I was walking with my friend. We have known each other since we were kids. Fifty years? More, I think? We lived in New York together briefly in the early eighties. We grew up in the same neighborhood. Her with two sisters and a brother. Me an only kid. She had come home for a few weeks to visit with her mother and brother.
She married a long time ago. They met in New York. After I went back to Chicago. They have lived across the ocean this whole time. I am finally going to visit soon.
Anyway, she was telling me about some girls that had bullied her when we were in grade school. She was new to the school and they had pretended to be her friends. She didn’t realize that they were being cruel. But then she did. She hadn’t done anything wrong. One incident in particular scarred her. She still feels it deeply. I said, ouch. Horrible! She didn’t understand some nuance of their secret communication and they laughed at her and called her out. She said, my mother says it’s a class thing. Like she wasn’t really equal or one of “them”. I said that I feel this too. It sure seemed that we grew up in a very integrated and open community. Our parents were active in social justice movements. Some more than others. We were all colors and backgrounds. We were rich and poor. I always have joked when someone has said, oh, you’re from Hyde Park oooh la la, that I am but from the other side of the tracks. So to speak. Actually it was the north end. North of 53rd street. South of 47th.
For me it was the boys. Because we were all mixed up and the rich kids and the poor kids and the white kids and the black kids I thought we were all the same. But now I see. As I can now look back over the broad sweep of my life. I was from the other side of the tracks. I was a practice girl. Not one that meant anything special in the long view. I was so young. A party girl. Worked in a local restaurant. Drank and smoked. Had fun. I didn’t get it. I never caught on.
So, now these grown woman that teased and shamed my dear friend have been to Europe to visit. They have expected my friend to show them the inside track. The “real” places to visit and see and eat and walk. What a thing, she says. They don’t even remember. I say, they have certain kind of oblivious privilege. I have seen it. After forty five years in the service industry. I have seen it and felt it and tried to wash it off.
Now I’m older and wiser. I caught on. I’m not showing anyone around town. Or my bedroom.