Stand By Me (the girl version)

I grew up in a small town called Armstrong BC. It is where Armstrong Cheese comes from. Actually, the plant was just below my house and I grew up smelling cheese being made. Railroad tracks ran right through the centre of town.

We would use the tracks as a shortcut to get from one side of the town to the other. Everyone in town did this but mostly the kids. It was our viaduct of sorts. I spent all my time with the 6-pack. We were a group of girls and there were 6 of us. A fairly simple and straightforward title we liked to think…

Our lives consisted of rituals. Every day we went over to Amy’s for lunch. Sometimes if her mom came home unexpectedly we would rush to the bathroom and hide in the tub with the curtain drawn. 6 girls silent and shaking, listening to her mother pee.

We always came back to my house for after school snack and to watch Oprah.

We had sleepovers at Kayla’s and Erin’s because their parents didn’t care what we did and Andrea’s dad taught us soccer.

Cristal’s parents were mean assholes. We never went over to her house.

Inside the 6-pack were pairs. Me and Cristal.

Erin and Amy.

Kayla and Andrea.

We would split off sometimes like cells of an atom and do our own thing for the evening. But it would be very, very weird if the pairs divided further. You would not find me hanging out alone with Erin or see Amy at Kayla’s house.

Ever. Why?

It was just the rule.

We would walk the tracks after school, sometimes smoking or drinking slushes. We would push each other down and run. We would sit on the tracks and pretend to masturbate and laugh and laugh. We talked in strange voices. Once for a whole year Amy talked like an “old drunk Indian” (this was back when racism was okay). We loved that voice. Other times she would rhyme-sing everything she said. We’d choke each other to get high on lack of oxygen and Amy would get this adorably squeaky voice for days.

I lit Andrea’s hair on fire in grade 8.

It was long and beautiful with no bangs.  She was standing waiting in line for the school bus and I took a lighter to the bottom of it and it POOFed up in smoke. She screamed and ran around in circles while hitting herself on the head. Thank God it went out. She had just begun dating a boy in grade 12 and she was still only 12 years old. I lit her hair on fire because:

  1. I was extremely jealous that the most dangerous guy in school picked her to treat like shit and not me.
  2.  I wanted him dump her for being ugly and then she would be safe.

That night Andrea went home and had a symbolic funeral for me. She said prayers and built a cross and put my full given name on it and spiritually killed me. The grave was just outside her window in the cemetery she had dug for her other tormentors. Months afterwards, when we made up and I would go over to her house I’d look into the field beside her bedroom window and see my name on a stake and wonder if now I was just a ghost.

On my 13th birthday, we met on the railroad tracks with a bottle of Andrea’s dad’s vodka. We had not been invited to an older kids party and we screamed  “we’ll show them, we’ll show them, we’ll show them” as we walked the tracks and chugged the bottle down. It was the first time we all got really got drunk. I remember the smash of the bottle on the tracks and nothing else.

 Cristal remembers that night though. She was grounded and stuck in her basement. She could hear us screaming and laughing outside her window from a few streets away so even though she wasn’t physically with the 6-pack, she still watching out for us.

Actually I do remember one thing. We were playing nicky-nicky-nine-door and I went by myself up to this regal old character home. I peeked into the main front window and saw a quilting bee in progress. There were 10 old women hunched around an old table building a blanket together on a Saturday night in a small town. I was watching something sacred. I slid down the side of the house and I cried.

We were the silliest girls.

We had the most fun I have ever known having. We would sing loudly as we skipped through town. We would sneak into grain silos and act out the scenes of our made up plays. The acoustics are incredible in a grain silo.

One night, near the end of high school The 6-pack trecked down the tracks with flashlights to the far end of town. We walked down a deep gulley into a valley full of old rusted out cars. We climbed through the cars like cats. “It’s very likely this is our last time together so let’s make it good,” we said. “We don’t know what we are looking for until we find it”. And then we did.  6 old silver radio control sticks. They were rectangular and short like an eraser. We each tore one out of the car. We stood in a circle together in the moonlight in the valley below the tracks. We were not afraid of anything because there was nothing to be afraid of. We clinked the silver sticks together and we said “6-pack forever, promise? “Promise” “Promise” “Promise” “Promise” “Promise” “Promise.”