Everyone knows Facebook invites ghosts from the past, so when they come, I guess you've got to deal with them, right?
Really, most of it has been easy and fun. How great it was to find out that one of my high school crushes grew from a boy with stringy hair and wire-rimmed glasses into an extraordinarily handsome man—a kind, thoughtful, and funny one at that? And how nice it has been in anticipation of my thirty-year high school reunion this summer to find a much warmer, friendlier group than I felt I had left behind so long ago. Most of the focus in our contact has been on who we are now: the jobs, travels, kids, and experiences that have made us into the adults we have become, with only passing thoughts as to who we were then and whether we liked or even talked to each other in that past microcosm.
But the other day I received a message on FB that took me back more than thirty years and has left me stuck there. Someone reached across all those years, through another person, over a social networking site to say hi—someone who totally broke my heart. Not a boy. I'm not sure there was a boy in high school who put much of a dent in my heart, and if I inflicted any dents, I walked away unaware and unconcerned. But the girlfriend who broke my heart can still make me cry.
In early high school I hung with a crowd of what I would think of now as bad kids. We cut class and smoked a lot of pot. In reality many of us were probably alienated and depressed self-medicators. But although I include myself in that group, I was happy to be part of a group. There was a lot of conflict in my house (typical teenage rebellion conflicts with strict parents), and these kids felt like family. Better than joining a cult, right? And this girl—she was funny, honest, and got me completely. We had some of the best times.
There were probably signs things changed, but I missed them. Then there was the football game that a couple of girls, including my friend, told me they were not going to, so I stayed home. The next day at school, I overheard that they had all gone. A few more instances like that, including a Peter Frampton concert that I desperately wanted to attend, and I knew the truth: I was out.
I was socially awkward kid with poor social instincts. I was completely confused about why someone I loved so much had rejected me. I'm not saying her actions were without reason; I just lacked the social sophistication to understand them. And I of course lacked the courage to confront her, opting to go off and cry by myself and pretend I didn't care. Around that time the group sort of imploded: kids were transferring to other schools, taking the GED and getting out, some probably dropping out. And I would have been fine with the group falling apart if only I could have kept her.
In the long run, it was probably the best thing for me. I cleaned up my act, patched things up with my parents, found new friends, excelled in school, and went on to good things. I'm not saying the rest of them did not, but where I was going at that time would not have been a reasonable path to where I have found personal and professional satisfaction.
But still. When I look at other people's pictures of themselves today with old friends from back then, I think "That should have been us—old friends thirty years later." But I like to think I learned and got better at being a friend. There's other people now that are my "us," and I do think this time they're for keeps.
So I got her email address from the third party and sent her a note. I told her a little about what I've been up to and said I hoped she was well and that life had been kind. I signed it "your old friend" because even though I'm not really, I would like to be. I haven't heard back, but I'm checking my email all the time.
So, no pictures or recipe. And a delete button almost hit. So there you go.