The first time I met Kayla, she offered me Midol. It was sweet of her, but I wouldn’t have my first period for a couple more months. It never even occurred to me at the time to think how she might be thinking about things like that.
I’m going to do it. I’m going to talk about Kayla Shaw and what she meant to me.
In grade school, Kayla had been the perfect tomboy. She climbed trees, she got in schoolyard fights, she played wargames with strategy and finesse, and could beat pretty much all of the boys at any physical activities. But the summer before sixth grade, her parents pulled her aside and told her she had to be a lady now. The reason was because she had just told them she’d had her first period.
When I got mine, it was unpleasant. It was scary, I guess it was scary mainly in the way that growing up is scary, or falling in lvoe, or when you wake up and realize that one day it’ll all be over. So it was scary, but there was a sense of wonder to it, I guess, this spiritual… I don’t know, it’s lame and I’m crazy. There was shame to it, too, but the one thing I don’t remember feeling was betrayal.
That was what it was like for Kayla, though. “It’s like, back in elementary,” she confided in me during one awkward sleepover at my place, “I knew who I was, everything my body did made sense to me, more or less. I mean I was jealous, obviously, with the whole penis thing” (this didn’t seem obvious to me, but sure, fine) “but even that, like, I don’t know, there was a place for that.”
“Did your parents not tell you?” I prodded. “Your mom?”
“They weren’t expecting it that soon. Mom got hers pretty late, figured I would, too. Maybe I get it from dad’s side, I don’t know. I was really erratic, too. Well… still am.”
“Don’t they have, like, pills for that, or something?”
“They don’t always work that well.”
We tried talking about boys, too. One day—pretty early on—Trevor came to sit with us at lunch. I’m not gonna lie, I always thought Trevor was kind of cute. Sweet, too. He was a good listener and he gave pretty good advice, too. He was a bit of a nerd, but far be it from me, right?
It didn’t even really occur to me to have a crush on him, though, until later, after Kayla blurted out “He is gay, isn’t he?”
I didn’t know where to put that. “What? Trevor???” I frowned at her, thinking she was joking and I’d called her on it and won. Realizing she’d been serious, I muttered “No,” like it was the most obvious thing in the world.
“Oh,” she said. “I just thought…” But what she’d thought, she’d said already.
Some psychic I am, right?
Later on, it came out that Trevor “had a crush” on Kayla. This was awkward for me, even though, I mean, it wasn’t really a serious thing, what I had. Or maybe it was, but it didn’t like keep me up at night fantasizing or anything. I didn’t “think about Trevor like that,” but that didn’t mean I didn’t feel possessive. I got totally jealous once I heard. Some psychic I am. Able to read my sibling’s social life like the open book I’m writing, but my own? Ha ha ha ha ha fuck me, right?
“He keeps looking at me,” Kayla complained. “Not even really, like, I don’t know. And now other people are looking at me. Like I’m a work of art. Like I’m a character.”
“Do you feel the same way about him?” I asked her.
“Who? Trevor???” she spat. They were friends—we all were, more or less- but this whole thing was making her very uncomfortable. “I don’t believe he even feels that way about me,” said Kayla. “Not really. I think he just wants to.”
“Because you think he’s gay?”
She hesitated. “Yeah, probably.” After a moment, “You don’t?”
I shifted uncomfortably. We’d never really talked about stuff like this before. Personal stuff. Intimate stuff. Stuff girlfriends talk about.
“Do you feel that way about him?” she asked me.
“Who, me?” I answered truthfully, confused, “I don’t know.” Then I went on the offensive again. “Do you feel that way about anyone else?”
She looked away quickly enough that I knew she was lying when she said “Oh, I don’t know.”
We never really did talk about any girly stuff like that. We never really talked about anything important, except my weird thing that I do. She was my best friend all through middle school, but two weeks from the end of eighth grade, she ran away from home (left me a note so I’d know she didn’t just disappear) and that was the last that anyone heard from Kayla Shaw.
I still miss her. Sometimes. I guess. But I don’t know if I can say how. And it was just one more example of the uselessness of this “power” or whatever it is that I have, that I haven’t been able to find her.