It was 1979 in a modest apartment complex playground off Buford Highway where I first met Virginia Mosca. My family and I were transients from Queens New York, the move to Atlanta served as a second chance for our parents at marriage and a space between ourselves from the ancestral dysfunctions and disputes haunting us all the way from Taiwan. We came broken, but the fresh start made all of us eager for stability, planting of roots and naturally, new friendships.
It was a warm spring afternoon when I first set eyes on her. She came swirling around my younger sister and me like a Tasmanian devil, a miniature, high-octane bullet, desperate to gain our attention for a quick round of Mother May I. I don’t remember if we even spoke that first afternoon, but something about her energy exuded confidence and fun, two very foreign characteristics from our very controlled, traditional, Chinese raised demeanor. Needless to say, my sister and I were instantly hooked. Vicky was just about six, my sister seven and I eight, prime ages for make believe adventurers, seeking a way to fit into our new surroundings.
The Moscas were from Uruguay, they migrated into this country through a similar path as my parents did, coming in through New York before making the decision to move to Atlanta. Her mother Olga cleaned apartment complexes and her father Jose was a computer engineer by trade, but worked several odd jobs by night to raise his large party of six.
Vicky quickly became a daily, front door fixture, coming to our house at the crack of dawn itching to plan out the day’s recreational agenda. My parents used to call her the wild spanish and rarely let her enter past the doorway. My father set strict time conditions as soon as the doorbell rang. My sister and I nodded our usual obedient gestures while quietly bolting out as quickly as we could to greet our new best friend. The three of us would run through the complex from one building to another while morphing into Charlie’s Angels. As we clung to our thinly strapped, gold lamey pocket books and shaped our hands into compact pistols, we sought each other’s backs, weaving in and out through the thorn bushes of our communal rose garden and screaming “freeze” to the invisible bad guys.
During one of our excursions, we stumbled onto a pack of cigarettes. Vicky was the first to open it and invited my sister and I to each pull one out. We were reluctant, but had come to follow her lead in almost all of our decisions, she took us places we weren’t confident in going, but that had always been the draw. With one hand on our hips and an unlit cigarette between our fingers in the other, we laughed and pretended to be one of the many sun kissed, baby oiled gringas who dominated our apartment complex swimming pool. Just as we were making our way back towards home, Vicky’s older brother Alex charged at us, I immediately threw my cigarette on the ground and grabbed my sister’s hand to run. He finally caught up to us after what felt like hours of marathoning away from him.
Alex was a junior high school jerk, whom for whatever reasons, my older sister had a crush on. He had designated himself as Vicky’s keeper, perhaps he felt like someone had to take on this protective role since both his parents were both working and lenient. “Did you guys smoke these”? Vicky immediately blurted a solid “no”. Technically she was right, we didn’t actually smoke anything. Alex then probed straight into my eyes, as if he knew I would succumb to his examination. “Did Vicky get you guys to smoke these”? I felt Vicky’s pleading stare but I couldn’t see through Alex’s deliberate, blocked stance. I had enough of his incessant bullying so I nodded even though I knew I was throwing my friend under the bus. I remember him grabbing her, kicking and screaming all the way up the paved hills towards their apartment.
We weren’t allowed to play with each other for the next few days, a decision my parents firmly made, but over time and begging, Vicky regained her front door status and our friendship grew stronger with endless pool days and occasional sleep overs (yes, my parents finally let her into our home).
Both families eventually made our ways out of those apartment complexes and into the same subdivision. We lived as neighbors, a house apart, for ten of the happiest years before my parents’ violent divorce separated us with a move across town.
Our friendship has ebbed and flowed through thirty-eight years of laughing till we cry tales, severe heartbreaks, girls weekend trips and painful losses. Though we’ve grown apart for reasons beyond just Atlanta traffic, it only takes a single call or text to instantly reconnect our childhood hearts, I guess that’s what makes us forever sisters.