I text Amanda around 9 a.m..
“Meet you at No Bikes in 15. Head for the hills.”
“make it 20. mom needs me for chores :-\”
“20, No Bikes, Hills."
Amanda is waiting for me when I get to the spot on the sidewalk we designated as half-way between our families’ Campground houses. The words are repainted every year. They have to be done by the beginning of the Season, July 1st. A paintbrush hasn’t touched them since this time last year. They are faded, but our memory of them has not. For us, the words are easy to find.
Whenever we are both on the Vineyard together, we find ways to sneak out to hang together. I have known Amanda since she was five and I was six years old. Now that I am fourteen and she is thirteen, there is a new dimension to our time together. All I can say is that it’s different, but it is still fun. I can sit with her and read for an afternoon and feel like we did something cool. We have promised each other not to let the boy/girl thing ruin a good thing. So far, so good. Her family is from New Jersey. She stays for the whole summer.
I see her for the sporadic weeks that my family uses our house.
I visited her twice in New Jersey with my parents, and last year, I took the bus by myself. They picked me up at Penn Station. Her parents brought her to visit me while they went skiing a few years ago. I think they were really impressed by Mom’s job and Whately Prep. They are thinking of sending Amanda to Whately Prep in tenth grade. That would be cool.
We set off toward Sunset Lake. We call the small elevation above Sunset Lake, the Hills. It’s a kind of play on the t.v. show about some Beverly Hills high school kids. There are a bunch of benches on the hill and we sit up there for an hour at a time. We can see Sunset Lake, the houses on the outer ring of the Methodist Campgrounds, the Oak Bluffs harbor and even the Vineyard Sound beyond the jetties. The season, the weather and the time of day change the view profoundly. While sitting on the benches we talk about big issues and small issues and even smaller issues. All of the dialogue runs freely without censure. If we have a disagreement that lasts more than a couple of hours, it is rare.
Neither of us have it in our natures to stay angry very long. We both feel like we can count on each other. One of our more stupid stunts was when seven-year old Amanda had the chicken pox, I went over to her house, snuck up the back stairs to her bathroom and -- oh, so disgusting - brushed my teeth with her tooth brush. Forty-eight hours later, I was sick. Two days later, Julian and my Dad had the chicken pox, too. Luckily, Sarah wasn’t born yet.
Another example of our fun times was when we microwaved an egg. It exploded. It exploded all over the inside of the microwave. We thought we cleaned it perfectly, but her mother caught on as soon as she walked into the kitchen. She said, quite simply, that she smelled trouble. More like she smelled hard-boiled eggs.
I count on my friendship with Amanda. There is nobody else like her in my life. I know enough not to talk about it with my guy friends. They wouldn’t understand. No Bikes and Amanda are mine.