Kelly and I stood in the narrow hallway of her apartment, sandwiched together between the dresser and the bathroom door.
"Close your eyes and hold out your wrist!"
I obediently complied.
"AHA!" she said, as I felt what would turn out to be a tiger-striped plastic slap bracelet wrap itself around me.
We stood there shrieking, high on the fumes of my fresh arrival after many years apart.
Kelly is the kind of nuts I unflinchingly trust. She is impeccably stylish, level headed, au courant, musically gifted, and worldly. She is also unable to control her volume in public, proudly displays an alarming number of cat magnets and overall obsession with cats despite not owning one (see: slap bracelet), has a completely unhinged laugh, and likes to make announcements by sliding Risky Business-style into the room.
I met her at an office job years ago when we were at opposite ends of our mid-twenties. I gave her unsolicited advice about work, some of which was apparently true and useful. I wish I could remember what it was.
I knew her when we were both at the bottom of the totem pole, and now, six years later, we had both clawed our way to the middle of careers that left us no more certain about our futures or fortunes.
Now I was crashing at her bright little apartment in Berkeley, just a 15-minute walk from the Rose Garden and even closer to the cute Mediterranean restaurant where we saw each other for the first time in years.
The bee's knees.
It smelled like lemons!
"You have a Franklin Covey day planner. God, I really have no idea who you are," I observed as soon as we sat down.
Once I got past my initial shock over Sir Plans-a-Lot, we quickly settled into a comfortable Odd Couple-ish living arrangement, in that we were a couple of odd women coming and going as we pleased and losing our minds over gin rummy upsets at the laundromat.
With Halloween just a few days away, we went into overdrive making costume and party plans.
For years, I avoided wearing Halloween costumes and going to parties because a) I couldn't bring myself witness in real life the pathology that is the "sexy costume" and b) my plans for costuming went from zero to crazy in a matter of seconds and I would exhaust my mind into giving up before I even got started. ("How am I going to make 10' articulated wings in just one month?!")
Eventually, I learned how to split the difference and came up with some clever costumes that entertained people, weren't an attempt to allure the male gaze, and required just enough elbow grease to please me but also let me remain gainfully employed.
In Halloweens of yore, I'd gone as Zombie Dearest ("Nnnnoo mmmore wirrre hangerrrrssss..."), a Desperate Housecat, a peacock, and a flamingo -- until people started asking about my "bird thing" and I realized I had to switch gears.
This was the year to depart the aviary and branch out. All I had at my disposal was a picked-over thrift store and several hours to figure something out.
Kelly was already squared away for a costume. Of the many quirks Kelly possesses, my favorite is her diligent attachment to her gorilla costume, an amalgam of ape-suit pieces passed on to her by the various loved ones in her life.
It is absolutely grotesque and she wears it every year with pride and fervor.
I needed to bring it on. We were invited to a party in Santa Rosa, and Kelly was anticipating something over-the-top -- just my speed.
Rifling through the racks of clothes at the shop, I found the perfect thing: a turquoise satin dress that screamed "jilted 80's prom date." So that's what I went as.
"So this party is going to be pretty big, huh?" I asked, coating my eye lids in blue shadow and pulling my hair into a side ponytail.
"Oh yeah. They sent paper invites." This was apparently an indicator of an ability and determination to party down.
After practicing my lines in an overwrought Valley Girl voice ("Have you seen Brad?" "Where the hell is Brad?") we grabbed her gorilla head and began our sojourn to Santa Rosa.
"We're going to a Halloween party!" I unnecessarily explained to the toll booth operator. After we listened to "Hot Line Bling" three times in both English and Spanish (the Spanish version is far superior) we decided to make an ultimate prom playlist.
At this time, I invite you to imagine two women, one in a hideous prom dress and the other in a rancid gorilla suit, cruising along I-80 with the California air fluttering our hair and fur, looking wistfully into the distance and mesmerized into pensive silence by 10cc's "I'm Not in Love."
The party was ... not. There were enough people there to play a board game. So we did.
"Shall we head out soon?" I asked, injecting a blood-red Jell-o shot via plastic syringe into my sparkling-pink mouth.
"Yes, but first take a picture of me with this corgi puppy," Kelly said.
His name was of Scandinavian origin -- Thor or Odin or something similar. He was the hit of the party, and took to Kelly in part, I think, because of her gruesome hirsuteness.
Things that go bump in the night.
We beat the witching hour home by a good stretch and could hear the kids playing drinking games outside of their student housing -- one of the implications of living so close to the UC-Berkeley campus.
Oh god, I just called them kids, I thought.
They were closer in age to the teen-aged character I played than the woman I actually was. I was only ten years older than them, but I never knew that careless life.
When I left Berkeley a few days later, I left behind my black hat which looked better on Kelly than it did on me, a box on the sidewalk containing an abused prom dress with a tacky gold purse and matching shoes, and any notion that life in the bingeing bubble of collegial mayhem was worth living.