She Was a Child, He Was a Man

I never thought in a million years that my mom would lift up the liner of my purse and see many letters from a young girl about 13 written to me.  The girl was my best friend.  She was going through a tough time back in '86.  Dad was no where to be found, mom was often working, and my friend had a lot of time to hang out.  Me, I had no time to spare, my parents didn't believe in me spending anytime over friends' homes or they coming to our home, nor was I allowed to ride on buses or chill on street corners, parking lots or malls.  Phone calls were limited and so was afterschool events.  So back then, before Internet, there was much letter writing between friends.

I knew that things were beginning to take a different turn for my good friend when she started mouthing off to our teacher back in elementary school.  The guy was nice and more patient than most teachers.  I was thinking at the time, "What was up with her?"  The rebellious student had a lot on her mind.  I knew her secrets, but I didn't know just how bad they could affect her personality, but I could never tell--I promised.

My friend had met a guy who was 21 years old that same year.  She had been lying about her age for a long time.  I thought it was strange at that a young man was interested in her.  I mean she was attractive and had a build that didn't look like a teen, yet  I could see how young she looked in the face, but I guess the older guy didn't seem to notice or didn't care.  I really wished he had taken a better look at her between all the makeup she wore and simply told my flirtatious friend, "You're too young Sweetheart and moved on."  But the letters never revealed he rejected her, rather he seemed to be taking advantage of her and I mentioned some things in the hope that she would get some help.

For many months, she confessed how she felt about the guy.  "I love him...he's so nice," she would say.  She talked about how he liked her and bought her things.  She said she really wanted to be with him.  At some point, her mom detected she had a boyfriend.  However, in time she knew he was older, but hadn't pressed the issue about her daughter breaking up with him.  I thought it was bizarre back then that mom seemed not to care.  But looking back, the man most likely was giving the mother some money or helping the family out in some way.

I hated keeping my friend's secrets, I eventually did throw those once hidden letters away at the request of my mother, they started becoming more and more graphic.  The girl would share her experiences and I being a faithful friend just couldn't divulge her secrets.  I was 11 years old at the time.  My friend's life wasn't the least bit innocent.  As I read each letter, I felt like a piece of my own childhood was evaporating. 

When I reflect on the day that my mom found those many letters, it was freeing in some way even though I was quite scared that she might do something.   I was so glad not to carry my friend's burdens anymore.  That was her life and her mother was going to have to deal with whatever she permitted her daughter to do.

By the time that school year ended, I don't really know what happened to my friend.  The last I heard, she was going to a different school.

Nicholl McGuire 

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