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FUN A DAY 2019 #13: Rafaella

It wouldn’t have been inaccurate to describe her as ‘popular,’ but you wouldn’t have, because she wasn’t one of those popular kids, and she wasn’t that kind of popular. She was pretty, funny, conf more...

It wouldn’t have been inaccurate to describe her as ‘popular,’ but you wouldn’t have, because she wasn’t one of those popular kids, and she wasn’t that kind of popular. She was pretty, funny, confident, and well-liked because of it, but she wasn’t part of anyone’s clique. She wasn’t one of them, because there was no them that mattered to her, there was only us, us being her, of course, and the ever-widening group of freaks and goths and weirdos that she happily embraced.
I met her one afternoon on the bus. Shortly after resigning myself to what felt like a lifetime of uncomfortable, solitary rides I heard a radio playing Pearl Jam’s “Better Man,” and then an unsolicited review: “Turn that off, man! That song sucks!” I wasn’t sure how I felt about Pearl Jam at that point, but I knew that someone on that bus was playing my radio station, WXRK, 92.3 K-rock, and I needed to know who it was. I stayed in my seat, but leaned out into the aisle and turned to see her stand up, all the way in the back of the bus and completely un-seriously half-shout, “Oh yeah? Your mom sucks!” before one of her friends pulled her back down to her seat, where I couldn’t see them, but I imagined them dissolving into a fit of giggles together. The music got louder (I pictured a hand turning a volume dial on a radio), and she won by virtue of refusing to back down. I wasn’t anywhere near as brave as that, so I didn’t even consider trying to sit with her that day, but I did talk to her the next day, after we were well off the bus. I remember her face lighting up as soon as I brought mentioned her radio. Her friend from the bus did a quick dramatic reenactment for us: “‘That song sucks!’ “Oh yeah your mom sucks!’” They laughed again, mostly at themselves, and then Rafaella shrugged, and in an exaggeratedly bubbly voice, said, “What can I say? I just have to have my music!” I responded in kind, and in my best Valley Girl voice said,” I know, right?! Like, Frankie says relax!” She laughed, and that was all it took. She treated me like a friend for the remainder of our bus-riding days together.
She herself did not look like any of her weird, arty-goth friends. Her clothes were surprisingly unmemorable, it looked like she too wore whatever her mother bought for her at J.C. Penney’s and Sears, and didn’t particularly like any of it, but didn’t hate it enough to fight her on it. She was only an inch or two taller than I was, but was much more slender, and had long, slim arms and legs. Her skin was a light olive-y brown, and her eyes were large and blue and sleepy-looking. Her brown-red hair was always pulled back into a ponytail, and her bangs were thick and fluffy. She was incredibly loud, and unafraid to be melodramatic. She was always excited about something, always seemed to have some good news or a hilarious story that she needed to tell you right away, while she was still breathless from running over to you. She also wouldn’t hesitate to jump into your arms, or try to hop onto your back piggyback style, or just straight up tackle you while you were in the middle of a conversation with other friends and acquaintances she knew. I both appreciated this ardent expression of joy and friendship and also worried that it would result in injury, or something worse, some other inarticulable consequence of us being too close or too casual with each other, though I didn’t yet know why I would be afraid of that.
Our lives eventually diverged when we moved onto high school. I was happy to switch over to taking public transit to and from school, and at first I thought that I was a little relieved that I wouldn’t have to worry about being accosted in the hallway or the yard, that there was no chance of Rafaella’s body suddenly hurtling toward mine and unexpectedly knocking me over. But predictably enough, after I adjusted to my new routine, new school, and a new set of people to feel and be awkward with, I realized just how much I missed the boundless energy, the boom box, the barking, shrieking laughter, pretty much everything about Rafaella, and how it felt to be around her.

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6 tracks
  • 23min
  • 18
  • One year ago