Walls of honeysuckle lined the fence between our yards. I wasn’t tall enough to see over it, but Julie was. When we went out to play in the afternoons she would lean into the vines on her tip-toes to talk to the two boys next door. In our minds they were very old. We called them “the big boys”, but in actuality they couldn’t have been more than 7 or 8.
I remember one day in particular because it marked the end of our friendship with the big boys. My big sister was talking to them about something (I wasn’t old enough to follow very well) and I sat in the grass playing with flower petals as they bantered back and forth. I understood only that she was being “ugly” to them. But it didn’t matter to me. She was my sister; we were on the same side of the fence.
Out of spite though, and to make her feel bad I guess, they made me a honey suckle wreath for my head and said I was the princess and got the crown because I was prettier than her. I remember this act confused me. On one hand, they had done something nice for me and were hoping to make me feel good. They wanted me to like it. It was an act of friendship. On the other hand, they had made my sister sad. I wasn’t sure how to act or feel.
The politics of the situation took my young mind a while to grasp. It all became clear though after they left and my sister started to cry. I realized that wearing that crown meant that I had aligned myself with them. I had to choose. She was my sister and my only friend. So I did what was natural I guess. I took the crown off and gave it to her. I told her she was the princess now.
We were happy again and I was the sister who had saved her. Her victory became mine as she strutted around the yard with the crown on her head in front of those boys. I only regretted the look of betrayal on their faces for a moment and I knew our friendship was over from that point on. But it didn’t matter to me. I had chosen her…she had won.
The other night I drove a friend home in her car. She was drunk and spent the majority of the ride stringing together expletives in an effort to convince me that she had been wronged, and that I oughta take her side. I sat quietly listening to her bantering. Once again I didn’t know what to think or feel, I only knew that she was being ugly. As she drew a line between fences and demanded/pleaded that I stand with her, I could almost smell the honeysuckle. But this time I didn’t have a wreath of flowers to hand over to her and the stakes were much higher. Regardless, I felt that the circumstances were the same, she wanted me to give her the crown, give her the power she needed for her victory. Only this time I couldn’t and I realized we weren’t standing on the same side of the fence.
Instead, I drove us home in silence and thought of honeysuckle.