15: Losing Becky

15: Losing Becky

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teens Talk Growing Up

Losing Becky

You have within you, right now, everything you need to deal with whatever the world can throw at you.

—Brian Tracy

I didn’t see it coming, the day I lost my best friend. Becky and I were eating our bag lunches at some benches out by the school tennis courts. We were alone; our other friends weren’t with us, which was unusual in those days—we almost always ate lunches in a group, the eight of us—so this should’ve tipped me off. It’s true that Becky had been acting strangely for the past few weeks, alternately ignoring me and snapping at me. When I’d asked her what was wrong, she’d said, “Nothing!”

“Then why are you acting so weird?”

“If I’m so weird, maybe you shouldn’t hang around with me.”

So I was glad today to be hanging out with her, just the two of us, like old times. We’d been best friends for almost two years. We’d met soon after we started the seventh grade and quickly fell into being best friends in that mysterious way friends sometimes do. We’d shared countless phone calls and school lunches and sleepovers. We’d spent many weekends together, laughing gut-strengthening laughs, playing records and the radio; I played piano while Becky sang in her light, high voice. We shared lots of inside jokes and goofiness, like our hilarious games at the tennis courts. Neither of us were any good at tennis, so as we hit the ball wildly off the mark, we’d yell to each other, “It’s still going!” laughing helplessly and scrambling to retrieve the ball, no matter how many times it had bounced.

But today at the tennis courts, neither of us was laughing or even smiling. And suddenly, I realized that this lunch alone together had been planned. Becky wanted to talk to me.

“You wanted to know what was wrong,” Becky said. Her tone was overly kind and condescending. “For awhile now, we’ve felt you haven’t been having a good time with us.” Why was she saying “we”? I had a sinking feeling. She was right about my not having a good time lately hanging out with our friends. Really, they were Becky’s friends, and I hung around with them for her sake. They were nice enough girls, but I didn’t have much in common with them. They liked Top 40 music, which increasingly bored me. They thought the music I liked was too weird. During lunch, they’d chat on and on about thirteen-year-old boys, gymnastics, TV shows and how stupid the popular girls were. More and more, I’d tune out their chatter, daydreaming about the bands I liked, feeling profoundly bored by Becky’s friends—but not by Becky. I endured my boredom because of her. Besides, there was a certain security in having these girls to sit with at lunch, having them if you wanted them.

Becky went on with her speech: “I want to be ... popular.” Her voice was quavering and ruthless. “You don’t seem to want to, but we feel it’s important.” I couldn’t believe I was hearing this. They’d gone on and on about what lame idiots the popular girls were. But what Becky had to say next sent my world spinning. “We think maybe you ought to have lunch with some other girls from now on.”

“But who?” I asked, panicking. I couldn’t think of a single person. It suddenly sank in that I no longer had a best friend.

“What about those older girls? You seem to get along with them,” she suggested with a trace of what sounded like jealousy. It was true that I did get along with some of the older girls—like Lisa, who we’d met in an after-school creative writing workshop, who wrote strange, impassioned poems, and who’d loaned me a tape with some equally strange, impassioned songs on it, songs I listened to over and over again. The older girls were more interesting than Becky’s friends. But at that moment, all I wanted was for Becky to say we were still best friends. I felt as though no one could possibly want me around.

The next day at noon, I put my books in my locker, grabbed my lunch, slammed the locker shut, then headed automatically for Becky’s locker as I had every day for what seemed like forever. Just as I saw her—small, thin girl with shoulder-length black hair—I remembered. She saw me, and we both stood frozen for a moment. Then I made myself turn and walk in the opposite direction. It was like a divorce.

At first, I wandered around school close to tears all the time—in class, in PE, everywhere. But I did start getting to know some of the older girls better. I began to eat lunch with them, to sit with them during free period. We talked about the music and the movies we liked, and I found myself having fun. No longer did I have to tune out—I wasn’t bored anymore. I still missed having a best friend. But by the time I got to the ninth grade, I had many friends and several close ones—and a number of them had also been dropped by their previous cliques for being “too weird.” They liked the same music I did, and some of them even went to see live bands. Soon I was going out, too, and my whole world seemed to open up.

Becky and I were never friends again, although I still talked to her from time to time at school. Sometimes I tried to tell her about the fun I was having, but she didn’t seem to understand. She and her friends hadn’t become any more popular than when I was part of their crowd. I didn’t know whether that continued to matter to her.

She apologized to me one day in the school lunchroom for the way she had treated me. “I can’t believe I did that to you!” she said. But I told her I had long since realized that she had done me a favor. I had found my true friends, friends who could really understand me, friends I could be completely myself with, while the pain of Becky’s rejection has become a distant memory.

—Gwynne Garfinkle
Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul on Tough Stuff

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