Funny thing, how memory works. One minute, I’m reading a blog post about a Dad ruminating over his daughter’s first crush, and the next minute I’m back in my own youth – when everything was sharp and important and fresh and new and – well, you get the drift. We tend to run on higher emotions when we’re younger. Things impact deeper, are felt more keenly, and are much more dramatic when the hormones of a rapidly-growing body and psyche are raging through your system.
I’m finding that age brings about a certain mellowing of mood. Yes, I still get emotional punches to the gut – but somehow, they don’t hurt quite as long…
The particular, memorable male from my younger days who recently danced about my memories was gangly – all arms and legs and elbows. Come to think of it – the avocado plant in my room kind of reminds me him…tall, thin, angular – a shock of hair on top – a lot of promise in that stretched-out form. He was still growing up, and hadn’t gotten around to the filling out part yet.
He was all brown – brown hair, brown eyes, brown frames to his glasses, and an overabundance of brown clothing – including an old brown fedora he wore once or twice when we were playing cards. He did have a beautiful smile, but it was difficult to coax one out of him. Once we got really comfortable with each other – I liked to think that smile was all for me.
And speaking of me: as a teen I was short (OK…so that never changed), way too curvy (neither did this), hiding behind a pair of thick glasses and a thicker curtain of black hair (HA! Didn’t! Grey? dammit…) – far more interested in the book pressed firmly against my nose (I AM a product of my upbringing…) than the rest of the population inhabiting the school.
We met through a mutual friend D – who REALLY deserves her own post, now that I come to think of it…
We started to hang out, as kids do, downtown at the park after school, on Sundays when we were all on the same bowling team, in the school halls after class let out, waiting for a parental ride home. At sporting events and other school-sponsored after-class activities.
Just hanging out, like kids do. Our trio gradually scaled back to a pair, as D’s passions focused more on competing with the popular kids and all the frustrations that come with dating, while K and I really didn’t have much interest in either of these lofty ideals.
We just wanted to talk, which was an oddity in the complex dynamics of hormonally-charged teenagers. Boys and girls didn’t just hang out – treating each other like fellow human beings. Somewhere, somehow, in some shadowy corner or some poorly-lit parking lot, opportunities existed for the removal of some pants. SOMEone protect the chieeeldren!
Oh, wait – that’s today’s mantra of thinking about teens….
The two of us, K and I, were perfectly happy to just hang out – exploring, and learning from, each others imperfectly-forged viewpoints of parents, dreams, education, music, the popular kids – you know…life stuff.
We had a lot in common – both of us lived isolated in the country, with miles of cornfields between us and anything even attempting to masquerade as a cultural center. Both of us had a parent in the household we despised (although I have since grown up, and now love my step-mother dearly!) and both of us had no interest in all the ‘trendy’-stuff (ya know – all the ‘dick measuring’ things the popular kids were convinced were ‘life & death’).
Both of us had bigger things to deal with than who was wearing THAT??? and dating whom and driving what this week.
But the subject of us actually getting into the romantic side of hanging out never really came up.
This beautiful friendship came to a sudden end in the spring of my Junior year. He vanished from school, from our bowling team, and from my entire life. Abruptly. Here one minute, and gone the next with no warnings or cryptic messages alluding to the coming failed attempt to end it all rather than continue to exist under the abrasive thumb of his father. His parents promptly shipped him off to a psychiatric hospital in Minnesota after he failed to end his life.
There are few times I can remember crying so hard, so long, and having this huge pit of blackness threatening to swallow me whole. Out of the length and breadth of our endless conversations – suicide was something that simply never came up.
I never got to say good-bye, as my parents and I moved back to Wisconsin at the end of the school year.
I never got to ask him why he felt he couldn’t confide in me on this – when we’d shared everything else.
I never got the chance to tell him what an irreplaceable gift he had given me in his quiet, steadfast companionship.
I did get the address to the hospital they’d sent him to, and I started writing about a hundred letters, but I could never finish them – never dredge up the right combination of letters, words, and sentences that could accurately convey the depths of my feelings, and the devastation I felt at his absence. You never miss something quite as painfully as you do after its gone…but it was probably best this way, as I’d have spread a fresh layer of guilt on top of what he was already going through.
I still think of K when a particular song plays on my iPod, when I quip that my poetry skills come to the fore whenever I’m feeling depressed or overwhelmed by life – or when I see a particularly desolate shot to take. The one poem I still remember crafting is one I wrote for K – called (was there any doubt?) suicide.