Try as I might, I do not remember meeting her. One moment, my life was void of her. The next, she was just there, in all of her charismatic Adopted African-American glory.
She was there as we talked endlessly about Tony Holman, because all of us had a crush on Tony Holman, every one. There as we walked what seemed to be the entirety of Utah County because we were too young to drive. There in our Sunday School classes, making fun of my weird feet. There on the first day of the seventh grade, passing me notes in-between classes. There to laugh hysterically that day I fell through my trampoline.
Not laughing in a rude way. It's just, there's pretty much nothing in this world funnier to Kayloni than other humans falling. She can't help it. One moment of balance dysfunction, and she's crippled with laughter. It's a law of nature.
That's what was always so puzzling about her. She had the ability to tease in a way that could completely humiliate you. But also, she could make you feel cooler and more important than anyone in the world.
The thing about Kayloni: she was cool. She just was. She still is. She has The Swagger. Even at the tender age of 12, it was apparent to everyone around her that she was in possession of something that the rest of us were simply not. It was apparent at the fullest in the moments where we'd dance in her parent's living room to Usher's Yeah. And I'd think to myself, Wait, why can't I move like that?
So, it's as I said, she was cool. Therefore, a compliment from her was for your self-esteem as kale is to your general physical well-being. Except not bitter or difficult to chew.
Kayloni was the first friend I ever had who told me I was pretty. Not that I was ugly, though it must be said that I was in Thee Awkward Stage. (And I do mean Thee.) And, okay, we're all beautiful "in our own unique way." But I sure didn't feel able to compete with the older girls whose moms bought them tanning passes and wardrobes from Hollister and Abercrombie (which are apparently still in business). But, hey, my loud, hilarious friend who had the ability to move like Beyonce said I was pretty. Maybe I had something going for me.
So, sure, she had a talent for teasing. But she made up for it in her knack at complimenting you on the exact thing you were struggling with. Not to mention, I've never known a girl as socially adept as her to actually give compliments in the first place. You know what I mean. They usually just stare you up and down to assess whether or not you pose a threat. From there, it's fight or flight - they either attack you or dismiss you. Somehow, Kayloni was the exception to this otherwise absolute rule.
One time, after we had graduated junior high, after my parents divorced, after I moved again and started high school in another city, she invited me to one of her school's football games. I hated football. I still hate football. But her invitations were not the type I'd turn down. She had a way of making most everything fun. Even football.
I can't really explain my level of anxiety on the drive there. I had been stuck in a dismal relationship for over a year, leaving my my social skills even worse than they had been prior to high school. Crowds terrify me. All I could think about was tripping on my way up the bleachers. Oh, good gosh, what if I trip on my way up the bleachers? This was, and continues to be, the majority of my thoughts en route to most any social event. Just sub "bleachers" for whatever other object I'll be walking on.
I should have known not to worry. As soon as I showed up, she ran directly at me, leaped through the air, wrapped her arms and legs around my body and hung onto me like a child while squealing, "Meeeghaaaaaan!"
What was there to be self-conscious about when this insane person was so excited to see me? As a result, everyone was excited to see me. That was Kayloni. She did whatever the hell she wanted whenever the hell, and got away with it. Always.
You see, she knew how to make me look good if I wanted to be seen. And yet, if necessary, I could hide behind her. She never seemed to mind. We never talked about it, but there seemed to be this understanding between us. I was shy, she was...not. I was timid, she was assertive. I wish I could think of a famous duo from a critically acclaimed book or movie for a comparison, but I can't.
She has always been that friend who, for reasons that remain a mystery to me, keeps wanting to remain friends. Every time I get a text from her, I think, Seriously? Me, again? I know you've made cooler friends since the seventh grade. This doesn't make any sense.
But friendship doesn't really have to make sense. All that matters is, after hardly speaking for months, you can sit down at your local fro-yo joint only days before she abandons you for Portland and talk as if you never stopped in the first place.