Thursday, June 23, 2011

I Would Have Liked To Have Seen You At Forty

The girls poured over my yearbooks today; lips glossed with pink, young faces unravaged by time. They found your picture and pointed,

"Who's that?"

I was taken aback for a moment. I hadn't expected this to happen, in the impulsive sharing of my old high school year books with grade nine students who I have come to know and love. What do I tell them? The moment that profoundly changed my life, or what you meant to me in those days?

I chose the happy memories.

I remember that June, with the promise of summer holidays before us, you and I sharing an ice cold Pepsi as we waited for our parents to drive us home. You showed me your car that day-I don't remember what the make or model was, but I do remember your pride as we sat and you drove me around the parking lot. I wasn't interested in the car, really. I was just happy we were friends.

What sort of car would you have had now? Would you sip cold colas on hot summer days with your children? Would there have been babies, fresh and sweet in your arms this Father's Day, or would you have a gangly teenager like mine?

The girls listened as I told them about you riding the hallways on your unicycle, juggling balls as if you belonged in a circus. Your Cookie Monster print shorts that once accidentally were pulled to your knees in the middle of a game of flag football, and how embarrassed the offending girl was.

We called you Skip. I don't really remember how or why, but it seemed to suit you so perfectly.

You valiantly tried to teach me math, but nothing stuck. Instead we spent hours after school laughing, as you tried to convince teenaged, good girl-Christian-music-only me that Iron Maiden was the best band ever. When my son announced that he loved heavy metal, I couldn't help but laugh and think that it had to be karma for all the times I dissed your music.

You would die laughing that I work in math classes actually helping kids, now. What music would you listen to? You'd probably hate how things are so auto-tuned and say that real music was made back in the 80s, when we were kids. Then you'd marvel at how old some of those guys are getting, because sheesh, we are getting old. You'd still make fun of my music, I'm sure.

I still have the notes you used to leave me. The letters we wrote once we finished high school. All the goofy, fun stories we told each other, both when we were in the same high school and left for college. The ones that you gave me attached to tiny pieces of penny candy, arranged like an advent calendar one Christmas.

Would we still be in contact now? I'm sure you'd love how connected we all can be-the Internet is amazing, really. It would be just like grade 12, when you left notes in my box. Except now I could annoy you with Facebook pokes.

Poke, poke. I'd have loved that.

It's been 20 years since you left, today. You never did get to grow up, get married, have children, grow older. The boy I was friends with is frozen in time, forever in high school. It was so long ago, but I still see you everywhere-from the kids that I work with to my own son, when we share cold sodas and penny candy.

The girls turn to me from the yearbooks and the question comes from them innocently,

"Are you still friends now?"

I don't have the heart to tell them. While I have finally forgiven you for taking your life and myself for missing the signs, its still too hard to really talk about. Instead I just smile softly, and fight the tears that begin to spring up in my eyes.

"Take care of those yearbooks. When you are my age, some of those people won't be here anymore."

I really would have liked to have seen you at forty.

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