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My Friends

I must start writing about this abuse I have experienced. Now is the time.

#Me too, but this is not a story of sexual abuse.

I was 14 years old. It was the summer of 1971. I had just finished middle school and was going to be a freshman in high school in the fall. I had just bought a 10-speed Schwinn bicycle. It was the fashion and I had worked to save up most of the money myself.

I cannot remember how, but maybe it was just me riding my bicycle around the old middle school campus when I ran into the most popular girl in school. Miraculously, she wanted me to visit her at her house. Previously she had always ignored me as did most everyone else. I felt so special!

I think she must have called and asked me over to her house. I don’t remember if her mom was home at first but I think she was. My new friend was constantly complaining about her mother. She said her mom would complain to her if she used the bathroom. She said her mom was on her case for every little detail. Nothing could be out of place. I felt sorry for her.

We were alone in her parent’s house and she proposed we steal her parents’ liquor and smoke their cigarettes. I thought this girl was cool and I wanted her to like me so I followed her along. We went through the process of making “suicide” in some jar and slipping it out her back fence so we could later go around the back alley (actually the Catholic school yard) to retrieve it. Afterwards, we went back to her yard to play ping pong and smoke cigs. I felt quite dizzy.

Days later we were at my house. She pocketed (stole) a ring from us. I begged my mom to let her keep it. I explained to my mom that my new friend needed it more than we did because her mom was so mean to her.

Shortly after that she took me to meet a boy, a little older than us, who was her neighbor, to see if we could score some weed. Sometime during the visit she stole a ring from him. He and his parents got angry and told her she had to give it back. She got quite angry and reluctantly gave it back.

High school started and we hung out quite a bit. There were a few other girls in the group. Our thing was mainly just getting by in school while we focused on alcohol, pot, older guys, cigarettes and parties, and not necessarily in any order.

Thank God my parents were very diligent. Mother kept us busy with plenty of activities, chores and jobs to make money. I know I gave her lots to worry about. Had they not exposed me to other important aspects of life I may not have been capable of living through all the risky behavior.

I loved my friends like sisters. We survived high school. I moved to San Francisco, at first with a boyfriend I had made in Ukiah, but within a year I got a job and my own place. My friends visited me regularly as I always had room and a plan for food and entertainment.

As the years went by, the girlfriends would visit and stay with me. All our lives changed in various ways: Marriages, children and jobs — but we got together and did the things girlfriends do, like take trips, eat out, and especially “party.” When we went out my old friend, the popular girl, would often say, “My husband won’t give me any money.” Then she would proceed to say how these Ukiah people would do bad things to her and lie about her. She would ask me to promise to tell people she always told the truth. Then she would say, “I tell my husband you are my best friend and I love you!” After that I would say, “Oh, don’t worry! Come on, let’s have a drink on me and forget about it.”

We did “girlfriend trips” and the things women friends did in the 80s and 90s — the Bay to Breakers, Tahoe, but mostly it was me entertaining at my place. We had lots of parties and always cooked and poured drinks. Fun fun fun! Even the husband came down and stayed once. These women swore they loved me sooo much and I certainly loved them back — my dear Ukiah friends. 

Around 1999, after a year or more of deliberation, my husband convinced me it was a good idea to move into my house in Ukiah. I had plenty of concerns but at least, I thought, I had really great friends there!

I expected a full blown welcome celebration from my “friends.” It quickly became clear I was going to get dumped.

This is where the pain begins: I am not sure of the best way to describe what happened next. Once it was 100% sure I was moving back, the campaign of coldness and dirty tricks against me began. It’s hard to believe but the thief girl actually hired a guy on a bicycle to run into my car! No: I’m not making this up. Some of my best books and even wedding gifts were stolen. I was ghosted by the friend of the thief. The thief’s husband even came up to a window where I was working and pantomimed laughing, holding his stomach and pointing at me--- to say how stupid I was and to have been played--- for 29 years!

Just like any other abuse victim I was ashamed that I had allowed this to happen and was, in fact, somewhat complicit in it. I knew my old friend was not a good person, but I thought she would change in the face of my perpetual kindness. I treated her like gold and was just sure she would see the error of her ways.

How naïve am I?

I had to turn 43 years old to understand that bad people exist outside of the movies. 

(Name Withheld, Ukiah)

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