She would rather die than be old. She said that to me.
We were best friends. It all started in preschool.
There was this girl that nobody wanted to sit by, and one Wednesday, she just started crying. Our teacher was reading us a story, and we all stared at her from our secluded circle as she sat with her dark blonde bangs soaking up some of the tears.
“What is the matter with you kids? Somebody be a friend and sit next to Autumn.”
We all stood up and rushed over to her, telling her how sorry we were and how we wanted to be her friend. I didn’t rush over. I stayed by myself in the now-empty circle, because I thought that if I was her, I would be claustrophobic. I thought she would be sweaty and annoyed with all those people gathering around her.
When it was play time and we chose our stations, we both decided on finger painting. It was just us, the primary colors, and a white canvas. Out little pointer fingers dipped in the blue paint and we brushed a sky on the blank page. I looked over at her canvas and giggled.
“Hey! I drew a sky too!”
She giggled and looked at her sky, the blue line at the top of the page.
“Did you know that if you mix red and blue it becomes purple?” she asked me.
“Yeah, watch,” she said.
She dipped her pointer finger in the red paint and filled in a circle at the bottom of her canvas. Then, she dipped her other pointer finger in the blue paint and colored over the red circle. Suddenly, the color purple rose up from the canvas, and she stood back, hands in the air, admiring her creation.
“See?” she said in wonder.
“Wow,” I stared at her flower.
I did the same thing and we drew flowers all over the bottom of the page.
“What happens if you mix all the colors? What color does that make?” I asked her.
She widened her eyes, holding up her little hand like a stop sign.
“Oh no, don’t do that,” she leaned forward as if telling me her deepest secret, “it turns brown.”
“Brown?” I asked.
“Yeah, real ugly.”
I smiled and looked back at my canvas, “We can make a tree!”
Then it started happening.
“I don’t think I want to cut my hair anymore. I want to grow it really long,” Autumn said in the lunch line.
“That’d be so cute! Do it!” I told her.
Months passed and it grew. It fell past her shoulders and that’s when she started spray tanning. She showed up to school with the perfect sprayed-on glow and everyone complimented her. She looked really good that way, I’ll admit it.
Then her hair grew to her chest and she started really tanning. She bought this fancy tanning lotion and she started out in the cheapest bed. Then, she upgraded to the most intense bed—the ones that look like death traps. And she got dark. Boy, did she get dark. I was worried. We were walking out to our cars after school and I asked her, “Aren’t you worried about getting skin cancer? You’ve been using the worst tanning beds a lot lately.”
She laughed, “Ohmigod no way. They’re working so well. Don’t I look awesome?”
And then her hair grew to her belly button. That’s what she got a belly button ring. She’d lift her shirt in the hallways and show all the boys her tiny tummy and the little sparkling jewel implanted on it. Then she dyed her hair bleach blonde. And that’s when the boys really started coming.
They all wanted her. They wanted her long, bleached hair and her tiny, tanned tummy.
She loved it too; boy did she love it. She got invited to these college parties and she’d go and drink and come back to school on Monday telling me all about the crazy things she did. She’d tell me about the boys that stared at her and how they all hit on her. She’d show me pictures of her short skirt and her crop top next to a tall, dark, and handsome party boy.
And that’s when I lost her. One day in class, she told me “I’d rather die than be old.”
“But what about being grandparents and being wise and living out life with someone you love?” I asked her.
“I don’t care about that. I would seriously kill myself before I let myself get wrinkles.”
She was gone. Her dark blonde hair, her sweet pale skin, her innocent personality… it was all gone.
We slowly stopped talking to each other, and I think we both knew it. We went to college and I’d see pictures of her waking up in random boys’ houses with her long bleached hair and her dark tanned skin. Part of me felt sad that she was gone, but part of me didn’t care, because what she had become was someone I didn’t know. There are days when I miss her though. But I know she’s dead.
Call me cruel, but sometimes I wonder what she’d do if someone cut off her hair.