It all started as a lark really, she and her friend Tyler were out having drinks one Friday night and they were lamenting the lack of love in their lives, well more accurately lack of nookie was the topic of conversation since they’d had a few too many Shock Tops. They had dared each other to create an online dating profile.
That night when she had arrived home, bolstered by liquid courage, Antoinette had logged on and ventured for the first time in her thirty four years into the intriguing world of online dating. It was intoxicating at first really because she wasn’t ugly and she was single and her picture wasn’t half bad so she was getting a lot of hits. Most of them were from men in their late fifties and Toni just couldn’t bring herself to consider dating a man the same age as her father or her step-father for that matter, her mother had married a man ten years younger than she about ten years ago and coincidentally enough they had met through an online dating service. Kraig was an okay guy and was good to her Mom but Toni had always been slightly embarrassed and weirded out by the way they had met.
But, true to her word, she had created a profile and won the bet with Tyler who couldn’t bring himself to do it in the cold light of the next morning. Toni thought pocketing the twenty dollars from Tyler was pretty excellent and she was fully prepared to take her profile down and get on with her life when she spotted the email. The subject was “Ten Questions … Do you dare?” It sort of seemed like destiny or something considering that it had all started as a dare. She double clicked on the subject line and began to read.
Her first thought was “Is this guy for real?” as she read what he’d written. He explained that he was only sending one question at a time. She nearly clicked off but then she read the three short paragraphs below the question and she was hooked. “Yellow hat guy” was only a couple of years older than she was and had been married and divorced once with two children in grade school. He was clever and smart and funny in an academic way with a little twist of self deprecation mixed in to make him seem humble and solid rather than smug and pedantic.
She decided to answer the dare and the question. The third paragraph explained that as soon as she responded to the first question he would respond back and she was just intrigued enough to want to know more about this yellow guy. The paragraph went on to explain if at any time either one of them did not like the direction the questions were taking them in they would end the email exchange and get on with their lives.
“First question” she said to herself curling her legs under her on the couch and seating the laptop more firmly on her lap.
“What were you most passionate about when you were ten?”
“Hmm” thought Toni, “what an odd yet intriguing question. What was I most passionate about?”
Then she remembered it as though it were yesterday. Fidget. Fidget was her best friend from the time they attended kindergarten together until fifth grade. “Is that ten years old?” she thought to herself as she reveled in the memory of Fidget. Her real name was Greta but she had hated that name and when she was four she had announced to any and all who would listen that her new name was Fidget and that was the only name she would answer to. Fidget was what Toni was most passionate about when she was ten. “Oh but will that freak him out?” thought Toni hesitantly. “Will he think I’m odd that my passion was another girl? Girls were like that though in grade school right?” She hesitated for a while, chomping on a celery stick with peanut butter and taking a sip of her iced tea before forging ahead. “Well he said to be honest and don’t over-think it” said Toni decisively as she began to type.
“Hi Yellow, the thing I was most passionate about when I was ten was my friend Fidget. She was my best friend and we were inseparable from the time we met in pre-school until the end of the fifth grade. When she left I was devastated and wouldn’t eat or even take a bath for days. Fidget’s real name was Greta but she hated it and she was the first kid from another race I had ever met. She had these beautiful brown eyes that looked like caramels and skin like hot chocolate and hair that literally stuck straight out from her head. Some of the kids called it an afro and she would just smile and thank them but they really didn’t mean it as a compliment. Nothing seemed to get to her. Fidget was living with a family down the street and around the block from my house. She explained to me when we were little that they were babysitting her until her Mom could get better. When we were a little older she told me stories of the things that happened to her when she was with her mother and they were scary and sad.
Fidget knew stuff that no one else knew and she would tell the very best scary stories. When we were little we used to make a blanket fort in my living room and we would spend the night in there eating Totino’s Pizza Rolls and drinking Vess Orange Soda with our flashlights on trying to out-scare each other. She always won. She was really kind of like a boy in a lot of ways. She didn’t care about her clothes or her hair or anything and I was kind of a little princess until Fidget came into my world. She taught me how to climb trees and dig for pill bugs and eat the little “pickles” that grew in the back yard. (They were just weeds and tasted like them but we didn’t care) She was strong with muscular arms and legs and her feet were wide and big for her size so her foster parents would buy her boys tennis shoes because they fit her better. She loved those shoes more than anything. Is this what you wanted Yellow? I think I might scare you to death with my odd response but I wanted to be honest and not over-think it and when I think back to when I was ten the only thing I can recall vividly is Fidget.
She stayed with her foster parents from the time she was four until she was almost eleven. They were good people, a first generation Italian couple with big voices and odd accents who were always trying to feed us. Every day after school we would stop at her house first because Mama Ruth would have baked cookies for us and we would drink chocolate milk with extra chocolate and eat cookies before we would head out on our adventures. Mama Ruth and Papa Frank which is what they were called by everyone in the neighborhood had raised their own kids and they were all grown and gone and they decided they weren’t done yet so they started foster parenting. Over the years they had a lot of kids go through there but Fidget was the only one who stayed more than a few months. They were good solid people. Papa Frank would make my Mom uncomfortable a little bit because he was very demonstrative. He would stand too closely and talk loudly and sometimes he would tell a joke and laugh very loudly and then hug my mother or slap my father on the back really hard. I thought he was huge but really I think it was his personality that made him that way. I remember running into him in the market once when I was back from college and I realized that I was almost as tall as him at my 5’7″. Perception right? Mama Ruth was really skinny and full of energy. She was always in motion. She cooked enough food to feed the whole neighborhood and sometimes did. She volunteered at St. Gabriels’ food pantry and she taught Tai Chi at the YMCA and she always had time for whatever kids she had in her home.
I loved Mama Ruth and Papa Frank as much as I loved my own parents. I remember when Fidget went away and I was so angry at them. I blamed them for losing my best friend. I convinced myself that they could have kept her but they sent her away because of something she did. Fidget was constantly falling or breaking things. She had broken so many lamps that Papa Frank had put in a ceiling light kit in her room. She broke one of my Mom’s nice decorative plates in the living room and my Mom was pretty mad but she got over it because she liked Fidget. Pretty much everyone did. She was a whirling dervish as my Dad called her but she was the most lovable person you could ever meet.
They told us on a Friday that she was leaving on Sunday night. We had one and one half days to say goodbye. Mama Ruth was planning a family only send off Sunday night so we had to say goodbye at her front door at 3:00 on Sunday afternoon. I went home and cried myself to sleep. Fidget was sad too but she was also excited and happy. I didn’t really get how she could be happy when she was leaving me but I tried to be excited for her. She was, after all, going back to live with her Mom. Mama Ruth and Papa Frank and my parents sat in our living room while we played with Lincoln logs on the dining room table and they talked quietly looking very somber. Papa Frank looked worried, Mama Ruth looked sad and my parents just looked like they didn’t know how to hold their faces. We tried our best to hear what they were saying but we could only get snippets, mostly from Mama Ruth who would talk in a wail every once in a while until they all shushed her with side glances at us in the next room.
“She’s not safe there!” Mama Ruth cried once which made Fidget look angry and sullen for maybe the first time ever since I had known her. “I’m so worried about her” she lamented a little while later blowing her nose into Papa Franks big white handkerchief. I didn’t really understand until later what all that meant.
Leaving Fidget on her front doorstep at 3:00 Sunday was by far the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my life, even to today. We promised we would write to each other and we would stay in touch and we would call each other and visit whenever possible and have blanket forts and write horror stories and grow up and be best friends and live in a house together on the beach. I never saw Fidget again after that day. That’s enough for the first question Yellow, I hope I haven’t freaked you out. Now it is your turn. What were you most passionate about at ten years old?”