Continuing Ayala’s narrative, which starts in part 1 over here.
Considering that Suri and I were two previously unconnected weirdoes, the administration was shocked as our friendship lasted beyond the first week of school. We quickly fell in with a group of malcontents from the ninth grade, with a few 11th graders mixed in, who were definitely rebels by any standard. But Suri and I always remained a pair.
We had a lot in common. For one thing, I had been in a coed school before this, and Suri had had a few boyfriends. I found the other ninth graders’ naivete about boys to be immature, but Suri knew about as much as I did about boy brains. We both were also trying to find some kind of solution to our family problems, while everyone else seemed to be content with constant screaming matches with their parents. In a word, we were more mature and worldly than the other girls.
The only other girl who liked reading was very wary of new people and never trusted anyone all the way. I could talk to her, but there was never the warmth that I felt with Suri. Suri was all heart, a force of nature, able to spin multiple boys, and always able to find the right clothes at the right prices.
But then… the concept of taking the SAT and going to college was foreign to her. School was literally one big nap for her — I would often peek in her classroom window when I “went to the bathroom” and see her out cold — where she recharged for her nights.
Instead of doing homework, she was always babysitting, hanging out and flirting, or chilling at a random person’s house. Sometimes she’d go into Manhattan to meet up with friends.
All of this was completely exotic to me. Sure I was “rebellious” in that I didn’t cave to the pressure to become an aidel maidel, but at heart I was a nerd who loved books and music. I worried about my grades, and so I studied. My parents were also much more alert than her parents were, so I had a harder time sneaking out to hang out. I didn’t have people to babysit for.
I was also starting to understand that the boys I had known from my coed school, mostly nice and awkward boys who would treat girls nicely, were nothing like these guys my new “cool” rebellious friends knew. These new guys had problems and did not treat my friends nicely. I wanted a boyfriend who was like me, but I couldn’t find one in my new set of friends, and my optimism was flagging.
Despite all of this, I was definitely Suri’s new best friend. She would laugh and hang with anyone, but I was the one she told her true thoughts to because she knew I could keep my mouth shut.
“What should I tell him?” she would ask, dangling some poorly spelled text message from some loser in front of my face. “Does this shirt hide my stomach? My mom called me fat again.”
Sometimes we would talk about more serious matters. “My father confiscated my phone and I am so scared that some guy is going to call. I want to be able to be open with them, but they would never love me like this.”
Sometimes she would freak out about how people in the rebel clique wouldn’t invite us to all of their “chills” and parties. “They aren’t our true friends. They just want to be my friend because I know guys. I don’t know what I would do without you.”
Our little group was prone to frequent infighting and power struggles. One girl flirted with another’s boyfriend. One girl stole another’s cigarettes. One girl told another about her makeout session, and then a few people found out. Trust issues were always at the forefront of every fight, and everyone except Suri felt that I was not trustworthy because I didn’t party enough, so they couldn’t accumulate enough dirt on me to counter all of the dirt I had on them. Additionally, I was from a different elementary school, so I was unknown.
They also found my ideas about attacking the status quo to be weird. I was advocating classroom diversions that involved asking tough questions to teachers, to make our classmates think about the disconnect between their desires and what they were being told to do. I was pressing the group to actually explore the non-yeshivish world beyond the inside of some greasy pizza place.
As time wore on, I began to speak out more vocally against the guys they hung out with. I was arguing that if we allowed these guys to be such assholes to us, we were just going to be rewarding them for bad behavior. I argued that we should focus on ourselves first and try to find nice guys somewhere else, but that we first had to stop all of this fighting amongst ourselves or we would have no one to turn to if a guy hurt us. This branded me as a narc, a sellout, a closet frummy who disapproved of their hanging out with guys.
As this drama reached its peak, Suri also sharply diverged from the group by getting a real boyfriend. When I had first met her, her average relationship lasted about 6 weeks, but that midwinter vacation she met “a great guy.” I had rolled my eyes, since they had all been great guys, but when it hit 6 weeks and they didn’t break up, I started to pay attention. This new boyfriend was a college freshman who was not involved in all of this high school bullshit.
Without ever discussing it, the group decided to kick us out, but we had already left. This solidified our existence as a unit. The administration watched as we would have hushed conversations that always stopped when they got close, but yet they could never find us with the other bad kids on Avenue J and M or smell pot on us.