Danielle and Darin:
A Story of Image versus Friendship
by Pete Haynes

Best friends. That's how you would have described them growing up. They lived on the same block of Media Terrace. Early on, Danielle and Darin enjoyed playing together. From sand box to tricycles, Barbee dolls to G.I. Joes, they shared their toys and their dreams. When one did well on the ball team, they both cheered. Likewise, they shared encouragement when one failed. They managed to stay friends through the age when boys and girls usually turn their noses up at one another.

Best friends, that's how you would have described them. Over time, hot wheels gave way to dirt bikes, and dirt bikes gave way to mini bikes, and mini bikes gave way to driver's licenses. Still, they remained friends. Even as their bodies began to change toward manhood and womanhood.

O, they had their differences. These are a part of any friendship. They grew to have their own likes and dislikes. In music, for instance, they had their own tastes. Danielle got into heavy metal, while Darin liked rap. They were different. Still, they were friends. Nothing could change that.

Well, almost nothing. One of the struggles in growing up is that the way we try to see ourselves, and the way we want others to see us, can get in the way of some important things in life, like friendship. There's a whole "image" thing wrapped up in the music we listen to.

In some schools, heavy metal folks are known as "Grits." True "Grits" are supposed to dress, act, and talk in a certain way. Those who get into "rap" music are called "Yo's", mimicking the speech often associated with rap among young blacks. As with Grits, certain apparel and behavior goes along with the name "Yo."

Sometimes it seems like a Grit is a Grit, and a Yo is a Yo, and never the two shall meet. Whether a "Grit," or a "Yo," or a college bound "Prep," that image, the way we try to see ourselves, or want others to see us, can get in the way of some other important things, like friendship. Even so, Danielle and Darin managed to stay friends, though one was a Grit, and one a Yo.

That is, until one day when some of Darin's other friends decided to break up his relationship with Danielle. Perhaps it was jealousy. Maybe it was mischief. Possibly, this friendship threatened the way they thought males and females ought to relate to each other. After all, is a "girl-friend" really just a "girl" friend, or a "girlfriend," with all the title implies? At an age when hormones go wild, can being a "boy-friend" not involve sex? Can a girl Grit, and a guy Yo be just friends? Or does the image "thing," being a Grit or a Yo, a girl or a guy, get in the way?

* * * * *

"Yo, Darin," one his other friends called, "what's happening?" As they talked, the conversation quickly carried over to the subject of females.

"Your girl, Danielle, is a fine looking lady."

"Hey, she's not my "girl," she's a friend."

"Say what?"

"Danielle is my friend."

"Let me get this straight, she is a woman, and she is your friend - that makes her your "girlfriend," right?"

"No, she's not my girlfriend, she's my friend."

"Sure she is."

"She is!"

"Whatever you say."

However, this wasn't the end of the discussion. On other occasions, his other friends began to narrow in on the topic. They implied that somehow Darin was less of a man if he didn't make her his "girl," with all the word implied. They suggested that if she was really, truly his friend, she'd be willing to take the next step in their relationship. They pressured him into asking her out, to see how far she would go.

So Darin did. He invited Danielle to go with him to a concert, a rap concert. She said "Yes." A friend is a friend, you know. As they were driving home he asked how she liked it.

"It was OK," she replied, "but it's not my kind of music. I couldn't understand much of what they were singing, but the dancing was cool."

"I could say the same about your grit stuff," he said with a smile. This got them into a friendly argument over the virtues of heavy metal vs. rap music. As they were talking, he pulled the car into a park and turned off the engine. What happened next changed everything.

Darin kissed Danielle. She gave him a strange look.

"What's wrong?," he asked.

"Well," she said, "it's just that I never really thought of us like that. I didn't know you were interested in me as anything other than a friend."

"Times change, you know. Friends can become lovers."

"Yeah, but is that what you really want."

"That's what I want."... He lied.

So they kissed some more. Neither was really sure of what they were doing, but they both knew something had changed. At a certain point, he went further than kissing.

"Darin," Danielle said firmly, "I don't do that."

"What do you mean, you 'don't do that'?"

"You know what I mean."

"Well, if you were really my friend, you'd do that," he said, echoing the words of his other friends. He lost track of Darin, friend of Danielle, in favor of Darin, the guy "Yo."

"Take me home, Darin, NOW!," she replied icily.

Without saying another word, he started the car, threw it in gear, and slammed on the accelerator, sending gravel in the air. A cold barrier had slid between these two friends, which neither could remove, even if, at that moment, they had wanted to. When he pulled up in front of her home, she got out and slammed the door. He raced off. Not even a "good-bye."

The next few days were a nightmare for their friendship. Both were angry ... and confused. To make matters worse, Darin's other friends wanted to know how it went. Not really being in control of himself, lost in his image of a "guy Yo," he found himself lying. Though he didn't actually say so, he implied that he and Danielle had gone all the way. Which started his friends to look at her with new eyes.

It also started the word to spread around. It wasn't long before that word got around to Danielle. She confronted him at his school locker.

"How could you? I thought we were friends!," was all she could manage to get out, past her hurt and rage.

A deep feeling of shame spread over Darin as he watched her walk away. What had he done? She had been his friend since the day they both realized that play was something you could do with someone else. Not only had they been playmates, but they had been confidants, also. He had shared things with her that he told no one else. As he closed his locker, he finally understood how he had just closed the door on their relationship. His pain was intense, as he began to comprehend hers. His loss was incalculable.

A couple of his other friends called out to him. "Yo, Darin." He didn't even look at them. He just walked away.

* * * * *

How do repair a broken friendship? Is it possible? Darin went through a lot of soul searching. Much to his mother's chagrin, he didn't eat. He didn't feel hungry. Just empty. He knew he had to make things right. He wasn't sure how. There was little hope in him that their friendship could live. However, clearing her reputation was more important to him than trying to win her back as a friend.

After a few agonizing days, he went to his "other" friends and told them the truth. "Tell everyone what I said. I don't care if that means I was a liar. But at least this liar now knows a true friend from a false one. I don't want to be your friend any more." And he walked away.

As he walked away, he was no longer "Darin, the guy Yo," but just Darin.

* * * * *

Surprisingly enough, the word did get around. Those other friends, who were no longer his friends, had the decency to spread the word as he told it. A few days later, as Darin was putting books in his locker, he looked up and saw Danielle standing in front of him. She wasn't smiling, but her eyes weren't filled with rage, either.

"I know this doesn't make up for anything," he found himself saying. "There's no excuse for what I did. I sacrificed one of the most important things in my life, and I'm not sure why, or for what. I'm sorry I did what I did. If I could change it, I would, but I can't. I don't deserve you as a friend." With that he closed his locker door, and turned to go up the hall.

"Darin Keith Chaldon, you don't just walk away from our friendship. It takes two to be friends, and I, for one, have known you too long to just give up."

He turned. There was the beginning of a smile upon her face. He wanted to hug her, but thought better of it, in light of what had happened.

"Darin, I don't know the future of our relationship. I do know it's going to take me a while to trust you again. For some strange reason, though, I want to risk it. That is, if you're willing to try just being friends again. No more than that for now."

"That's what I want," he said. This time he meant it.

Later that day, as they were walking home from the bus, she said: "We can't stop being friends, yet. You still have to go with me to a Grit concert. There's one this weekend, but I drive. OK?"

"Sure," he replied, "if a Yo can't stand a little Grit, then he's a Yo-Yo, man."

"Bad joke, Darin. Bad joke."

"True ... Yo, what's this Grit group we're going to go hear?"

"They're called the 'Rez Band,' short for Resurrection Band."

"You mean this is a Christian concert? Good Lord!"

"You've got that right, Darin. You've got that right!"

1996Peter L. Haynes

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