When I was in the 5th grade, I attended a slumber party at a friend’s house. Most of the girls there were kids that I knew well, but one of them was a snobby little blonde that I rarely interacted with. She was one of the cool kids, a fellow classmate at my tiny Catholic school.
I never felt comfortable around her. I wonder now after all of these years if that was mostly due to my own insecurities or her treatment of me because I was below her social class.
She was beautiful and fragile, like fine china. The boys all wanted her attention and to get into her good graces.
She was thin and had great hair; I was chubby with good hair.
She floated like a feather in a beautiful world and next to her, I felt like tree pollen.
I remember a few details from that night. We had pizza and drank tons of pop, which I wasn’t accustomed to having often back at home. There were also brownies and ice cream.
Yes, I remember the food we ate. Not shocking at all.
The girl who was hosting the shindig had a huge luxury item from the 80’s (that my own family wouldn’t have until 1987), a VHS player. Her parents thought that the movie “Flashdance” was appropriate for a group of 10-year-old girls, but they were wrong.
Way too much spandex.
We were all camped out on the living room floor, but we were also elevated, so I’m thinking that we all might have had our own cot or something.
After the lights were off, there were still whispers and giggles to be heard, but I was mostly quiet. Especially back in those days, I was extremely shy and reserved. I mostly just listened to them all chatter on about Barbie Dolls and cute boys at school, piping in now and then with a one liner.
I never did great at these iconic, ritualistic gatherings of young females, so I always suffered from preadolescent insomnia.
At one point during the night, I suddenly wasn’t the only one awake and sitting up. I think it was sometime after 4 am when suddenly, there she was.
“Merry?” Her soft voice as buttery as a kittens meow.
I froze for at least 10 seconds before I replied.
“Yes, it’s me.”
I got up enough courage to look over at her, two slumbering whippersnappers away, seeing her silhouette that mingled with both the dark of the room and the light from the moon.
“I’m scared.” She turned in my direction, looking back at me over our snoring peers.
I instantly empathized with her, feeling her emotional pain, but not understanding why.
Plus, my mind was often weird, panicky and it scared me, too.
I also knew that she was crying, although she wasn’t even making a sound. In my mind, though I struggled in the shadows to see her perfectly, there was a plump teardrop running down her porcelain cheeks.
“I’m sorry that you’re scared. I feel like that a lot.”
I wasn’t sure what she was scared of, so I decided that I needed more information.
“Why are you scared?” I asked quietly.
She always talked low, so you really had to pay attention, plus she was whispering because she didn’t want to disturb anyone.
She wanted to talk to me and this was her perfect chance without any witnesses to do just that.
“My parents are getting a divorce,” she murmured sadly.
“Oh.” I hadn’t known. I thought her life was perfect.
I thought she was done, but she kept going, all in a rush, like she was running out of time to get everything out.
“Yes and they keep fighting about who I’ll live with, my mom or my dad. I don’t like it when they fight, it makes me scared and then I cry. I don’t want them to get a divorce, I want everything to stay the same as it was before they started hating each other.”
“I would be upset too,” I said, wanting more than anything to make her feel better, but having no real clue as to how to accomplish it. I couldn’t relate to her story, but I tried to console her anyways.
“I’m really sorry. ”
“I just wanted to tell someone.”
But why me, when she had so many other friends?
“I’m sure it’ll be okay,” I said kindly, but maybe a little too loudly because her outline quickly tightened up again.
“It’s a secret, so don’t tell anyone, okay?” she asked me urgently, looking around the room for listening ears.
“I won’t. I promise.”
“Thank you, Merry.”
Then she laid back down again and after a few moments, so did I.
Once the sleepover became breakfast at the kitchen table, I really expected the two of us to be best friends because of what took place between us. I didn’t have the terminology back then, but we had totally bonded.
She treated me like she always had before; as if I didn’t exist.
This was no fucking Breakfast Club ending.
We lived in two separate orbits, far away from each other. She was nightgowns with frilly lace, while mine had Garfield emblazoned on the front of a long nightshirt.
But I became her confidant for about 10 minutes in the middle of the night at a mutual friends sleepover. It was just the first of many exchanges I’d experience when someone I really didn’t know from Adam told me their deepest thoughts and darkest fears.
And secrets, sometimes far heavier than I anticipated.
Even if you’re not an empath, embrace yourself for who you are and acknowledge your true nature. Keep searching to find ways to honor your abilities, gifts and talents.
I learned that I can’t fix people and that it’s unhealthy for me to continue trying to save the world.
My own gut instincts are precious and should always be heeded.
But most importantly, before I can help someone else, I have to be able to help myself first.