To KB, for her moment of strangeness.
As I distractedly toy with one leaf in my left hand while eating the ice cream mix that Allen and I have created, Allen says, “Ms. Palmer, I feel as though I should clarify on some points on this…affinity we have.”
“Go ahead,” I reply, curious as to what he might have to say.
“Very well.” He pauses to eat from his sundae. “You see, I am of the belief that two persons must and cannot be friends based solely on the fact that they share similar interests and pastimes. It is a friendship based on such tenuous grounds that I cannot even be certain of its veracity. Those who assume that they have found a friend because the other enjoys reading the same books or watching the same movies as they do quickly presuppose that said person is a new friend, which I find to be a most egregious error.
“At this current juncture in this process of our getting acquainted with each other, I think we both have realized that we share a great deal in common; however, I do not believe that that is sufficient. If we were to but share a meal at school each day and greet each other at some other point, our relationship would be but tangential. Therefore, Ms. Palmer, I propose that we do not try to find out what we have in common, but instead let one or the other talk about anything and everything regarding ourselves, whether it be memories or aspirations or something completely different. What do you have to say, Ms. Palmer?”
I am duly impressed. Despite my having wanted to call Allen a friend over the last few days, I haven’t, in part due to many of the reasons that he has just said. I have never had a true friend, and I find the word to hold a great deal of significance and weight, a word that cannot be used trivially. To be honest, I am not sure when or how a friendship is to be formed, but for the moment, the most I have is to go with what Allen Stevens has said, so I reply, “Very well. I believe we can try it. Who should go first?”
“Ladies first, I do believe,” he replies, finishing his sundae.
“All right then. My favorite color is cyan, I enjoy taking long walks in the park while listening to the same song on repeat, whenever I get stressed, I…” and so I go on, explaining all the facts that make Margo Palmer Margo Palmer. But just facts and the occasional slight oddity is all that I give. It is almost as though I’m reciting something off a chart, mentally sorting through facts and discarding the ones that may put him off. It is dishonest, one side of me argues, but the other side tells me that it’s for the good. But the good of what?
“…when it’s raining, and, uh…oh, I’ve always wanted to bake cookies with someone in the middle of the night.” And then I pause, stricken with embarrassment. I immediately begin to backpedal, and say, “Oh, gosh, I didn’t really mean that. It’s not as though I’m some solitary person who’s always just wanted to do something like that.” The feeling of discomfiture weighs heavily on me, and I am tempted to just leave, despite my having no means of transportation. The last thing that I wanted to do was appear to be an introvert in front of Allen; and yet, this is what I have done.
But Allen does not say anything in regards to what I have just said. Instead, he merely nods and asks if I’m through. I nod, but I am both perplexed and relieved. I have just been completely candid with someone who I hardly know, and I have embarrassed myself, but he has not chosen to exploit the moment. And it is then that I realize that Allen and I have truly started to become friends.
At 2:38 a.m. the next morning, my phone buzzes. I am a light sleeper, so the faint noise wakes me up immediately. I have a text message, and considering that both of my parents are asleep, it has piqued my interest. I take my phone and glance at the screen.
555-3591: Ms. Palmer. I must ask you to open the window and take note of the fact that there is a 17-year old boy standing at your front porch with a grocery bag. He is waiting to see how he may gain entrance into your house. Thank you.
There is only one person besides my parents who has my phone number and knows where I live. I rush into the bathroom and splash my face with water, then change into a blouse and jeans. True to his word, Allen Stevens is standing in the driveway, dressed in a white T-shirt, plaid shirt, blazer, jeans, and Converse sneakers. I take my keys and quietly unlock the front door, then whisper, “What are you doing here?”
He gestures to the bag. “Due to my inability to fall asleep, and your desire to make cookies, I decided to purchase some ingredients to bake said dessert. You will find butter, eggs, brown sugar, and chocolate chips in here. I presume that we will be able to obtain the other ingredients from your pantry?”
I stand there, uncertain as to what to say. Here is the boy to whom I have revealed a part of me that, despite its seeming inconsequentiality, has left me feeling vulnerable. And he has not chosen to brush it aside or intrude upon it, but instead…he has made it become real, something tangible. It sounds absurd, but I feel like a child who has cancer and has gotten his wish fulfilled. Of course, I do not say any of this to Allen. Instead, I say, “We shall have to be absolutely quiet in order to not disrupt my parents.”
“But of course,” he whispers before following me inside. I lead him to the kitchen and turn on the lights. My parents sleep upstairs, which is beneficial to the current situation.
“Do you have a recipe for the cookies?” I ask.
He nods, and reaches into his pocket to pull out a folded sheet of paper. “Indeed. I printed this off the Internet prior to my excursion. Due to the potentially disruptive noise of the hand mixer that must be used in the former steps of making the cookies, it may very well be necessary for us to use said appliance in other room as to not awaken your parents.”
“We can move to the basement,” I say. And so we move to the basement and beat the butter and sugar and eggs and vanilla, and stir in the remaining ingredients before moving back to the kitchen to start shaping the dough into cookies.
As I eat a spoonful of the cookie dough, I say, “There is a boy in my house.”
“You are correct, Ms. Palmer,” Allen affirms. Then he adds, “There is some cookie dough at the corner of your mouth.”
I wipe it off. “Thank you,” I say.
“For what, if I may ask?”
“For everything. For sharing lunch with me, for ice cream, for listening to my moment of strangeness, and for following through on it.”
He shrugs. “I do not believe that I have done anything which merits your thanking me, but, you are welcome.”
And then I hug Allen Stevens, who also hugs me, and I feel content and satisfied with everything, and then my parents walk into the room.
My mother, who is wearing her favorite terry night robe, is mentally taking everything in, processing it, and analyzing the situation. My father, a tall, thin, bald man, is yawning, but also staring.
“There is a boy in our house,” my mother says matter-of-factly.
“You are correct,” I say nervously.
“There is a boy in our house at 3:19 a.m. making chocolate chip cookies.” This is my father.
“I cannot believe this,” my mother says, very seriously.
Here Allen walks forward to my parents and says, “Mr. and Mrs. Palmer, it is a pleasure to meet both of you. My name is Allen Stevens, and I would offer to shake your hands, but as mine are covered with dough, it would be most impolite. However, if you were to wait for another twenty minutes, you would be able to partake in the cookies we are in the process of making.”
My mother, however, still appears to be on the part that there is a boy in her house at 3:19 in the morning. She again says, “I cannot believe this.”
“Mom,” I begin, “I can explain ev—”
“You are making chocolate chip cookies without hot chocolate,” she interrupts me, “and not only that, but you had the audacity to not invite us? Margo Palmer, I am hurt.”
I, however, am bemused. I have not been lectured, I have not been told to get rid of Allen; instead, I have been scolded for not making hot chocolate and for not inviting my parents. It is too much for me to take in, and I stand there, my mouth slightly agape.
“Sweetheart, it’s not polite to stare with your mouth open,” my father stage whispers before pulling out some cocoa powder from the pantry. My mother takes the milk from the fridge and pours it into a saucepan, then sets it on a burner.
“Allen, you said?” she enquires.
“Correct, Mrs. Palmer,” Allen replies while sliding the cookie tray into the oven. “Also, if I may say, your daughter is a most fascinating person.”
“That would be our Margo,” my father says. I cannot help but feel that they are talking about me as though I am not in the room. But I do not mind, strangely.
I jump into the conversation as though this is something natural that I have done all my life, as though my family normally invites a friend from school to make cookies and hot chocolate in the middle of the night. “Mom, we can make spiced hot chocolate, if you don’t mind.”
She shakes her head. “Not at all. I’ll get the cinnamon and nutmeg in just a moment.”
“Wonderful,” Allen says, using a spoon to scrape out the last of the cookie dough. He passes the spoon to me, and adds, “This is all simply marvelous.”
And it is. Because I have twice revealed a moment of strangeness in as many days, and I have not been rejected. I have been accepted, and I have found a friend—no, I have found three friends. It is strange to think of my parents as friends, but it is true. I now see that a relationship turns into a friendship when one bares himself to the other and reveals a private moment, something that leaves him—or her—vulnerable. And when the other person chooses to not take advantage of the moment, it is where a friendship truly begins.
My name is Margo Palmer, and I can now confidently say that public school was the best thing that ever happened to me.
Less than three,