I try to never let peer pressure get to me, but sometimes it's harder than it sounds.
(names are changed)
The January wind quickly finds its way into my sweater’s crevices as soon as I step outside and I find myself regretting for the millionth time that night that I hadn’t remembered my coat. Anna follows close behind me as I run out to my car. Quickly unlocking the doors, I run around to the other side and jump in the driver’s seat and start the car. In an effort to become warm, I rub my arms and blow warm air into my hands. Anna has hopped into the passenger’s seat. I’m glad that I got to hang out with her tonight, but I’m a little confused as to why she is still sitting next to me. We already said goodbye back at Starbucks. I wasn’t about to say that though—I haven’t hung out with her in a long time now that we go to different schools.
“Okay,” I say, “The seat warmer is here and if you want you can crank up the heat before you have to start walking back.” I look at Anna and she looks back at me.
I can’t really tell what she’s thinking but she’s staring at me the way she does when she wants something but wants you to offer it so she doesn’t sound obnoxious. To be completely honest, it’s one of the qualities about her I have always struggled with. She never wants to look like she’s begging, but yet it’s very rare when she doesn’t get what she wants. I remember one time we went to CVS together and Anna “forgot” her wallet. She stared at some blue nail polish for about two minutes and sighed about every ten seconds and commented at least five times about how ‘stupid she was to forget her wallet’ and ‘how cute this nail would look with her new dress’ until I finally offered to buy it for her. She replied with the usual, “Are you sure? You don’t have to! But if you want to, thank you so much! I promise I’ll pay you back!” She didn’t pay me back, but I didn’t expect her to. I knew I was losing my five dollars when I offered.
I look around the car quickly, to see if I’m missing something. “Ohhh,” I say, “You want some gum? You could have just asked. I have plenty.” I always have a pack of gum sitting in my console, a fact that all my friends know and love to take advantage of. It could easily be the reason for this look.
“Um, sure,” Anna says, taking a piece and shoving the whole thing in her mouth. It was a big piece. She could have offered me half. “But…could we go now? The car can warm up while we drive. I really have to be back by 11 or else Liz is going to kill me.” Liz is Anna’s house mom.
I look at the clock. 10:40. It only takes ten minutes at the most to walk from here back to campus. Has she forgotten that I went to the same school only two years ago and came down to Starbucks at least once a week?
“Anna. That’s completely illegal. I don’t know if I told you, but I got my license a week ago.” That was a lie. I knew I had told her but I just wanted to remind her of exactly how crazy she was being.
She still stares at me in that expectant way.
“I can’t do that.”
She doesn’t look away and now pouts her lips.
“Anna! What if I get pulled over or I pop my tire again!” (I had popped my tire the second day I got my license; the story had been one of our icebreakers before we really started talking like usual.)
She sighs super-dramatically. “Courtney, please! It’s, like, a thirty-second ride. Your tire is not going to pop.” She rolls her eyes for an added effect. “Please do not make me walk outside. It’s, like, five degrees.”
Anna has a knack for exaggerating. It is not thirty seconds back to campus by car, but instead four minutes. And it was not five degrees outside, but instead 35. I didn’t tell her that.
I look at her and then look down at my feet. I imagined for a second what it would be like to drive her back. She would probably blast the music and eat my sourpatch kids and chew my gum and I would go under thirty miles per hour and my tire probably wouldn’t pop and nothing would probably go wrong. So why couldn’t I just take her? It really wouldn’t be that big of a deal, right?
But it was illegal.
But what if she got really mad at me for saying no? She’s one of my best friends at the private school. Did I really want to risk our entire friendship by being a wimp and not breaking a stupid law?
But it wasn’t stupid. I remember those videos they showed us in driver’s ed class. People die. Kids die.
But I wouldn’t be one of those kids. It was less than two miles back to campus. Nothing could go wrong in two miles.
Except maybe we would both die or maybe my tire would pop and I would get pulled over and then I would get my license suspended for a year and then I wouldn’t be able to drive Anna before we graduated.
But that wouldn’t happen. I am a good driver and I wouldn’t let Anna blast the music and it would be a one-time thing—just this once and only because it’s so cold out and I can’t let her walk all the way back alone when she came all this way just to see me.
She’s still looking at me expectantly. I look back down at my boots again.
But I can’t say yes. I can’t imagine what my mom would say if I got caught. She would probably never look me straight in the eye again. I know at this point I’m being a little bit dramatic, but she would be mad.
“Anna, I really can’t.” I’m still looking at my feet.
“Please! Just this once. I promise next time I’ll get a ride.”
This is harder than I thought it would be. She does have a good point. Nothing could go wrong if it was just this once.
“Well, I mean, if it’s only this once…”
“Yes! So you’ll do it?”
“Well,” I stop and blow on my hands again, trying to make the silence slightly less suspenseful.
“Well,” I say again, “Anna, you know that you’re one of my really good friends and I’m not doing this to try to make you mad, but it’s illegal. I really can’t do it. If I did it, I would probably feel super guilty and then I would probably tell my mom because for some reason I have to tell her everything that I do wrong and then she would probably get really mad at me and ask me why I did it and I’m just not sure I have a great answer to that.” I inhaled deeply and snuck a quick glance to see her reaction. Not happy.
Back to the boots.
“You could tell her that you did it because I am an amazing friend!” Anna smiles.
I try to make the corners of my mouth turn up, but I’m afraid it looks more like a grimace. Sort of like the look that the doctor gives you when he’s about to tell you your wrist is broken. “Anna, it’s illegal. I’m not going to drive you.” I look up and we make eye contact. She doesn’t look away but neither do I. My decision has been made and I am sticking to it.
“Fine,” she says, opening the door, “I just didn’t think that you were one of those people.”
I roll my eyes as she slams the door. As I watch her walk away, I shake my head and smile a little bit. I’m willing to pay five dollars for a friendship, but for the time being I think I’d prefer to stay legal.