After listening to the Ducks growl for two minutes, we decided our time would be better spent hiding in the locker room until practice was over. I know this isn’t exactly what my mother had in mind when she told me to be a joiner, but it was safer for all those annoying cheerleaders if we were as far away from them as possible. One more growl and Claire and I were going to start throwing punches.
We had an immediate connection and neither one of us was afraid to admit that it was weird. Like me, she mostly hated other people and kept to herself and her father forced her into joining the cheerleading squad because her mother moved away to “find herself” and he was afraid that, without some other female influence in her life, she would turn into a crazy cat lady or open fire at a post office one day.
I quickly found out her shirt was, in fact, a tribute to Heathers and we spent twenty minutes trading our favorite quotes. We agreed that “Fuck me gently with a chainsaw” was probably the best sentence ever uttered in the history of the world and, from that moment on, we never spent more than a few hours apart from each other.
My parents and her father weren’t too thrilled with the fact that we quit the cheerleading squad before we’d even technically made the team, but Claire and I were geniuses when we banded together for a cause. They quickly realized that our friendship wasn’t to be messed with and that as long as we weren’t spending every waking moment of the rest of our high school lives alone in our rooms wallowing in misery, wearing all black and listening to The Cure, we would be okay. We had each other and nothing else mattered.
And that, boys and girls, is how the dynamic duo of Liz and Claire came to be. Next comes the part where you might want to put on that seatbelt I mentioned. Or grab a nice giant cup of vodka. You’re going to need it.
“SO, I HAVE cancer. Who wants more wine?” Claire states with a big smile.
I know it’s probably not the most appropriate response to the words that just left my best friend’s mouth, but I laugh.
And once I start, I can’t stop. It could be due to the amount of wine Claire, Jenny and I have consumed tonight at our favorite bar, Fosters, or it could be the fact that, while this is the worst joke in the history of jokes, it still has to be a joke since Claire is smiling.
“Ooooh, I have something for that!” Jenny announces as she reaches for her purse on the empty seat next to her. After a few seconds of rummaging around, she holds out a tube of Blistex in Claire’s direction.
“Why in the hell are you giving me Blistex?” Claire asks as she tops off her wine glass and empties our third bottle of the night.
Claire used to work at Fosters back when she was a single mother and the owners still adore her, so they let her go behind the bar whenever we’re here and help herself to whatever she wants. Sometimes, it’s a little dangerous that we never have to wait for a waitress to refill our glasses and I’m guessing tonight is going to prove that point.
“It’s nothing to be ashamed of. I get it all the time. Put a little bit of this on it and it will be gone in a few days,” Jenny says cheerfully.
Claire turns away from her and gives me The Look. The one that we silently give each other whenever our friend Jenny speaks. The one that quietly shouts “HOW THE FUCK DOES SHE FUNCTION ON A DAILY BASIS???”
“I’m pretty sure if Blistex was the cure for cancer, someone would have mentioned it by now, but thanks for the offer,” Claire says with a chuckle as she sips her newly filled glass of wine.
“Oh, you said cancer! Ha! I totally thought you said canker. You know, like herpes, but on your lip… Oh. OH. OH, MY GOD!” Jenny screams in horror when it finally sinks in.
A few of the other patrons look our way when Jenny shouts and Claire gives them an apologetic look, waving them off with a flap of her hand.
Claire barely has time to set her wine glass down before Jenny flies out of her seat and tackles her in a bear hug.
“This can’t be happening! You’re so young. It’s lung cancer, isn’t it? I told you we never should have smoked all that pot in our twenties!” Jenny wails, burying her face in Claire’s shoulder.
It’s right around this point that I stop laughing. Not just because I can see it written all over Claire’s face that I need to do something to get Jenny off of her because crying chicks and Claire do not mix, but because I can see it written all over Claire’s face that she’s not kidding. This isn’t some weird April Fool’s joke in the middle of July. She isn’t going to shove Jenny away and shout, “Ha ha, you bunch of gullible assholes! I’m totally messing with you!”
While Jenny cries out her frustrations all over the shoulder of Claire’s t-shirt, I do nothing but sit here staring at her. I should be the one crying. I should be the one running to the other side of the table hugging my best friend. I should be the one cursing God and shouting about the unfairness of it all. The problem is, I know exactly what I should be doing right now, but I can’t make any of it happen. My ass has become permanently attached to the chair and my feet are like giant cement blocks refusing to move.
“Stop it,” Claire says quietly, staring right at me as she pats Jenny’s back.
I look at her in confusion.
“There is only one overly emotional woman in this group and that’s how it’s supposed to be. If you started crying right now I would punch you in the throat,” Claire states softly.
And just like that, I’m reminded just how well she knows me. She knows I don’t do the whole touchy-feely thing just like I know that in about three seconds, she’s going to start getting the shakes from having Jenny’s arms wrapped around her along with the sounds of female sobbing so close to her ear. There has to be something wrong with me though, right? I mean, my best friend has cancer.