Monday, February 15, 2016


I was idly thinking today about many different things at once, and one of them was Eli 14.6 and how he'll be dating soon.

Boy, that opened a rabbit hole.

I started thinking about what kind of trouble I got into (or nearly) when I was dating in high school, and that led me to think about what was the most intense relationship I'd had before college.

I was a speech nerd in high school (and more accomplished in that, probably, than anything I ever did as an adult). At a tournament in a small Texas town, there was a beautiful girl that, for some reason, liked me.

When I say she was beautiful, I don't mean by speech nerd standards. She was a cheerleader, too, beautiful by any standard. And when she looked at you, her eyes were a very direct connection to everything she felt.

I was a sophomore. She was s senior.

We were very different. She was so sure of herself, so ordered. I was skinny chaos. When we were together, though, the attraction was loud. Deafening, really.

This started a (by high school standards) torrid five month relationship.

Our relationship was almost entirely physical (not sex, but everything else), and I clearly remember writing her long, moony letters in Chemistry class almost every day.

This also explains why I did not do well in Chemistry. Sorry, Mrs. Fuhrman.

She lived an hour away (63.7 miles, door to door), and I would drive to see her on weekends, coming back home at 10 p.m. or later.

For a sixteen-year-old, it was pretty damn exotic.

We talked on the phone every night, too, back in the day when long distance was expensive. I still remember the nighttime rates--somewhere in the range of .22 a minute.

Mom came with the phone bill one month, and she was pissed. It had over $60 in long distance calls, and this was back in 1977, so it was a fortune.

I didn't know it then, because it felt like love, but it was limerence of the highest, strongest order.

Those five months passed so quickly, and then she was graduating. She was valedictorian, too, and she called me a few hours before I was going to drive up for her graduation to tell me that all we did was make out.

Which was true, but she seemed to like doing that as much as I did, so I was absolutely baffled.

She broke up with me, right then.

It was awful--I'm sure I cried on the phone--and about fifteen minutes later, her older brother called me. She was bawling, he said, and he wanted me to come up so that she could get herself together and make her speech.

I did, and I sat on those bleachers and listened to her bog-standard speech and wondered how I could fix this.

I couldn't.

After that day, I don't think I ever heard from her again.

It was crushing.

So I thought about all this, and then I thought I should look her up, just to see how her life turned out. I didn't think I'd find anything, really, but I put her name into Google anyway.

She died seven years ago.

Never married, or got married and divorced. No kids. Still lived in the little town where she grew up, although she did study at a premier acting academy and had small roles in three mainstream films.

Then I saw the picture.

I couldn't believe it, but there was a picture from 1977. Very yellow and faded, but it was her, posing for a picture as a cheerleader.

I was prepared to see a picture of her in present day, but not from when we were dating. It was so overwhelming that I almost started to cry.

There is this thing about growing old, where your emotions are tectonic plates. There are plates from every part of your life, and every part of your past. Over the years, they become more and more unstable, especially the plates from your deep past.

Sometimes, like when you see a picture from 1977, the deep past collides with the present, and you feel the earthquake inside you.

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