One day, I think we were about eleven or twelve, Angie volunteered to walk me to the neighborhood pharmacy. We were on our way when she suddenly looked down on the ground, spying a bank envelope, the kind that tellers place your cash in after a withdrawal. In an annoyed tone, Angie said, “I’ve stepped on this thing three or four times today! It’s starting to get on my nerves. I’m just going to pick it up.” After retrieving the envelope and peaking inside, she took off down the block, hooting and hollering. Inside the envelope Angie had found forty dollars. Do you know how much forty dollars was to a kid back in 1978? A lot, that’s how much. I know I should have congratulated my friend, but I was too pissed. (While “pissed” wasn’t in my vocabulary back then, trust me, it fits.) In my childlike view of things, Angie had accompanied me on this walk, so by rights, this should have been my find, or at least we should share the loot equally. I think she gave me a dollar or two, but whatever the amount, I wasn’t mollified, not that she cared.
A few months later, she found a fourteen-carat white gold ring set with a star sapphire. I couldn’t believe it. This seemed like a particularly cruel act of God, because Angie couldn’t have cared less about jewelry. She rarely wore it and seemed indifferent to those pieces she did own. I, on the other hand, was obsessed with jewels. But did I find a fourteen-carat gold ring? Noooooo.
I’m slightly ashamed to say that for weeks I pestered Angie to give me that ring. Finally, she caved in and let me have it for a few skeins of yarn. (Later, after being taught the details of the Louisiana Purchase, I’d think back on this transaction and feel kind of rotten.)
Alas, but our time together was destined to be short. A few weeks later, I would trade the ring for the Grease album, which my cousin Tammy owned and I coveted. I’d seen the movie and become instantly smitten. My parents didn’t have any money to buy the album for me, so I asked Tammy what she’d be willing to trade. She said, “How about that sapphire ring?” At first I protested, but Tammy wouldn’t budge. She was two years older than I, and—I’m just going to say it—at times was too shrewd for her own good. But I wanted that album. I loved jewelry but, I reasoned, a ring is just a ring. An album, on the other hand, opens up the world of music. So I agreed to the deal and was satisfied … for two days. On day three I wanted my ring back, but too bad, Tammy said. I’d made my decision and would have to live with it.
It’s simply not good to be jealous of others. Angie was a lucky duck, and I’m (finally) happy for her. As for me, I know all the lyrics to all the songs from Grease. It’s cool.