≡ Menu

It was 1985. Her room was pink, and bigger than mine, and she didn’t have to share it with her sister like I did. She had a closet with mirrored doors, and we would put a chair in front of those big mirrors and take turns brushing each other’s hair. Like a salon. We probably gave each other hairdos too—clipping barrettes, making wild ponytails, learning how to braid—but it’s the brushing I remember.

We had sleepovers, both of us under the pink bedspread on her double bed. She invented the game of tracing each other’s faces. We took turns closing our eyes while the other one used one fingertip, lightly, to outline the outer oval of the face, the rim of the ear, the eyebrow, the eyelid, the lips.

Years later, in bed with my first real girlfriend, I did that again. “Close your eyes,” I said, and repeated the same motions in the same order: the eyebrow, the eyelid, the lips. When I was done she opened her eyes and sighed and I never told her that I had learned it from the best friend I had when I was nine.

How old were we the year she went away to summer camp and came home full of jokes I didn’t get, stories peppered with names of girls I would never meet? How long after that did she change schools, catching a bus in her new plaid uniform skirt while I kept on walking to our old school with my sister?

We stopped talking, of course. Eventually, in high school, she came back to public school and we were in classes together again, but by then it seemed like the thing to do was to pretend we had never sat and brushed each other’s hair in front of her big mirror. She was going somewhere different and I couldn’t keep up. She’s married now. I think she lives in Virginia with her husband. Her parents are still in the house around the corner from the one where I grew up.

I don’t know what she remembers from the days when we were friends.

I was back in her house, once, when I was sixteen or seventeen. I was babysitting her much-younger brother while she and her parents went to a reception—her dad had gotten some kind of commendation at work. I ordered a pizza, let her brother watch TV in the room where she and I had eaten snacks and jumped on the couch. After I put him to bed, I went down the hall and opened the door to her room. I saw my shape moving in her mirror as I went in. I didn’t turn the light on, but even in the dark I could tell that it was still pink.

Katherine D. Stutzman lives, writes, and teaches in  Philadelphia. Learn more at katherinedstutzman.com.