hanks to JustBeingV, I recalled a time of my life that I am not particularly proud of, a time that perhaps shaped a part of my adulthood, in how I view friendship, and how I define them. I will continue with yesterday’s story, but please note that while story is true in spirit, some of the details may be unintentionally fictitious. I have played this memory in my mind so many times, I’m not sure how much of it is still factual and how much is now embellishment…
few days later, when I had completely forgotten about her, DKLA strolled into Mikawaya, the confection shop where I worked. I was quite surprised; I had seriously put her out of mind as I had little, if anything, to do with her. My first reaction was to treat her as a customer. I mean, Angel was interested in her, and I presumed she was interested in him, at least a little, since they did go out shopping.
“Hi,” I smiled back, wondering why she seemed to be giggling a little too nervously.
“Tuesday was fun.”
Tuesday was fun? What happened on… “Oh, yeah. Shopping? Well, I just tagged along ’cause I didn’t have anything to do,” I lied.
“We should do it again,” she said. She seems kinda jittery.
“Uh, yeah, okay,” I said rather hesitantly. What’s she doing here? She’s never come here before. “So, you here to get some manju?” I asked as I nodded toward the showcase filled with rice cakes.
“Oh, no,” she continued to giggle. “I was in the neighborhood and thought I’d say ‘hi’.”
“Okay, ‘Hi’,” I said rather lamely.
She giggled some more, then said she had to meet a friend, and just like that, DKLA was gone. What was that all about? I shrugged my shoulders and went back to work. And as quickly as she had come and gone, I forgot about her…
* * * * *
hanksgving came and went and Christmas shopping occupied my every thought. I worked a lot of hours at the confection shop, six days a week, 5:00 to 9:00 Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, and 5:00 to 10:00 Friday, Saturday and Sunday. These were the days before mandatory minimum wages, and I received a monthly salary of $120 when I had started six months earlier. By this Christmas, it was about $140.
While the salary was low, I didn’t mind. It was lower than some part-time jobs in the area. like being a teller at Sumitomo Bank. But surprisingly, it was pretty normal for these mom and pop shops in J-Town. Besides, the job was low stress, and Mrs. H made dinner for us every night. “Us” included the unmarried FOB employees who worked in the back and one other part-timer. We usually stuffed ourselves at Mrs. H’s insistence. It was a casual life and I enjoyed it immensely. But for the first time, I felt in control of my life, and it was empowering…
But we were talking about DKLA, weren’t we…
Well, with Christmas shopping on my mind–and budgeting myself to afford gifts for family and friends–I had little patience to even entertain the thought that DKLA might harbor intentions contrary to Angel… until my sister told me something completely unexpected.
“Do you know DKLA?” She asked.
“You’ve never mentioned her before.”
“I know her through a friend at volleyball. She kinda introduced herself and started talking to me. It was wierd.”
“Yeah? WHY?” What is it with sisters?
“I think she wants to get you something for Christmas. She asked me what kind of cologne you use. I told her you don’t use any. It was wierd.”
“………..” I didn’t know what to say. But it finally dawned on me that she might be interested in me. In me! Me, who was totally out of her league. Me, who never had a steady girl friend. Me, Angel’s friend.
This was, to say the least, a dilemma for me. I mean, God, this girl was hot and she was interested in ME!
I saw Angel the next day at school and I didn’t know what to say. We had our usual chats about homework, Chicago’s newest album, bowling…
“I’m going to ask DKLA if she wants to go out. You think she’d want to see a movie?”
“How you gonna take her? You don’t have a car. You can’t take a girl like that on a date on a bus.”
“I know. That’s why I was wondering if maybe you’d, like, drive us,” he asked hopefully.
“I don’t have a car either.” I said.
“But you have K’s car,” Angel replied.
He was right, of course. Technically, I didn’t own a car, but my boss, K, regularly asked me to drive her mother home. They lived nearby in Monterey Park, so I’d drive Mrs. H home and then they’d drop me off at my parents house. On weekends, my boss didn’t go to the shop, so she would tell me to keep the car on Saturday nights so I could drive her mother home on Sundays, as well.
K was almost like a sister to me. After school, I’d go to the shop early and bum around, maybe do some homework in the dank basement amid 100 lbs. sacks of rice and sugar stacked on pallets, and maybe not. When K went out for coffee or a snack, she’d often come find me and take me along. When I needed extra cash, she’d slip me $20 and tell me to get popcorn and soda, too And she trusted me enough to drive her mother home and to keep her car over the weekend. She also told me that I could drive the car if I wanted to go out. “As long as you don’t drink and drive,” she said. And I promised I would never betray her trust. And I never did. I had never had an older sibling, so being taken care of this way was more than pleasant. Indeed, I felt very lucky.
But when Angel asked me to drive him and DKLA on their date, I refused.
“Sorry, gonna catch a flick with Cary and Tomahawk. Maybe next time.” It wasn’t exactly a lie. I intended to ask them about going a movie anyway. Cary and Tomahawk were true friends. We had been together for quite awhile, through thick and thin in elementary school, and we were always together in high school, too. These were guys I was always open with and we had no secrets between us. I wondered if perhaps Angel wanted to be a part of that.
For me, however, friendships developed over time, it wasn’t something you did consciously. You don’t just think, I’ll be so-and-so’s friend, and become one. Cary and Tomahawk and I often found ourselves in situations–good and bad–and we had developed a bond over time. By 1972, we were 16 and had known each other for 11 years already.
Angel, on the other hand, was a recent “friend”, a year younger than me in my sister’s class at Maryknoll. While we had a few things in common, our friendship had not developed to that level yet, so we were not that close.
Or so I tried desperately to convince myself…