My daughter came home last night from play practice sprinting for the phone. “I have to call her. It will only take one second. I have to tell her!” She pleaded with me.
I told her no, she needs to go to bed. Then I looked at her and she had the look. It was like denying her Tylenol for a fever. She needed five minutes to tell her friend something. I remembered for that split second who the friend was that I had to talk to every night.
He was my locker-mate senior year. Double Fantasy just came out. I don’t remember why we shared a locker. I suspect it was to insure that we saw each other every second we could.
I stopped in the hallway last night staring at my house, my life now, and remembering all those nights on the phone. Remembering how my heart would stop when my mother would inform me that I had a message. Remembering how just seeing his name scribbled on a piece of torn off white paper lying on the kitchen counter made my heart skip a beat. It took a grave effort for me not break out in a giggle over it.
We were like best friends. We never dated. When I think back on it now I’m not sure what happened, why we didn’t date, but I suspect it was my fault. No, I know it was my fault. I remember vividly (like it was last week) literally running away from his advances. Running away from his kiss. Running away from getting hurt. Running away from the possibility (or reality in my mind) that he would love me and then leave me.
I was too scared. Scared that somehow if our relationship went to the next level that I could get hurt. Really hurt. I was so afraid of being hurt that I pushed him away. And I pushed hard.
He was the only thing I remember that was good about high school for me. We shared every thought, every dream, every angst that went on in our lives. We loved John Lennon and what he stood for. He told me to never change. Stay who I was. He was right.
Unfortunately, I did change. And not for the best. The next few years after high school were the worst in my life, filled with enough tragedy to write books about. ?REALLY?
It was though he knew me so well he could see it coming.
As I write my letters to prospective agents I tell them that I believe books can change people’s lives. Not only do I believe that, I experience it every time I read a book. I finished Wally Lamb’s book She’s Come Undone recently. Through the tragic life of his characters, I was able to see more clearly the mistakes, the misfortunes and most importantly, the blessings and the things I have done absolutely right in my life. I saw my life more clearly than I ever have.
I heard Marketa Irglova (Once, 2006) say in an interview that she feels every friend she’s had in her life, good or bad, has made her who she is and she’s grateful for that. I thought that was really profound. And as I look back on my high school years, I feel really lucky to have had a friend that loved me enough to tell me not to change. To be so insightful at eighteen. To be such a good friend.
So to my good friend, wherever he is now: I’m sorry.
PS I still have my yearbook with your drawing in it. You were right: I haven’t forgotten about the John Lennon memorial service in Grant Park…But you know you never finished what you were writing to me…something about not being a conformist and the revolution…
I remember the wink at our graduation ceremony.
Thanks for our friendship and I hope you haven’t changed either!