I don’t remember having a best friend in my early childhood. Wow..that sounded sad, but it’s true! I don’t recall one special someone that I spent multiple sleepovers with staying up late swapping ghost stories. I wasn’t very outgoing, and I hung out where it was convenient. So, I spent a lot of time hanging with my brother and his friends. This social decision didn’t bring me a BFF, it did–however– bring me my first frenemy.
The family that lived across the back from my childhood home in Northeast Philadelphia consisted of two boys that happened to be the same age as my brother and me. Cory, the younger brother, became close friends with Matt. Which left the older brother Kyle and I sort of… obligated to socially interact.
Kyle and I had an interesting relationship. One month, we’d be sitting together enjoying the latest Bone Thugs-N-Harmony music video on MTV. The next, he’d be trying to bash my head into a traffic pole during a fight on our walk to school. (True story) Kyle had a temper, and I liked to push his buttons–which made for a volatile relationship.
Kyle and I physically fought on a number of occasions. Not only did we fight on the way to school, but we also fought on school property. I remember STOMPING on his foot after he said something shitty to me in the schoolyard of our Catholic School. I don’t remember what it was, but I remember it burned me up. After I stomped his foot, he pushed me backward into a brick wall. Real Fight Club shit, you know? The yard lady broke up the fight before it could escalate further, but that was enough to get us in trouble with our teacher, Miss. Meehan. Which, in turn, got me in big trouble at home.
That night, I was sent to my room without any dinner, and my mom was angrier at me than twitter was at Steve Martin after Carrie Fisher died. I was on lockdown in my room, and I was not getting out anytime soon. My bedroom looked out the back of my home, and I had a clear view of the entrance to Kyle’s house. As I sat peering out my window starving that night –I watched… as a Domino’s Pizza delivery car pulled up to Kyle’s house, and parked in front of his walkway. A delivery man emerged from car carrying (what I can only assume was) a delicious steaming hot pizza. The man walked up to Kyle’s front door and knocked, and –to rub it in further– Kyle answered the door and happily took the pizza from the delivery man’s hands.
What a little shit! I thought. Here I was, tummy grumbling, and this asshole was getting pizza? Clearly, his parents handled punishment differently than mine did, and I was jealous. My parents ruled my childhood with an iron fist, and his didn’t really seem to inflict much trauma. This fact only made my hatred for Kyle grow stronger.
What made us hate each other so much? I actually think it’s because we were more similar than we realized. Take our little brothers, for example, they were younger, smarter, and more socially acceptable than we were. Our families celebrated their achievements, while we were sometimes left feeling like an offspring consolation prize. Kyle and I were rough around the edges and were prone to getting in trouble at school. Teachers frequently yelled at the both of us throughout our early school years. We also received our fair share of bullying from the other kids.
There was one thing people used to call Kyle that was particularly mean. Around second or third grade we started reading the (painfully racist) children’s novel, The Indian in the Cupboard. When the 1995 movie was released Kyle, unfortunately, had a striking resemblance to the goofy looking main character. No, Kyle wasn’t the spitting image of the kid, heck–I’ll even go as far to say Kyle was better looking–but when the kids at school were picking on the same person that drove you crazy for years….you joined in.
Not one of my proudest moments.
One of the last times Kyle and I physically fought each other was around the time of the Indian In the Cupboard harassment. I remember it vividly. I was practicing my roller skating in my garage because there was a big birthday party coming up and I needed to practice because I sucked at roller skating. I was decked out in my helmet, knee pads, and elbow pads and carefully making circles in my small garage with the door open. Kyle was on his porch watching me practice from afar. He wasn’t encouraging, and his nagging was getting on my nerves.
As Kyle laughed at my roller skating inability, I screamed, “Why don’t you go play with your Indian in your cupboard?”
Kyle stopped. He glared at me. Then, while clenching both fists, he yelled straight into the sky and it echoed throughout our neighborhood. Oh shit. I thought. Kyle quickly left his porch and stormed towards my garage.
I panicked. What was I going to do? I could hardly stand on those skates, yet alone fight.
Kyle stood in the entrance to my garage, fists clenched, with the fire of a million suns burning in his retinas. He screamed again, raising his fist to make the first blow. I closed my eyes and braced myself, hoping that his blow wouldn’t make me fall on my ass–but there was nothing. I opened my eyes to see Kyle frozen–fist in the air. He must’ve received a “don’t hit girls” talk or something from his parents and suddenly remembered it–because what he did next. Was shocking.
Because I was on roller skates I was a little taller than I usually was. Kyle got on his knees in front of me and started banging his chin against the large belt buckle I was wearing. I didn’t touch him. I didn’t pull him off of me. I just raised my hands and tried to keep my balance. I had no idea what he was doing, and I was afraid to instigate it further–so I just let him keep going.
He screamed and bashed until his face started to bleed. I was shocked because our fights never drew blood, and I never wanted my Indian in the Cupboard slur to turn into such violence. When his fit was over, he got up and ran back to his house yelling for his parents. I guess he was hoping to get me in trouble instead of outright fighting me because he knew how strict my parents were.
I never fucked with him ever again.
Kyle and I weren’t always fist fights and name calling. We bonded over things like Ghostbusters, Are You Afraid of The Dark, and music. Particularly, an old karaoke recording of his father singing the Righteous Brothers’ “Lost That Loving Feelin.” Kyle used to carry a small boom box around the neighborhood blasting his father’s version of the song. The neighbors hated it, but I didn’t mind. Hey, his dad wasn’t bad. Kyle and I would sing along while we played outside in his front yard. I even remember Kyle having a karaoke machine in his room, and we would record our own versions of Boys II Men and Ace of Base.
During one recording session, Kyle’s dad abruptly opened the door to see who was singing, and he was shocked to see me sitting there. He looked at his son, then pointed to the two of us asking, “You two are getting along?”
“Yeah.” we replied matter-of-factly.
He shrugged and closed the door. We continued singing End of The Road.