One day I got called down to the principal’s office. My principal got straight to the point. “So. What exactly do you and Suri have in common?”
I put on my thinking face, palms sweating, panicking inside. Suri had been a frequent flier to the principal’s office in her first 2 years of high school because of her constant dozing in class and boy issues. It would not be good to have a lot in common with her. “I would say that it’s not so much what we have in common that keeps us bonded. It’s more that we balance each other out and have the same feelings on the subject of loyalty,” I said thoughtfully.
The principal wrinkled her nose at the smell of this bullshit. “So what do you actually do when you spend time together?”
I put on the thinking face again. “Nothing really. We mostly eat and talk.” This wasn’t too far off, but the subjects of our conversations were not appropriate for principal ears.
The principal’s eyebrows crept together. “Who else hangs out with you?”
“No one,” I blurted out. This was the truth. I mostly heard about people she knew but hardly ever got to meet them.
The principal let out her breath slowly. “Ok. Get back to class.”
It took all of my self-control not to bolt out of there. That would make me look guilty.
“SHIT!” I had just finished telling Suri about my trip to the principal’s office. “We have to lie low.”
“Yeah,” I agreed. “Let’s think of some normal people things to talk about in school. They can’t hear us when we’re walking outside or at your house.”
This was how it went for the next year and a bit, until Suri graduated.
During that time I met her boyfriend. When they had an epic fight and she didn’t leave her room for 3 days, I went to her house with coffee and a bar of chocolate and forced her into the shower like in the movies. When I made out with a guy for the first time, she was the one I called that motzai Shabbos. She was the one who helped me find him again when I felt like making out again. She was the one who cheered me on as I kicked my principal’s son (a different story). I was the one who got into a shouting match with her about how she should take the SATs. I was the one who paced around my block, full of nerves for her, when she told her parents about her boyfriend.
In later years, I was the one who delicately asked her how she and her boyfriend-turned-fiance intended to live off his meager salary. She was the one who listened to my crying about my first boyfriend when I was 18. She was the one who picked me up again after my second boyfriend.
Still later, she told me that I was right about the SAT. That she felt useless because only her husband made money. That she envied that I was single and childfree. When I called her even later, upset at how fucked up I had become, she reminded me of those blessings. When her mom died and I worked the night shift and was in school fulltime, I phoned her to apologize for not making the shiva, and she managed a small chuckle when I pointed out that this was a literal shiva call.
I’m not saying that high school was perfect. I’m just saying that sometimes my school had the right idea. She definitely helped me and acted like a big sister.