It seems as though Top Ramen has always been a part of my life. Or at least since I was twelve years old. When I was that age I was friends with the most popular girl in school. This did not make me the second most popular girl. Or the third. Or even the fourth. Let’s just cut to the chase. It did not mean that I was also a popular girl. It simply made me a lucky girl. Because everyone loved Nikki. She always had a smile. For everyone. And she had a mom who let her have an infinite amount of friends over to spend the night. So many of us from different social levels all gathered together to have this common ground.
I truly believe Nikki was the reason our school had no social structure. Everybody accepted everybody. In a class of over seven hundred, this was no small feat. But there was not a social class system in our school like I have viewed in movies and through the experience of my own children. With Nikki, you could be a fellow cheerleader or a nerd and you would have the same smile granted to you and the same feeling of specialness in the inevitable following hug.
One night when we were sleeping over, her mother made all of us girls dinner. It was chicken flavored top ramen. I had been spending the night at Nikki’s house since I was eight years old, but this was the first time I had been served this meal. It was. The. Best. Thing. I. Ever. Had. I remember having seconds. And thirds. Never had I tasted such flavors. I told my mother about this intriguing new dish the next day and she just smiled. Top Ramen was never something we carried in our home.
But at Nikki’ house, we could have it whenever we wanted.
And we did. It was special. I did not view it then nor do I view it now as the cheap dish it is portrayed to be.
To this day I still love Top Ramen.
I still love Nikki.
We stayed friends throughout high school.
On May 6th. Of our junior year. Two days before her seventeenth birthday. Her boyfriend shot and killed her.
She was head cheerleader. Class Treasurer. The girl who had a smile for everyone.
It was devastating.
I think of Nikki often. There will be a time when I will write more of her. But today is not that day. Her memory deserves more than a Top Ramen post. Writing about her breaks my heart. However, I could not help but share her today as I sit and eat such a simple meal. A treat associated with cheapness. With sacrifice. And simplicity.
I feel sorry for people who think of Top Ramen that way.
For every time.
Every single time I eat it, I am transported back to a kitchen. Of a surprise meal. A sweet smile. An angelic friend. Black hair. Brown eyes. Laughter. Tears.
Top Ramen might be simple to most.
But to me, it will always be rich in memories.