Side by Side
August 3rd, 2018
“Is this too nice?” I asked Celeste, looking down at my patterned trousers and lace top.
“No, it’s ok. I mean everyone’s probably gonna be wearing dickies and hoodies, but it’s ok.”
“Alright, let’s go.”
Celeste, Sophia, Ana, Maggie, and I shuffled into Maggie’s car. I sat in the back middle seat, hunching over the glove box to connect my phone to the aux. Without a thought and without saying anything, everyone knew I was going to play music. That’s just how it was when we drove anywhere. I played “Knock Me Down” by Kerri Hilson, our summer song. We know all the lyrics and dance in the car, shaking it back and forth when we stop at intersections.
Sometimes love comes around and it knocks you down
Just get back up when it knocks you down, knocks you down
“Can you unlock the windows in the back?” Ana yells over the music. She sticks her head out the window. Her faded purple hair blows behind her as Maggie hits the gas pedal. I can’t help but feel like we’re in one of those terribly cheesy teen movies. Naturally, I play “Young Wild and Free”.
So what we get drunk, so what we smoke weed
We’re just having fun, we don’t care who sees
So what we go out, That’s how it’s supposed to be
Living young and wild and free
Celeste and I face each other as we sing along, exchanging goofy looks and dancing with our hands in the air.
As we drive from NE to SE Portland, the houses start changing from grand refurbished 1920 style houses with big yards and staircases, to colorful bungalows with quirky, hippie decorations. There’s construction here and there. More and more modern apartment buildings are popping up because of the influx of people moving to Portland. The city’s slogan used to be “keep Portland weird”, but Portland isn’t really weird anymore.
A few songs later, we passed the theater and find parking. I can see a mob of about 20 people loitering around the entrance. We turn up the music, I stick my body out the window, point, and sing to them. I slam the door behind me after we park, and we skip around the corner and join the mob.
“Ha-Laaaan!!” yells Simon.
I hug him and shake up everyone in the group. We are all genuinely so happy to see each other. It’s as if we hadn’t seen each other in weeks, even though we’ve been hanging almost everyday that week. We stand at the corner of SE 26th and Clinton, under the faded red and white marquee of the light brown brick building. The Clinton theater is a local theater- the second oldest theater in the city, but this was my first time going. The 20-something year old people watch us from the outdoor seats of the restaurant on the same corner.
Some of the guys are skating. In-between their lines they take a drag of their nic devices. Man, I never know what to call them. I catch a glimpse of Eben as he’s puffing on his juul. He looks really happy. Real cute too. He’s wearing cargo pants, a beanie, low-rise sneakers with holes on the sides, and a large t-shirt I made and gave to him before he moved to Long Beach last summer. Why does he still even wear it? Is he trying to get my attention? I think I think too much. I quickly look away and pretend like I don’t see him. I never act like this, but I just want him to be the one to come up to me. I heard his girlfriend’s coming into town in a few weeks. I doubt she knows about us, but I’m in no place to tell her. What would I even get out of that? I don’t really know how to feel about us. I wish I would fully let myself move on from him. After a few minutes, we catch eyes so I have to say hi first. I act surprised like I didn’t know he’d be there. I turn and talk to Jake about how he’s going to hide his 40 in the theater. He keeps it in a paper bag and holds it under his sweatshirt.
“Ay, show starts in 5!” someone yells.
As I walk in, I look around the historic theater. The Rocky Horror Picture Show plays here every Saturday. My girlfriends and I have been meaning to go, but we never get around to it. I smell buttered popcorn, pizza, and old furniture– or maybe it’s like the smell of old books. I’m not sure, something old.
“The man of the hour!” I shout to Colden as he walks down the hall finishing last minute tasks before the show; setting up the monitor, microphone, and lights on stage. Colden had been working on a snowboarding, skating, travel video for the past ten months and tonight was the premier of his film. He points at me with both hands, smiles and then continues to set up for the show.
I sit in the second row between Maggie and Jake. I can feel the springs bulging out of my velvet lined seat, but it doesn’t bother me too much. People are filling into the theater and I can see kids from all over Portland, and a few adults here and there.
“What are we doing tonight?” Sophia asks.
“Probably going to the slab,” said Simon smiling, “like every night”.
The house lights dim and the audience applauses as Colden makes his way to the tiny wooden stage under the projector screen. He awkwardly and very briefly introduces the film.
“Yeah uh.. So I’ve been working on this film for… 10 months. Travelled a bunch. And uhh… here it is.” You could tell how weird it was for him to have so many people watching him as he spoke under a spotlight.
He joins the audience and the film finally starts. It begins with a slow-motion shot of a snowy road and his friends snowboarding down the mountain to indie-rock instrumental music. Following that, shots of his friends doing tricks on the jumps. As the film progresses, more of my friends, who are sitting around me, make cameos in the edit. I, knowing little to nothing about snowboarding, skating, and surfing, am very impressed watching them do their thing.
I stop watching for a minute and looked around- a moment of clarity that comes to me every so often. Almost all of my closest friends were surrounding me, around 25 of us sitting in the front two rows. Each one of them is so unique and creative, I feel like I could make a cartoon show and each person would have an animated character. I often think about these kinds of things.
We had all just spent the summer together. We had dance parties, cookouts, and picnics in the park. We went on camping trips. We went to band rehearsals and house shows. And before this summer, most of us had spent the past four years together. We spent our school days with each other. We went to school dances, parties, and music festivals. We celebrated birthdays and accomplishments. I credit much of my inner growth as a person to my friends and the lessons that they have taught me: never doubt yourself, do the things you want, even if people give you shit- because people will always give you shit, take care of those around you, take care of yourself, and breathe everything in.
Most of us graduated from high school 2 months ago, and most of us have plans outside of Portland for the next year. As I sat in my velvet lined seat inside the Clinton theater and looked at each one of my friends, I thought about how this could very well be the last time we’d all be together. Some of us will grow apart, some of us will move on to other friends, some of us will be totally different people when we return to Portland in a year. I believe that that kind of change is inevitable. As a person that hates goodbyes, I don’t want to think about the future yet. So, I hold onto my friends tightly and turn my face back to the screen.