The Skate Inncident
In 1980-81, Jenny and I went for a number of walks in a place she called "Egypt", the site of a failed residential development on Pickett Road. There had still been partially-constructed houses there at one point in the late 1970s, but by the time we started walking there all that was left was curbs and cleared areas with trees just starting to come back. It was evocative of some of the scenery in Planet of the Apes or perhaps The Time Machine – bits of leftover civilization lying around unused and unmaintained.
One of the parts of Egypt we frequented was the remnant of an old access driveway that headed down towards 15-501 Boulevard. As we got closer to the boulevard one time, we noticed this deep thumping sound (which made me think of sounds coming from the Morlocks' lair) – we thought at first it was some kind of equipment (air conditioning? a giant pump?), but as we got closer we could hear hints of music, specifically disco. (The disco era was on its way out, but had not yet died.)
Some time after that, it was decided that the CFS Upper School would all go to a place called "Skate Inn" for the afternoon. I think this announcement might have been the point where we figured out that this was the place whence the thumping originated – so of course we both were, like, "this is a mistake, you can't seriously be planning on taking us to this place as a reward"... but unfortunately, they were, and we couldn't persuade them otherwise.
J and I agreed that, despite this social pressure, neither of us were interested in being in a loud place with bad music and crappy food (much less paying for the privilege) but apparently we didn't communicate our plans very well to each other, as she ended up going (I only found this out as she was waving goodbye from the bus) while I had decided (in violation of implied requirements) to stay at school, where I spent an enjoyable (aside from J's absence) quiet time reading or drawing or something (I don't remember exactly).
And then they did it again, presumably about a year later (spring 1982). This time, though, they weren't going to let me get away with staying at school, and I was made to come along even though I had no interest in going anywhere near it. Worse, the teachers wouldn't let us just stay in the bus while everyone else went in. Jenny objected to being forced to pay for something that she wasn't going to enjoy, especially when she had no intention of actually skating, and the management agreed that we could both go in without paying.. so we both went in.
This would have been after I had been unfriended, though – so I couldn't hang out with her. She had other friends (including C & E, who had long since backed away from me), but I pretty much didn't (not for lack of trying). I still tried to interact with people I knew, as they zoomed past me on their skates or talked loudly and rapidly with each other, but I simply couldn't keep up.
I started to feel intensely isolated, which then piled on top of the feelings of inadequacy and unworthiness I was already dealing with from having been unfriended by the three people I cared about most (not counting Tigger, who was by that time my only remaining tie to sanity but who lived far away), and oh yeah gender dysphoria and... I just kind of started to crumple inside. I went looking for a place where I was somewhat shielded from the overstimulation of the music and people talking too fast, and found a spot at the end of a row of lockers where I was pretty much not in sight... and unexpectedy found myself sobbing uncontrollably.
I vaguely remember J, C, and E finding me a little while later, and probably J expressing concern, but how do you even attempt to explain what's wrong under those conditions, when the person who's asking is your dearest friend ever but you're supposed to pretend you barely know them, and this is the largest part of the problem, and you know they must know this? Never mind that it was still pretty loud over in that corner (even if not quite as loud), making conversation difficult at best.
I don't remember anything after that. I know I tidied myself up and acted normal as everyone de-camped and we were all bused back to school. Nobody else noticed, or (at least) nobody gave any sign that they had noticed.
I think I'd say this was the second worst experience I'd ever had up to that point, with the Unfriending being the worst... but of course there was worse yet to come.
Even as we both entered together knowing that we would immediately split up (J because she wanted to, me because that's what J wanted), I felt this strong sense that we were still allies even if we couldn't be friends. We shared so many values and perspectives, and that experience underscored a few of them even as it also painfully highlighted our apartness. I don't know if that's just my romantic wishful thinking, and I suppose I will never know, but it still feels accurate. It aches, terribly, but is comforting at the same time.
- I thought maybe it was an end-of-year thing, which would have been Spring 1981, but Jenny mentions a skating party in a note written on 1980-12-30 – so it must have been a winter holiday / end-of-semester thing.