I'll never forget the first time that I met Conrad. It was my freshman year in high school, and I had just moved into the area from the hell that is otherwise known as Palm Desert. Through the first month of my high school experience, I suffered terrible depression. I didn't have a single friend. Every face in the halls was a foreign one. Riding on the bus home one day, I couldn't help but overhear a conversation behind me, one led by someone absolutely hilarious. He caught me laughing at one of his jokes and invited me into the conversation. I made my first friend that day. His name was Conrad De La Rosa, and he would grow to become the greatest friend that I would ever know, the friend who graced me with the nickname Twiggy, because as he put it, "Look at her! She's like a damned stick!" From that moment on, I could not have wanted for a better high school experience.
The fondest memory I have involving Connie (a name that few have had the privilege of being able to call him by) also involved his Altoids mints. Every morning and every afternoon, sitting beside him in the seat that had been designated as our own, I was free to eat all the Altoids mints (something Conrad was never without) that my heart desired. Cinnamon was my favorite, since peppermint had always upset my stomach. One year, he got a huge box of Altoids for Christmas, which was supposed to last him the rest of the year. Between the two of us, they were gone in a month's time...
And then there was the super glue addiction. My freshman year, I discovered the almighty power that was super glue. Connie watched every lunch break as I glued anything and everything: I glued pennies to walls (My goal was to make a mosaic on the portable wall, but the janitors eventually pried it clean...), and ants were permanently mounted onto the cement. If it was broken, I could fix it using the power of my glue... or at least make it a big sticky mess that would never fall apart... One afternoon I decided to further my experiments. I took Rachel McEllfresh's hand, and glued her index finger to a door. It stuck. Well. Very well. We laughed. Creedence Anderson made the mistake of pointing and laughing. I grabbed the pointing finger and force-glued it on top of Rachel's stuck hand. It was funny until we realized we couldn't get them unstuck. Conrad and I had to literally tear Rachel off of the door (her fingerprint immortalized on the door of the portable forevermore) and we walked the glued couple to the nurse (Conrad confiscated my glue). The nurse looked at them. "What the hell did you kids do?!" "We were..." "Working on a project..." "Yeah, they got stuck that way while they were gluing." (This story would have worked if I hadn't continued gluing them back at the door until their fingers were intertwined in an artistic pose). She didn't want to hear any more. Mr. Bugg, the principle, got involved. He took one look, left, came back with a camera, took a picture of all of us, hung it in his office, and left for lunch. Eventually, the medics and fire department got involved, and it took them the remainder of the school day to get them undone... From that day forth, Conrad refused to come within fifty feet of me if I had a tube of glue with me. Even if it was Elmer's. "I'm not taking any chances!"
The following year Conrad got a heart shaped tin of Altoids that contained heart shaped mints for Valentines Day. I don't know what he was thinking, but that same day, he asked me to hold his backpack for him on the bus ride home. The second his back was turned I stole the tin. That afternoon, I went home, removed the mints (don't worry, I saved them in a plastic bag) and spent at least six hours cutting out enough Altoid-sized paper hearts to fill the tin completely (Anyone who has experienced knows that I take my pranks very seriously). Then I super glued the whole mess shut. It took Conrad most of the next day to pry the tin open. Finally, in the middle of a science test, the tin sprang open and showered him with thousands of paper hearts, and drawing the attention of all forty-some-odd students and a teacher. He always swore he'd get even, but a year later he declared that no prank could top that one in terms of patience, cleverness, and personal jokes.
He was my personal bodyguard as well. My freshman year (so much happened that year, I'm starting to notice), I fell prey to a stalker who had a reputation as a rapist. He scared me to the point that the guys in the neighborhood began taking turns walking me home. (Apparently, this guy had gotten in a fight a year earlier due to a rape incident. The fight was fast. He made the mistake of bending over to tie his shoe during the confrontation, and Dillon, our hero of this flashback, seized the moment and kicked stalker boy in the head with a steel toed Martin, sending him to the hospital with a concussion.) When Conrad found out that his guy was on the prowl again, he walked up to him at lunch, looked him straight in the eye, and said while pointing at me, "If I ever hear about you so much as looking her direction, I'll make what Dillon did to you look like a joke." And he walked away. Needless to say, there were no further problems after Connie's little talk.
Conrad loved my baking with such a passion that I feared he had an addiction. He swore that I made the best brownies in the entire world. "They're so good, they don't even need milk! Brownies always need a glass of milk!" He had this strange sixth sense that told him when I'd be baking. Every time I had something in that oven, he would stop by to "say hello." He'd always get the first warm cookie, slice of cake, or brownie square. Even still, whenever I bake, I expect to hear a knock at the door. One day he actually will stop by to say hi. I'll scream, hug him, and then offer him a slice of cake.
He made my sweet sixteen as close to a success as it could have been. We anticipated a massive amount of people. I had passed out fifty fliers to fifty friends and told them to bring any other friends they wanted. We had a grand total of fifteen show up. Conrad helped liven up the party by convincing the DJ's (who had been hired against my will by a family friend with good intentions) to turn off that god-awful techno and go help themselves to food and drinks. With them out of the way, we hooked up the guitars and left them open for jamming. He helped me coordinate games to play, such as freeze tag, smear the queer, and duck-duck-goose. Beware that last game. After age six or so, something changes and that game becomes more dangerous and brutal than a Scottish soccer riot... That night, we played like children, and had more fun than I could have ever hoped for.
The following year I had my sweet seventeen to make up for the flop that my sixteenth had been. I decided to have a costume party, and I decided to try the "close friends only" approach. Somehow, that turned into a full house... My sweet seventeen costume party... in March... I had piles of clothes and costumes ready for those who tried to come out of costume. Sure enough, Conrad was amongst the first to arrive, garbed in black, of course. I dragged him away and talked him into a flowing pastel skirt and sparkly fairy wings. He wore that costume more proudly than anyone else at the party. To this day, the thought of Connie strutting around, his pastel skirt fluttering about his ankles, still sends me into fits of laughter. The boys in prom dresses must have caused quite a stir amongst the elderly neighbors, and Conrad, in full costume, later helped me explain to the cops why there was a raging party full of people playing dress up...
Both having Sr. Rios as a Spanish teacher, we decided to team up for our Spanish video. Along with Chris Gutierrez and Rachel McEllfresh, we did Road Rules: En Espanol. It was without a doubt the worst movie that I have ever seen. And I mean that in the best of ways. We crawled through the desert (a vacant lot next to Chris' house), we white water rafted (actually, we paddled around in Chris' pool on inflatable devices using brooms as our paddles...), and had one hell of a bar fight. Actually, the bar fight was the best part, since during that scene, we suddenly stopped acting... There came a time when Rachel made the mistake of pulling my hair (messing with my hair is a mortal sin to anyone who knows me), and it can be seen, if you watch close enough, that just as the camera pans away to film Connie and Chris pretending to deck each other, my hand reaches up, grabs Rachel by the hair at the base of her neck, and brings her face into contact with my knee. The shadows seen behind Conrad and Chris are me and Rachel beating the living shit out of each other. The catch to the movie was that, in order to save time, we had each person write a scene for the group, and none of us had any preview of the script. Conrad decided to write his scene in his chicken scratch cursive that was illegible enough to begin with, but to top it off, it was done in Spanish as well. None of us had a clue what we were reading, for that matter, neither did Sr. Rios. We got an A for effort anyway.
Conrad is also the only person who understands just how much I love flowers. Every birthday that I had, it was Conrad who gave me a pretty bouquet. If we were walking together, he would pick some for my hair. And on his "stop by to say hello" visits, he would always bring me the flowers that he'd picked along the way. I'm glad that Conrad recognized this passion I had. Now, whenever I stop to pick flowers, I remember Conrad. What a beautiful way to constantly remember him.
Within my first week of knowing Conrad, we discovered that we had our love for music in common. He played guitar, I played bass. We laughed about the way picks had of mysteriously disappearing, never to be seen again. The next day, he brought me a bright pink bass pick. We placed bets on how long it would be in my possession until it got lost. Somehow, it never did. To this day, five years later, my pick has probably set the world record. I still have the pick; only, it has been retired from use. It now hangs on a chain about my neck, in loving memory of my best friend.
So many people call him that. Best friend. It's true. Conrad was a friend and a brother to all who knew him. I'm certain that I will never have another friend quite like Connie. Big brother, personal bodyguard, best friend. I loved him dearly then, and I hold him close, cherish the time we had, now. Conrad will forever be the conscience that guides me. He will be the creative force that inspires me. And most importantly, he will be the example of pure, unbiased, unwavering love that I will forever attempt to recreate. He is still my best friend, and I love and miss him dearly.