I say it again. Never put a banana in your backpack. Ever. Never ever ever. Because you will forget it is there, and then two weeks later your best friend Melanie will finally announce that she is going to clean out your backpack right there in Ms. Whomever's 10th grade English classroom to find out how your homework continues to disappear despite the fact that she knows you did it because, frankly, she is the only one who has kept you functioning for the past two years and she makes it her business to know such things. And she will reach deep into your backpack and produce a mushed banana, and three assignments covered in banana goo. And a hairbrush that is no longer fit to touch human hair, a smushed cereal bar (I've been looking for that), and the tattered paperback book I was always trying to read behind my geometry textbook (because, obviously, my teacher would never notice that I was reading geometry problems left to right down the page).
Melanie really did keep me functioning in high school. I was less organized then than I am now (and by "less," I mean "not at all"). Though we were issued planners by the school, I would often neglect mine, or neglect to remember where mine was. But when I found it (or, you know, Melanie found it), I would open it up and sure enough! There were all of my homework assignments and important dates neatly written in Mel's handwriting. She always wrote in blue ink, too. I don't know why.
Melanie and I met the first week of high school in Ms. Truck (name changed to protect the boring)'s algebra II class. I didn't know her yet, and I have always been pretty social, so I decided to bait her and see if she'd bite. She was sitting in front of me, valiantly trying to pay attention, when I dropped a note over her shoulder. She tensed for a second, and then slowly looked down at the note sitting on her desk. I think she thought I wanted her to pass it on up the row to someone else that I was already friends with, but there was her name, right on top. The note consisted of me basically complaining about what a fat-head (mature, I know) I thought Ms. Truck was. After what felt like an eternity, she wrote "Amen!" and passed the note back to me. She has never been rid of me since. We've been friends for ten years, Mel and I.
Sometime in the 10th grade, although I cannot tell you if it was before or after the banana incident, Mel announced that she planned to be Valedictorian so that she could give a speech at graduation, along with the honor of being, well, you know, the kid with the best grades in the senior class. I realized that there was no way in hell for me to be valedictorian, but this whole giving a speech thing sounded like a swell time, so I decided I would find a way to get myself up there, too. And sure enough, two years later, Mel gave a speech as Valedictorian, and I gave a speech as Senior Class president. We always traveled in pairs.
In fact, we were so often together that our track Coach one day expressed confusion at Mel's walking past his classroom by herself. I think he could count on one hand the number of times he had seen one of us without the other in 4 years. I only missed two days of high school, so it must have been a day I was too ill to function, or called away on some official school business. Otherwise, I would have been by her side, "accidentally" nudging her into a boy she liked as we passed so that she would have to look him in the eye and say excuse me, or recounting my run-ins with the red locker girls and planning revenge on whomever might have caused each other angst.
Melanie and I did not go to the same college. And now I live 1000 miles away from her. But we still burn up the email wires constantly with stories from our days and memories from our past. You just can't stop being friends with someone like Mel, not over something as silly as moving 1000 miles away.
So this is the brief, incomplete, hardly-does-the-truth-justice story of how Melanie became my best friend in high school and beyond. It is also a cautionary tale for all of you about to slip a banana in your backpack while thinking, "What's the worst that could happen?" If you don't have a Melanie in your life, things could get ugly, and fast.
Sometime very soon I will tell you the story of how I poached Amanda, my best friend from college, from my sister's circle of friends, and the zany adventures we embarked on while at the University of Tennessee and to this day. There are some stories you will not want to miss, and some only slightly edited because my parents do read this blog, and also because the statute of limitations have yet to run out on some of our, um, "adventures." Stay tuned.