Sometimes, early in the morning or very late at night, I am jolted awake by an embarrassing memory. Does this ever happen to you?

It comes out of nowhere. There I lay in the quiet hush of almost-asleep when suddenly a long-forgotten scene from my past soars upward through my mind, taking my heart rate with it. My eyes fly open and I sit up straight, throat throbbing and cheeks flaming as I remember something I said or did when I was eleven, seventeen, thirty-six. I sit motionless, clammy and damp, wondering how, to this day, I will ever be able to make it right.

My latest episode involved a pair of pants.  Let me explain.  I was home from my freshman year of college, wherein I had obtained a certain pair of white cotton pants that were somewhere between jeans and trousers.  They were kind of a cottony-denim, but had the distinct stitching and brass buttons of a standard pair of early nineties Levis.  The pants were tapered, not “skinny” (big difference) and I had decided, with all the confidence of youth, that they looked stunning on me. On my first Saturday back–a hot and sunny one in May–one of my high school friends came to pick me up for a day by the river. A collegiate regatta was being held in town and we thrilled at the prospect of having something so glamorous to do in the Tri-Cities. This particular girlfriend was effortlessly stylish and beautiful.  She was also gracious and kind, which really put a dent in my efforts to hate her.

She came to pick me up, and I opened the front door to find her in cutoff jeans, a gauzy, feminine blouse, and flip-flops. No makeup, pony-tailed hair, and perfectly lovely.  I, on the other hand, was wearing my white tapered pants and a brightly striped, multi-colored, long-sleeved shirt. Why the long-sleeved shirt for a hot summer day by the river? Because, silly, it was the shirt I’d bought special to go with my White Tapered Pants! Determined to show off how spectacular my tush looked in these pants, I had carefully tucked in the shirt and secured it with a white faux leather belt, which to this day I do not recall purchasing and am quite sure was “accidentally” packed in my suitcase when I cleared out of the apartment I’d shared with five other girls.  The only downside of dipping into someone else’s wardrobe is that you can’t complain about the quality; this particular piece, though claiming to be white, was actually slightly cracked and permanently dirty (I’d tried scrubbing it), which resulted in a kind of mealy gray color. No matter. White faux leather belts were hard to find back in 1992 (as were mealy gray ones), and if there was one thing I’d learned during my first year from home, it was to work with what I had. And believe me, I was workin’ what I had:  the belt, the shirt, the tush, the pants–oh, the pants!  And let’s not forget the white sandals on my feet. No one could accuse me of not matching.

To her credit, my friend simply said, “Jenny (I was Jenny back then–loved it) “um, I think you might be hot in those pants.” She smiled weakly.

“Oh, I’ll be fine,” I answered breezily, “Let’s go!” Bounding down the porch steps to the car, I smiled warmly at her, sensing that perhaps she was embarrassed by being so underdressed.  I put my arm around her shoulders in a quick half-hug, determined to make the most of our outing.  It was a gorgeous summer day, we were in the prime of our youth, and I wasn’t about to let a little thing like my friend’s fashion mishap ruin the mood.  I was also happy because, after a long cold winter at school, today I was finally feeling warm.  Very warm.  Thoroughly, thoroughly warm.

And so now you know what jolted me awake at 4:30 a.m. on Wednesday, May 15, 2013, a mere twenty years after the drama ensued.  Just when I thought Gerard Butler was coming to see me in my dreams, those white cotton pants barged in uninvited.  And I sat upright in bed, all damp and clammy, wondering how I would ever make this right.  I finally decided that for a disaster of this magnitude, only a public apology would suffice.

I am sorry, my long-lost friend, for the White Tapered Pants.  And lest any of my present friends should worry, be assured that my wardrobe today does not include a pair of White Tapered Pants.  It does, however, include a pair of Bright Blue Skinny ones.

There’s a difference.  There is.  

I swear there is.