October 15th 1999 was a day that changed my life, and it all began with a chance meeting. How do I know the date? Well, first off, I’m a crazy person who immediately went home and wrote it down in my journal. And second, I would have remembered it anyway because I have a weird brain that remembers numbers and dates and I can also pluck birthdays out of mid-air. But that’s a story for a different day.
When I met Tierney, I was in a very strange headspace. I was fourteen years, one year past my parents’ divorce and two years since my family’s return from Israel, where we had lived from 1994-1997. To say I came back a little bit…hardened and chapped would an understatement.
In my baggy clothes, gothic band T-shirts, half shaved head, and eyeliner drooping down to here, it’s fair to say that my 5’8 frame and fairly overweight body intimidated a lot of people. And back then, I liked it that way. It was easier to be feared than to have to open up to people. It was easier to look tough than to get attached to people. And it was easier to run away than get hurt. That’s a lesson that twenty years later, I finally learned. People aren’t disposable. But when you’re shattered yet resilient, every day is a new day to start over.
I always wanted to be a hero. Back then, no one discussed gender issues and gender presentation. I knew I was bisexual– that part was easy. I knew I felt like a female and liked my breasts and my lady bits. I knew I liked attention from boys and girls equally. But after that, I knew I wanted to be tough. I wanted to be like Sailor Uranus/Haruka Tenoh from Sailor Moon. I wanted to be like the Sailor Starlights. I wanted to be a pirate buccaneer.
Going back to that day, October 15th 1999, I had come home from a fairly uneventful day of 9th grade with a friend name Christina who followed me home. We smoked some pot, per her request. I think I ate too many Cheetos or too much Fruity Pebbles. And then after that, she wanted to walk to the mall. Begrudgingly, I hoisted myself up and together, we walked the (maybe) 3/4 mile to the (now demolished) Fallbrook Mall in West Hills, California. If my ass was going to be dragged to a mall on a Friday while somewhat stoned, I was going to my favorite comic book/anime store, Collector’s Guide to the Galaxy.
I walked into the store, and this surrealist anime called Revolutionary Girl Utena, which I had recently seen advertised in Animerica was playing on the big screen TV. Sitting on the couch was a girl in braided pigtails, and a boy with an armload of pink raver style bracelets on his wrists. With the happiest and most sincere smile on her face that I’d literally ever seen in my life, the girl waved at me.
I immediately looked behind me to make sure there wasn’t someone else there. There wasn’t. Could that wave have been for me?
“Hi!” the girl exclaimed, her eyes becoming bright and more excited. “We’re watching Utena! Do you want to watch with us?”
“Sure,” I said, climbing the stairs to the platform where the couch was. “I heard this show is done by the same director as Sailor Moon. Only I think Sailor Moon is probably better.”
“Nooooo,” she said. “You have to watch this.”
I did. And I was immediately hooked. Not only to the anime, but to this happy, bright eyed smart girl in front of me with her adorable pigtails and unique name that I had to repeat in my head over and over again and write down so I wouldn’t forget. Tierney. Tierney. Tierney.
“It’s easy,” she said. “Tear. Knee.” She pointed to her cheek and then her leg for emphasis. But she was right– I didn’t forget it after that.
Immediately, we were inseparable. We went to completely different schools. No overlapping friends. But we spent the rest of that afternoon together while we shooed both of our friends that we were at the mall with away. We had a Taco Bell adventure (I didn’t get anything because I never had money). She ate her meal like an anime trope of the cute, genki, happy girl who eats like no one is watching. When there was nothing left but a bite or two of taco, she lifted it over to me and asked “Want some?” in this small voice that is just the happiest comedy in my head to this day.
Before we left, because her dad was on his way to pick her up, she asked if I wanted to have a sleepover the next night.
“But you have to pretend you’re younger than you are,” she said to me.
‘Oh god…’ I thought. ‘Is this girl like ten and really tall or something?’
“I…how old are you?” I asked.
“Thirteen,” she replied.
Relief flooded through me. “Dude,” I sighed, nearly breaking a sweat. “I’m only fourteen.”
“OH MY GOD,” Tierney exclaimed. “I THOUGHT YOU WERE TWENTY!”
But even that wasn’t weird to her. Because that’s how loving and accepting and incredible Tierney is.
I remember about two years into our friendship, we had a little bit of a falling out. It was my fault– I was just too…damaged. I was attracted to partying and drugs and older men. Everything that was bad for me. Tierney was good for me. But she’d made a promise to me when she was 13 that when she lost her virginity, I was going to be the first person she called. One day when I was about 16 years old, the phone rang. I remember so clearly, I was in my room laying in bed on my stomach, just quietly reading a book. When suddenly, someone in the house called out that the phone was for me.
It was Tierney, whom I hadn’t spoken to in nearly a year.
“Hi,” she said in a small voice. “Ummm…I know we haven’t spoken in a little bit. But I made a promise to you that when I lost my virginity, that you were going to be the first person I called.”
“Oh my god…are you okay?” I said. “I can’t believe you remembered to call me. When did this happen?”
“Just a few minutes ago.”
“Tierney?” I said.
“Is he like…in the bathroom or something?”
“Yeah,” she said. “He got up, so I ran to the phone to call you.”
Even typing that memory chokes me up. She had this experience with this guy, and she found a way to make it ours. Everything Tierney did, or everything we did together, or everything we did separately, we just found a way to make it ours. We even refer to ourselves as “We”, a jab at couples that We themselves together in the first, I don’t know, week of dating.
Being friends with Tierney these past 20 years has made me powerful. She taught me how to be…fuck. Happy. My confidence is because of her embrace and non-judgmental nature. Non-judgmental with me, of course. Together, we are dirt bag yenta gossips. No one is safe, and on more than one occasion we have scared off her boyfriends, my prospective dates, and turned friends into enemies because they couldn’t take our THUNDER together.
Tierney taught me how not to be jealous. I used to be jealous of the attention guys gave her. But I couldn’t fault her, because I was attracted to her myself. We didn’t have similar taste in men, and I’ve always called her my hetero life mate. I don’t think she liked it when I dated girls, because she knew none of them would ever have with me what she and I had together.
We’ve seen each other experience our first everything. We were roommates briefly. We drove aimlessly together. She’s the best kisser in the world, I’ll tell you that much. First tattoos. Relationships. Marriages. Children. Loss of family members. Loss of friends. Deaths of friends. And everything– she’s always been there for me. Fights. Makeups. Fashion explorations. And getting into metal together.
We have more personal jokes than I know what to do with. In fact, babes with horns comes from our community college music class, taught by this hilarious gentleman named James Domine. He was describing Valkyries and the “Ride of the Valkyries” classical piece, and that day everything clicked. Babes with horns. Warrior queens. That’s what I wanted to be forever. That’s what Tierney wanted to be too. And today, while we are both finally comfortable in our skin, it took a lot of questioning and figuring it out. But with time, everything just sort of falls into place.
Tierney’s made a life for herself in Northern California, and I hate that our visits are few, far between, and quick. Often, they are with audience and I just want to whine in my best friend’s ear and maybe even have a quick cry. But at the end of it, I’m grateful that I’ve spent 20 years with this girl, this weirdo, this angel, this woman. There are two people in this world (not counting my children) that I can confidently say “I’d be lost without you” to, and Tierney is number one on that list.
Thank you for keeping me. I love you, Tierney.
Let’s see where Round 2 takes us, yeah?
Twenty years ago today, the most formative relationship of my life began. It was pure serendipity. If you haven’t heard the story yet, buy us a drink and a #8 from Taco Bell and we’ll share it with you.
When Loryn and I met, the worst of my parents’ long, protracted divorce was just beginning. I had just started 8th grade and though I was beginning to cultivate good friendships outside of school with people like Daron and Miki, I had few in school and in my day-to-day life I felt like an outcast (except when the boys noticed my clunky anime drawings and asked for girls with big boobies). As a budding weeb, I tried my best to emulate the spunky, genki magical girls I loved, but it wasn’t real. Spoiler alert: it was a coping mechanism.* But on October 15, 1999, I met someone who through her facade of fearlessness gave me permission to get as weird with it as I needed to. I am complete human for having her in my life.
*The other coping mechanism was being an absolute terror to my sister, which Loryn put a stop to by rightly and thoroughly shaming me. Sorry Catherine.
There are people who have known me longer, but never as intimately as Loryn. She’s the only person not related to me who truly saw me grow up. We’ve been together through every awkward phase, every cringe, every fuck-up, and every celebration (for real she put up with a lot from me). She taught me how to be a better partner long before either of us was in a serious long term relationship.
No matter what’s been going on in our lives, no matter how far apart we live, or how long it’s been since we last spoke, we always find our way back to each other.
I think I remember a conversation pretty early on in our friendship, when Loryn pointed out her journal entry marking the first day we met. We wondered out loud what it would look like when we’d been best friends for 10 years, for 20. Now, I’m looking forward to 50. I love you with all my heart.