This afternoon, Facebook notified me of a new friend request. I stared at the name. I didn’t recognize it.
Just as I was deleting it, I saw the requester had typed a message: “Remember me?”
I stared at the name again. Then clicked on the profile. Then to a profile photo. What. The. F*ck.
When I was growing up, there were a half dozen kids in our neighborhood. We were, at most, four years apart. One summer, a new family moved into a small, gray rental home down the street. They had a daughter who was a couple of years older than me; I was about nine years old at the time. And eventually, we met.
We’ll call her Mary.
Mary lived with her mom and her sister and always seemed to have too much saliva in her mouth. Mary and her sister looked a lot alike: same round face, same stringy hair, same two long front teeth. And they were big. Tall and hefty.
My mom seemed sort of annoyed whenever Mary would come to our door and ask if I was home. It could have been the age difference. Or maybe she judged her home life. Whatever the case, my mom would flatly say something like: “Megan… Mary is here. Dinner is going to be ready in about an hour, so stay close.”
The fact of the matter was she wasn’t my favorite neighborhood friend, either, but I had a heavy guilt complex back then and would usually go out and play with her whenever she asked.
Mary wasn’t into playing sports at night like the rest of us were, so our playtime was usually one-on-one. We would play pretend in my backyard or explore the prairie preserve across the street when she felt up to it.
Mary told me a lot of stories about things that happened at school with her friends. Mary went to a public school, and while I had no bias (and still do not have bias) against public schools, the kinds of things Mary told me about were definitely not happening between my classmates.
“After school yesterday, my friend Jane said she and this guy Rob had sex at her house.”
“You know, when a girl and a guy get naked and he lays on top of her? They did that yesterday.”
“At recess last week, Katherine and Casey kissed with their tongues. ”
I felt stunned and confused by most of the stories. I hadn’t had sex education yet, so I wasn’t totally confident about the laying on top of people stuff, but I was pretty sure it wasn’t appropriate to be naked with other people.
One afternoon, it seemed like a Saturday, Mary and I were sitting on my front porch. It was Spring by then, which I remember by the ridiculous jacket I wore at the time: white with neon color blocks on the sleeves. My cousin had given it to me, and he was in junior high, which I thought was cool, making the jacket cool by proxy.
Anyway, Mary started telling me this story about a guy. About a crazed pedophile.
“You haven’t heard about this?” Mary was incredulous.
“Well,” she said, “He kidnaps little kids and babies and takes them down to his basement.” She told me about some other stuff this guy did to kids in his basement that I didn’t totally comprehend, although it sounded horrifying.
I did, however, understand how it ended: “He always chops off the little boys penises and puts them in jars on his shelf so he can look at them all the time.”
I had a three-year-old brother at the time, and another one who had just made an unexpected return to our Maker. I was reading books too advanced for my age wherein rare and horrible diseases seized protagonists and covered all who knew them in a wave of grief. And I was pretty sure that this couple from the grocery store was going to kidnap my brother and me in our sleep because about a week ago, they creepily took photos of us when my mom was around the corner in the bread aisle.
I suppose all of this was too much for my imagination and I lost my sh*t. I felt sick to my stomach and ran inside to my room. My mom was soon to follow. I laid on my bed with my face buried in the pillow. Eventually, she pried the story out of me. I just remember stammering something about boy parts in jars. And my mom being LIVID.
She told me that Mary was just making up stories to scare me and that it was totally inappropriate for her to do so. At that point, I was upset AND embarrassed, and it was all this girl’s fault.
The next time Mary came to our door, my mom wasted no time telling her that she was pathetic for making up such horrifying stories to tell younger kids, and to never, ever come back to our house again.
And even though we never played together again, the idea of baby genitals in jars was with me for months.
So f*ck Facebook. Because now Mary found me and is all, “Remember me? Let’s be Facebook friends.”
The worst part of all of this is that, in spite of not seeing her for twenty years, according to Facebook, Mary and I have one mutual friend.
That person is my husband.
What. The. F*ck.