on her folded arms. She looks up when I shift.
“There’s something else I need to tell you,” she says.
I’m pretty sure I know what it is. We’ve been friends since we were five. Slowly, I reach my hand down so I can touch her arm. Our eyes meet.
“It’s okay,” I tell her. “No matter what, I’ll always be here for you.” I smile at her.
She grins back.
Today is National Coming Out Day. I wish the story above was how it could always be, but I’m realistic enough to know it isn’t. If you’re reading, please be THIS friend.