I’m sitting at the cafe in Barnes & Noble, and there are two men sitting behind me. One of them has been here since before I arrived. I’m not sure of his name. We’ll call him Tom. A few minutes ago, a man walked in looking around a bit, and Tom said “Charles?” The man turned to Tom and said “Hey! I thought you looked familiar but I wasn’t sure!” and took the other seat at the table.
Tom and Charles are old high school buddies. They graduated 50 years ago and haven’t seen each other since accidentally bumping into each other during a game of golf in the early 80s. They brought their yearbooks and are looking through the pictures and signatures, pointing out people they remember and reminiscing about the adventures they had together. They talked about a guy, the class clown, who went on to become a librarian at a nearby university and then died way too young. It was decided that one signature was so big that it took up half a yearbook page because the signer had such a ‘big personality.’ Another guy, Robert, died not too long ago. Another one was a bully – he made fun of Tom’s last name. Rudy was a nice kid. Charles can’t remember much of high school except that he was a little ‘twerp,’ but Tom has a better memory. He remembers the time someone bet the strongest kid in class to do 100 push-ups, and the kid did it quickly and easily and that they had to eat all their food at lunch or they’d get in trouble. They both agree that generic yearbook signatures (“best of luck in your future endeavors!”) are super lame.
Yeah, I’m eavesdropping. But in my defense, I can’t help it because they’re kinda loud. It’s a nice conversation, but there’s some sadness. They don’t know what happened to so many of their classmates, even the guys they once called great friends.
If I go to my 50-year reunion, or I meet up with old friends years and years from now, are they going to recognize me? Am I going to recognize them? Are we going to wonder “whatever happened to Matt?” Or Hannah, or Joe, or Maggie? Will we even remember their names?
It bums me out to think I might not see the people I spent such an important part of my life with ever again. Or maybe I’ll see them in 40 years, which is almost as bad as never seeing them again. My best friends, people who knew me better than anyone else back then, but don’t even talk to me now. I know that people move on, and I have too, but sometimes it hits me: I have no idea what Cindy is up to. Is she even alive? I don’t know. I found out through Facebook that Christine is engaged, and I wanted to send her a message but I couldn’t think of what to say because all I could think was “why didn’t she tell me?” even though I know it’s because we aren’t good enough friends anymore. Kevin stopped talking to me somewhere along the way, and even when I sent him a congratulatory message when he had a baby, he didn’t write back. Just three of many examples of my dead high school friendships.
I know it’s partly my fault, because I ran away to the other side of the country as soon as I turned 18, but I’m not going to take all of the blame. I tried to keep in contact with those people. I still do. I never get a response, or if I do, it’s very short and there’s nothing for me to reply to. Like I said, I don’t think about this constantly. But sometimes it pops into my head and when I realize my old friendships didn’t turn out the way I thought they would back when I was 17 and graduating – it hurts.