When I was 6 months pregnant I received a call from one of my best friends in NYC. She said to me, “I’m coming to LA to see you for Christmas.”
I squealed with glee.
What was worse than being out in LA alone without family and friends was being pregnant, in LA without family and friends. So having my gal pal here to revel in all my second trimester glory was like, well, Christmas.
Janice was a cool chick. An original Cali girl, she was drop dead gorgeous, had a wardrobe to kill for and was smart and sassy as heck. Together we went through shitty boyfriends, career changes, traumatizing life episodes, and backstabbing friendships from other gal pals.
We were thick as thieves, each other’s late night drinking partner, therapist, and cheerleader. But what set her apart from my other friends was that she was always entrenched in high drama and I found her unbridled lifestyle exciting and completely intoxicating. Her stories would range from waking up with a stranger from a hotel bar to confronting her cheating boyfriend with the girl he was cheating on her with (gasp!). It really does happen in real life by the way. And no matter how beautiful, intelligent, and sweet my Janice was, bad things, or men rather, would find her and we would dissect them for hours, days, even weeks re-living each moment, hating men until we loved them again.
As we got older, I got married and moved cross-country, but our relationship withstood the test of distance and we continued to speak everyday, sometimes 5 times a day. “Again?” my husband would complain. But he was just jealous.
And now Janice was coming to see me in LA for one night before driving down to see her folks for the holidays.
We decided to get a room together in Hollywood so that we could stay up all night, pig out and kick back at the hotel. I pictured her putting her head on my belly, feeling my soon-to-be born son kicking, and us borrowing a moment from one of J-Lo’s cute rom-com movies.
Fast-forward to several weeks later, I was headed over to our fancy hotel where she left me an extra key at the front desk. I got to the room hoping to surprise her but was disappointed to find it empty. I texted her, and she texted back with a sad face, “Sorry. At the salon getting ombre highlights. Going to take awhile.”
“It’s ok I’ll hang in the room.” And so I slowly snacked at the mini-bar, eventually going through all the Mike and Ikes and chocolate-covered pretzels. Two hours later Janice showed up. We both shrieked with excitement. This was the moment I was anxiously anticipating- ordering room service, monitoring my big belly and plotting out the next phase of our lives like little schoolgirls. But before I could delight any further, Janice looked at the time and without batting a lash said to me, “I was thinking about stepping out for a moment and checking out the bars.”
I didn’t have a chance to speak as she continued, “I don’t expect you to come, it would just be weird with you being pregnant and all….but I won’t be out too late.”
I was speechless and mortified. Was this really happening?
Janice quickly touched up her makeup and dashed out, but not without forgetting to turn back to remind me, “Oh and James and I got back together so if he calls you, tell him I’m in the shower,” then closing the door behind her, leaving a trail of her perfume.
And it hit me. A mind-blowing Keyser Soze moment, the startling twist, when I realized that she just wanted me there to be her alibi. And unbeknownst to us- we had developed a toxic co-dependent friendship over the years. The outrageously poor choices she was making, which I was watching from afar, was now affecting me as I sat pregnant and alone in a Hollywood hotel room. I wondered when we began to drift apart and how she had changed, or did I? Did we veer into different paths or did I somehow grow up? Were we ever aligned in our core values and priorities or did we just stunt each other’s growth- me by allowing myself to indulge in her toxic behaviors and her through the dependency of having me as a captive audience?
I stared down at my belly and thought about my husband who was at home lying in bed by himself, and me crosstown in bed by myself, and I realized that the relationships and the network of people that I now needed to surround myself with-for my new family and my future son, could only be that of nurture and love and that I could no longer take risks on wild cards.
She stumbled in late that night but I was already asleep and in the morning she recapped the creeps she met and some random make-out session followed by a short deliberation of whether to go home with someone else. This time I listened with less gusto and a disappointing realization that perhaps this would be the last time we would spend together. Her parents were expecting her and she needed to start driving, she said, and as I watched her walk out again, this time with her Louboutin’s click-clacking into faintness, I envisioned Kevin Spacey blowing on his fingers and whispering the line, “And like that…he’s gone.”