house of fun

The Day I Lost My Friend at the Rose Bowl.

I can’t believe I lost my friend. Again. I didn’t really lose her. If we’re gonna get really specific about what actually happened, she lost me.

Paige had invited me to this Vegan Festival at the Rose Bowl. She’d won tickets from some radio show. Both of us love to eat meat, but she had convinced me with two of my favorite words, ‘Free Booze’. When I first lost her, I had a sense that we were both looking for one another. But standing in that parking lot in Pasadena, pacing back and forth, wearing away the gravel, suddenly I wasn’t so sure.

I’d taken her phone away in the bathroom because she was about to text an ex. She was much drunker than me, and I was focused on the fact that there wasn’t enough water coming from every pump of the tap to wash the soap off my hands. When I looked up, she was gone. Vanished. I asked all the radio stations outside to call her name out on their loudspeakers.

Seated in a tight row on their lawn chairs, they brought back memories of parents on the sidelines watching their kids play soccer. They shook their heads. “We can’t do that, honey,” they said, “we’d have to do it for everyone.” This must be how the 90’s felt. I was thinking about the precariousness of the situation. No control. But you don’t want all control. Like dating.

You gotta be on your toes to make it more interesting. But sometimes you get knocked off your toes. I had just been dumped the week before, and half of me had agreed to this festival to forget about what happened. That kind of precariousness, getting broken up with out of nowhere. Toes or no toes, there’s no fun in that.

When I was 15, my dad died out of the blue. I remember standing at the back screen door watching my godfather pace back and forth, not knowing what to say to me. Shock does that. I saw a lot of adults cry during that time. He was not one of them.

In the parking lot, there were these guys sitting on the back of an old pickup truck, mostly dressed in black and drinking Buds like crows on a wire. I walked up to them. “Hey,” I said, “I lost my friend. Have you seen her?”

“What she look like?”

“She’s wearing a DARE t-shirt. Kinda looks like a young Stevie Nicks.”

“Who?”

“She’s blonde.”

“Oh fuck, yeah, we saw her. You got a picture or something?”

I whip out my phone. “Yeah, that’s us earlier today.”

“Ooh shit, she’s hot. The girl we saw was real big. Different girl. But if you guys wanna come home with us later, that might be fun.” The one sitting on the edge of the bed reached out to grab me. I jumped back, then in my best teacher voice, I yelled, “Don’t!”

“Come on, baby!” they called as I walked away shaking my head. God damn it, Paige.

That summer after my dad died, my godfather drove up one morning in his MG and asked my brother Jack and I to jump in. He wanted to go eat lunch in San Francisco, probably to give my mom a break from us for a whole afternoon.

He took us to The Ramp, which used to be this sort of hip hidden spot on the old part of the Embarcadero, just on the water’s edge. Now it’s been overrun by hipsters and techies, but you know that story.

Back in the day, after Giants games, the players would walk over from the ballpark and anyone could chat them up. My godfather told me that when I was older, I should come back so I could meet one of those players and get the family season passes. I didn’t understand how that might work, but I made a mental note to put it on my vision board.

My godfather didn’t eat much that lunch, spent most of his time chewing on this toothpick. I think he was angry about the meat grinder we were churning through. We were in it for sure, but sometimes I felt bad for the people who had to watch. In some ways, that’s almost more painful. After the crows were no help, I sat on a curb near my green Prius and thought about how I was in Pasadena and I was single again.

My dad grew up nearby, and every time I’m there I think about him. I wondered if he’d sat where I sat. So stupid. There I go chasing ghosts again. But I just wanted to have fun. I just wanted to forget about what had happened the previous Saturday when my ass had gotten dumped. I took out my phone and called my friend’s boyfriend. I asked him if she had contacted him. He was working on set. No was the answer.

Of course, I thought. “I don’t understand why you took her phone though,” he said. “Um, cause she wanted to wash her hands really well, there was dirt under her nails, super gross, and I was like, ‘I’ll hold it’. Okay, well, I’m gonna go now and keep looking!” He was still asking questions when I hit End. Click. I’ve always hated to lie. Even for my friends. It doesn’t help that I’m no good at it. Fuck, what the hell am I good at?

I was tearing up at this point. Failed relationship, failed friendship. What kind of friend loses their drunk friend at a vegan festival? What little control I did have once was now gone. She couldn’t even order an Uber if I left her here because I had her phone. I’m trying to do the right thing, date the right people, make the right decisions, but somehow I keep fucking up.

Right then, I saw an angel in a drunken trance crossing the now empty parking lot. Stevie Nicks at 24. Her long skirt trailing, her head up, long blonde hair flowing behind her. If I had Photoshop, I would have made the backdrop Woodstock and she would have fit right in. Somehow even when Paige gets lost, she still holds her head up. I’m not like that.

I yelled her name so loudly the guys breaking down the stage could probably hear. She turned as if she was in the middle of a very important meeting with her own thoughts when an old friend gently called her name. “Fuck you, Paige!” I yelled, “seriously, fuck you. I love you, but also fuck you!”

It turns out some girl on shrooms, who was a friend of a friend, had found her in the bathroom and told her that I had left the bathroom and gone to the blanket where she was sitting. “But it was a different Grace, ya see. She had christened herself with the name Grace.”

I was smoking a cigarette at this point that some guy who was parked near my car had lit. He was a sound mixer at Paramount or Warner Bros or one of those. He was laughing at the exchange. I was still mad. “Let me make it up to you,” Paige said, swaying just a bit. “I’ll take you to dinner.”

It was a beautiful day in the bay. I remember that. And how my brother sat in the front seat of the MG with his feet up on the dash, ankles crossed, while I was crammed into the back. I didn’t mind. The top was down, and it was one of those days where you could smell the ocean. Like really smell it, and practically taste the blueness of the sky.

Tourists swarmed the streets, collecting on every corner, and I remember listening to the accents float up when we stopped at the light. We went through the toll, and my uncle, watching all the happy tourists pass, said, “Jack, Grace, roll your windows down.”

That’s when he started honking at all the smiling tourists and waving. The tourists stopped to wave back, and my godfather took his wave and turned it in to the middle finger. Then he shouted at us to do it too. We were both laughing, throwing waves that turned to middle fingers with honks interspersed. I loved watching the tourists’ faces fall as they hurried past. It felt like complete control in the midst of chaos.

Close to the venue was a burger joint I’d been to on a date a few years back. “Get whatever you want, it’s on me,” Paige said, peering over her own large, laminated menu. She ordered herself a beer and I got myself a Diet Coke and a water. And when it was time to order food, I got the burger with mushrooms, cheese and bacon with a side of sweet potato fries instead of regular fries.

When I had ordered, the waiter turned to her and asked, “What can I get you, miss?” Paige looked up, and in her sweet Alaskan girl voice, said, “An extra plate. We’ll be splitting hers.”

***

Grace Harryman grew up in Sonoma County, California, and attended UC Santa Cruz. However, she left early to attend the 12-month conservatory acting program at Edgemar Center for the Arts in Santa Monica, where she discovered her love for writing, improvisation and sketch comedy. In 2016, Grace passed Writing Lab at the Groundlings Theater. She regularly performs and writes for Top Story! Weekly at I.O. West. Grace is a member of the Improv Diary team at Westside Comedy, mentioned three times as ‘One of the 10 Best Things to Do During the Week in Los Angeles’ by LA Weekly. She regularly produces, writes and stars in her own videos. This past spring Grace performed her one-woman show, Claim Jumper, at the Fringe Festival. The show won the coveted Encore Producers Award. She is an avid meditator, and believes in the power of intention. You could follow her on Instagram.

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