Look at this thug.
Drema and I were inseparable. The moment we were free from school we would race from our homes and find each other. We would dress up, play house in the bushes and practice kissing, and when we could scrounge up change, we would wander down to the Albertson's down the street to buy Tootsie Pops. We even shared chicken pox, we were so close.
Drema was also the first girl I ever loved.
We were also children of mothers who were very devout Christians.
We were Catholic until I was about 8. One Sunday morning my mother said we're going to be Baptist now and when we go to church I needed to stop crossing myself. I would sneak in the occasional cross while everyone's eyes were closed during prayer, thought--the early days of my rebellion. "Tell me I can't cross myself? Well screw you! Cross! May God be with you, and also with you motherfucker!"
I didn't say motherfucker when I was 8.
Religion and church was important to my mother. Everything we did went through God, and everything we had came through God. He was the Brita filter of our lives. All decisions went through God as well, but bad decisions...those came from the big D himself: El Diablo, Lucifer, The Devil...SATAN.
In the mornings and afternoons, when my mother drove me to and from school, we listened to the Focus on the Family radio program. Dr. James Dobson often used the phrase, Satan getting a foothold. "Don't let Satan get a foothold!"--as if some imaginary little red-bodied monster with a bifurcated tail was obnoxiously clinging to our ankles trying to drag us into hell.
Drema was a little more dangerous than me. She was usually the instigator in our adventures. Like the time we wanted to turn her apartment building's laundry room into a haunted house; it was her idea to dribble red nail polish all over as a great substitute for blood. She of course handed it off to me to do the dribbling, and when we got in trouble she pointed at me and said I did it. I was rarely angry when she did this--Drema was a little scared of her mother, because as devout as my mother was, her mother made my mother look like a lightweight Christmas/Easter Christian.
Neleen was a devoutly, deeply, crazy Christian. When I would go over to Drema's apartment she was always kneeling in prayer. She had a thick Texas accent, and when Drema would leave to play with me, she would place her hand on both of our heads and pray for us. When we got back she would pray over us again and interrogate us to find out if we made good decisions that was reflective of God's glory. All that being said, if the heat was ever coming down on Drema, I didn't mind taking it in her place, because the consequences were always so much worse for her than they would be for me.
One Cinco de Mayo afternoon, Drema and I were dressed up in giant ruffly dresses that belonged to her Mother--we loved strolling the neighborhood in our dress-up outfits. We wandered down the block to the Albertson's for our usual Tootsie Pop, but that day we took a diversion down the makeup aisle.
We didn't ever buy anything--we were 9 and we didn't have money. We would just faun over the products and say what we would buy that day if we did have money. This day, however, Drema picked up a tube of bubble gum flavored roller-ball lip gloss. We both wanted it so bad. We kept passing it back and forth, admiring the clear tube of gloss and the little pink bubbles on the bottle. Drema then took it back from me, pulled open the front of my dress and stuffed the lip gloss inside of it.
I immediately knew what we were doing was wrong; my older brother got in trouble for it constantly, having recently stolen Garbage Pail Kids cards from the 7-Eleven down the street. Stealing was bad. "Thou shalt not steal." We heard it in Sunday school. It was in a cross-stitch on our walls.
I heard myself ask, "Isn't this stealing?"--like I didn't know. Drema looked at me incredulously, as if I was some kind of idiot who didn't realize this was the plan all along, and said "Yes." The excitement of what was happening replaced my Christian guilt and she instructed me to walk out like nothing was wrong. As we rounded the corner we looked at each other and squealed, delighted that we got away with our first act of larceny.
Our celebration was cut short when I saw Drema's face fill with fear as our mothers drove up to us in my Mother's minivan. My mom had been looking for me; we were going to drive out to the reservoir and go for a walk with the family. I jumped into the front seat and looked at Drema as we drove away knowing I had incriminating evidence stuffed down my dress.
When we got to the reservoir I knew I had to ditch the lip gloss, but I had nowhere to throw it, so I tossed it under the passenger's seat when my mom wasn't looking--I then immediately forgot about it.
Two weeks later my mother called me into the kitchen. She was sitting at the table looking deadly serious. I sat down and she gently placed the lip gloss, still in it's package, on the table between us.
"Where did this come from?" She was so cool, like the good cop detective.
It took me literally seconds to fess up. I didn't so much fess up as I just exploded with truth.
"I STOLE IT!" I sobbed and threw my face into my arms on the table.
My mom very calmly put her hand on my hand and said, "This is a sin Summer. This is a sin that God never forgives."
So that was it for me. Nine years old and my afterlife had already been decided.
My mother told me that I would be grounded for two weeks, the first week of which I would be spending in my room by myself. She grilled me if I acted alone, and in the spirit of honesty I told her that Drema and I took it together. We marched directly over to Drema's house and sat down with Nelleen for my confession.
I will never forget to the look on Drema's face. Betrayed fury. Nelleen and Mom prayed over us; they prayed we would learn from our sin and that we would not continue to stray down Satan's path. When we left Drema hugged me and said she would never forgive me.
I spent that first week of solitude mourning the loss of my friend. Not only was I grounded for two weeks, we were grounded from each other for a month.
Every single night as I would lay myself down to sleep I would pray that God would forgive me for stealing and that Drema would be my friend again. I prayed and prayed, every time shedding tears of contrition for my God and my friend.
Exactly one month later Drema showed up on my doorstep and asked me to go roller skating. Years after that I would still pray that God would forgive me for stealing that tube of lipgloss. I'm not sure if God has yet forgiven me. Time will tell.
I started writing this story focused on God, religion and how religion fucks us up in our most vulnerable years. While I was writing I of course reminisced about Drema.
We hadn't spoken since just before I married my ex-wife, and before then we hadn't seen or spoken to each other since we were 10. We caught up while I listened to her 5 children in the background scream and I told her I was getting married. When I told her that I was marrying a woman her disappointment was clear--I didn't turn out the way she expected and, in fairness, she didn't turn out the way I expected. We never spoke again after that.
8 years later I decided to Google her name, and the first item that returned was her obituary.
Drema died 2 years ago. Cancer. I don't know how long she was sick, and I don't know a lot of the details of her life.
I just know the following: that she had five children, she was 33, she died in the town she was born in, and I'm so glad we stole that stupid lipgloss.