Wow! I’m kind of feeling like a teenager tonight. Or, more specifically, an 8th grader, transported back to 1988.
My first real crush wanted to friend me on Facebook, and he included a brief, cute little note where he said, “Hey L, good to see you again. I hope you’re doing great.”
I haven’t thought of him for… let me think about it… Yes. It has been years. I forgot about him altogether for a very, very long time.
Look at his pretty FB profile photo:
Since he has a decidedly unusual name, there is no way I could or would I ever type it here. But I will call him Skinny as a code name.
I met Skinny in youth group. I was in 7th grade when I started going with my friends. I remember it was every Thursday, after school, until 4pm. It quickly became my favorite thing, every week. Not only did I have a great time laughing with my friends, I made my first real boy-friends.
Friends who are boys.
There were two that were especially funny, and then there were a peripheral 2-3 others that floated in and out of our hangouts. My friend T and I, especially, hung out with these two guys all the time. It went past youth group and we were soon going over each other’s houses, getting dropped off at the movies and then walking to the diner afterwards… it was so much fun.
Skinny was one of the two main boys we hung out with the most. He was a tall, thin, quiet guy with dark hair that fell in his face, and dark eyes. I thought he was the cutest thing I’d ever seen. Especially when I found out he was a writer, like me.
We shared a few stories with one another, but whenever we tried to talk alone, without the buffer of our friends, it got all stammer-y and awkward. It was maddening. By the time we were in 8th grade, I wanted him to ask me out so bad I had butterflies every time I was around him. This, of course, was AWESOME. In retrospect, it is so much fun to have a raging crush on someone! I haven’t felt that in a long time. Too long, in fact. I need a raging crush again.
We all went to different middle schools, and I knew we would finally all be in the same high school when we went to 9th grade. I looked forward to having my Other Friends, my Church Friends, in the new school with me. Middle school was hell for me. I missed my Other Friends all the time. I used to daydream about Skinny when things were particularly boring or nasty. I wrote him a few notes. And yes, I did give them to him.
He, too, gave me notes. Usually with pen drawings, usually of very violent and dark things. Me being me, this was highly attractive. I loved the dark, tortured soul even back then. And he was funny. He put a record of Metallica’s “One” in the pile of music to be played for the church spaghetti dinner, which for some reason amused the piss out of me. He introduced me to Edgar Allen Poe’s poems, in fact, by writing out “Bells” on a note. Later, at a church retreat, we kind of rapped that poem in the van on the drive down to the river. He, from memory, and me just jumping in where I knew the words.
Hee. That’s a fun memory. One I’d forgotten until now.
Anyway, the reason I’m so glad Skinny found me and we’re now ‘friends’ isn’t because I want to rekindle something. So forget that, right now. No. If experience tells me anything, it’s that the people you once were crazy about as a younger person are often long gone when you meet that person again, now. It’s called People Change(TM).
I’m excited to relive those old memories of how I felt around him. I do have a ton of sense-memories of things we all did together, and I want to tap into all of this for selfish, writing purposes. And I have a smile on my face tonight, even though I am congested and headachey, as I recall all of this and brush off very dusty memories. It’s just satisfying to be able to look back on a very traumatic point of my life and focus not on the horrible things the kids at school said or did to me, but to remember the things that got me through those terrible times. Having my Other Friends saved me in so many ways. We were all kind of unpopular in our middle schools, and at youth group, we were a team. Twice a week (um, Sunday, too, as it was church) we got to join our own cool little gang of friends again and feel like we were part of something, like we were liked and wanted.
Anyway, back to Skinny, because I might as well tell the whole story now that I have come this far.
In high school, things changed. At first, we all had fun together, but over time we all sort of drifted off into our own social groups. None of us had classes together that first year of high school, so that didn’t help. I would visit Skinny at his locker after school, though. He would hang out with me when my Stalker (a weird kid I dated for a couple of weeks who wouldn’t accept that I didn’t want to date him anymore) would lurk around, so I wouldn’t be alone while I waited for my Mom to leave work so I could go home. We had a lot of fun laughing at Stalker’s antics– he would express anger and frustration at me, The Bitch, by punching lockers, kicking trash cans, slamming classroom doors and stomping past us, giving us the finger. Yeah. That’s the way to a girl’s heart right there! (Stalker is a subject for another post, really! I forgot that he is kind of a part of this set of memories, too.)
Skinny was still writing, but he either stopped, or he stopped sharing it. He kind of withdrew from everything, began to be more of a troublemaker and one of those kids completely uninterested in school. He drifted away. I stopped ‘liking’ him by 10th grade, and moved on to other boys I had crushes on. And, go me, I got to date most of them! High school, overall, was actually good for me. I didn’t have a bad time there. Ninth grade, with Stalker, was the peak of bad, and when that was over, it was all uphill from that point. I had great friends, I did a lot of stuff, enjoyed my teachers, and loved seeing my boyfriend in-between classes and at lunch (two different boyfriends- one in 10th grade, the other in 12th grade).
The last time I saw Skinny was in a diner down in RB. It was probably around 1995-96. I was hanging out with people outside of college a lot, doing an improv comedy class and show on the weekends. My friend R and I worked together at the video store and we had so much fun we couldn’t help but hang out all the time outside of work too. She was cool. She introduced me to some cute guys. We had so much fun one summer, being incredibly flirty and teasing to our guy friends. Everyone should have a summer like that. 🙂
Anyway. Me and the improv friends, as I’ll call them, hung out until 3am, 4am on the weekends. After the shows, we would go to a restaurant or a diner. So it happened that one night we were in the same diner where Skinny and his friends were sitting.
I was shocked.
He was even skinnier than he had been. His face was gray, he was unshaven and his eyes were totally bloodshot. He was wearing a stained sweatshirt, I think… something was clearly going on. He reached out to me, and I didn’t even recognize him at first. We talked for maybe one minute before I rushed back to join my friends at the other side of the diner.
I found out later he was apparently on heroin.
I never got confirmation of this, of course. It was just what people said around town about him, once I asked. He was hanging out with complete dirtbags and drug addicts. I don’t know where he was living. He looked gross. And completely lost. Nowhere on that unshaven face did I find my old friend, my old crush.
And now, years later, here he is again. And thankfully, he seems to have pulled his life together well. He’s got a decent job, from the sound of it, and is living in Vermont. I’m sure he is still smoking, but there isn’t really a trace of that scary heroin-guy on his profile anywhere. He has a niece and two nephews; their photos are everywhere. He’s been doing photography. He seems at peace.
I’m glad for him.
Isn’t it just fascinating as hell to see where we all end up? I know I am pleasantly happy tonight, knowing he didn’t die someplace. He grew up, like we all did. We’re all such different people today, thanks to our very different paths (I’m also talking about my other Other Friends, a few of which are FB friends already; one even lives here in AZ!).
Life really can be amazing to experience. Thanks for living, Skinny. And thanks for the fantastically visceral memories. I missed them.
Pretty cool, right?