We were lying in a circle, curled up on a den of sleeping bags, pillows and blankets. Popcorn and candy wrappers were scattered all around, remnants of that night’s feeding fest, while we had, oblivious to all else, watched our movie selection, comprised mostly of films featuring Orlando Bloom. But now the TV was silent, and most of us had migrated off the couch and living room chairs to our sleeping bags. We lounged around, nonchalant, waiting for the quietest part of night when the hostess’s brother was sure to be asleep.
Some of us had iPod headphones screwed into their ears, the other end handed obligingly to the person next to them, heads bobbing in unison, looking in the almost-darkness like some sort of musically inclined two-headed animal. Some of us were eating the last remainders of candy, salvaged from the hostess’s dog when the coffee table had been tipped over during a particularly dramatic reenactment of Pirates of the Caribbean. The said dog was snuffling inconspicuously in the corner, nosing hopefully in an empty pizza box, looking for that last overlooked piece of pizza.
We were quiet for some time, except for the occasional whispered conversation. We looked at the clock perched on top of the TV. 10:47 PM. The hostess nodded, and, in the long-continued tradition of sleepovers, we rearranged our sleeping bags into the designated circle for a game of Truth or Dare, for our first one had been more or less decimated, as we had all branched off into our own little sub-circles, centered on the lucky one with the iPod or in current possession of the candy bag.
But, irresistibly, the sleeping-bag planets being orbited by frizzy-haired, tired-eyed (but of course no one would admit it) moons, were being drawn by gravity into a larger circle focused on the last precious remains of popcorn, serving as our sun in our own personal galaxy.
“So . . .” someone said, balanced precariously on top of a small Mount Everest made of sleeping bags and pillows.
So. We all knew what that one little syllable meant. It was Circle Time, where, as most of the girls in the world who have ever partaken in a slumber party knew, it was the time for us all to spill our guts or suffer the wrath of a Dare.
Of course, now that we were at the (we thought) great age of thirteen, we rather scaled back on the Dare. First of all, there just weren’t very many sufficiently mortifying things left to set for each other to do. Most of us had friends who were boys now, some of us even had boyfriends, so getting dared to call so-and-so wasn’t such a big deal anymore. And, since we were virtually locked in the living room, running outside at two o’clock in the morning in one’s underwear singing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” at the top of one’s lungs was not particularly practical either.
We had also almost entirely abandoned the age-old question, “Who do you like?” as well. Sure, it was always interesting to know, but in our tight circle of friends, most of us knew already, and those who didn’t were probably going to get around to asking about it one of these days, but for the most part it was not such a tantalizing question as it had been when we were seven.
Instead, we started off with a round of “What do you fear most?” and had to resort to using the Magic Manatee somewhat earlier than intended, (usually we bring the manatee out when we get to Most Embarrassing Moment) to stop us all from interrupting each other and waking the parents. (In case you have never heard of the Magic Manatee, it is a stuffed manatee attained at Sea World nearly eight years ago, which serves as a method to acquire some semblance of order. The basic principle is this: You can’t talk unless you are holding the manatee, and if someone would like to add something to the discussion, then they must wave their hand wildly in the air, frantically mouth “manatee,” and be able to catch the marine mammal when it is tossed in their general direction. If one fails to subscribe to this rule, and interrupts anyway, that unlucky soul will be barred from our circle and made to go to bed before seven o’clock in the morning.)
We whispered late into the night. Dragging in sea anemones, basic principals of philosophy, theology, and physics, that math teacher from sixth grade, that incident regarding the ice cream, the so-called scandal from fifth grade, in which he pushed her from the swings when it was widely believed that she had a crush on him, where we are, and where we want to end up, government conspiracies involving Area 51 and where we go when we die, we all managed to weave it into our own story, between the trivial and terrific, we told the tale of our friendship, our hopes and dreams and fears from the past years, knowing that it would last for many more, but when the first rays of dawn shown on the horizon, even the most steadfast “I’m-staying- up-all-night-“ers fell asleep. And the last question we asked was indeed, “Who do you like?” After all, we were not as grown up as we thought we were.