The Buddy System

You can’t save someone from drowning until they’re in the water. You can stop them from going to the beach or the pool but that’s not really the same thing.

Amanda was a friend of mine, a bad friend but close to a best friend. The strings that bind us tied me and her closer together. If I fell, we would be thrown into a spiraling unpredictable spin. If she fell, the same but more likely. I wanted to get loose of her so badly.

As my Fiesta sputtered down the road, I knew these were the precious last miles that the brakes would take. After the brakes were gone, the car was officially worth less than the parts it needed. These were the last breaths of my car and I was using them to take Amanda to a party. I realized that if I wanted to be snipped from her all I had to do was not go in.

It was only a matter of taking a walk along the beach, letting go and letting George. He was twenty five, three years her senior and inferior to every human being in a two mile radius. He had eyed her in every party we had ever attended. I’d heard about other girls he eyed. They could never prove anything but everyone knew. The bruises were his trademark.

While Amanda got blotto, I usually played a more literal wingman. I watched her 3 6 9 and 12. If anybody else wanted her, fine as long as she didn’t sound an alarm. If George tried, I was fully ready to shoot a sidewinder into him. That’s what I did at parties, I played white knight to her tipsy king. She never thanked me, don’t think she knew it could be anyway else.

Soon, I found myself sitting on the beach trying desperately not to look back. In the moon’s light, I could just make out the waves as they ate the sand. The party raged inside and I could hear it a football field away. What I was doing wasn’t exactly fair. Sure, she should know how to swim by herself but I had always been there before. It wasn’t fair to suddenly expect her to have fins. Truth is, I wanted her to drown, just a little.

That truth sat uneasy in me and suddenly I was jogging back to the party. The jog turned to a sprint as I saw George was running away. I was at the stilts first, then the stairs. Amanda was leaving and trying for casual but I could see that twitch in her eyes. That was same twitch she had in ’02, when Deborah K. called her slut and she exited the locker room with “lost time” or so her defense to the principal went.

We made it to her house without incident. The car started sputtering and dying. I found a parking lot to abandoned it in and started walking. The second after I shut the door, the sky opened up. I was soaked and feeling karma. We never did recover what we lost, what I had thrown away. We got better, but never quite where we were before.