Because it’s late and I’m feeling sentimental; because it’s late and I don’t want to work on my short stories, but still want to write something; because it’s late and I’m tired and seeing a friend’s face online reminded me of a friendship we once shared…I need to be sentimental – and slightly sappy with a bitter edge – and write about this.
A little less than two years ago, a boy who called himself – let’s say he called himself – Zak phoned me to say that he had proposed to his girl, and that she’d said yes. I was so happy for him. (I still am very happy for him. I hadn’t ever seen him like this before.) It was a sweet proposal; going to her work, getting her boss in on it, all that saccharine kind of stuff. It wasn’t the way I’d have expected him to do it, though now I see how much it fits him.
Several months before that and a handful of weeks before graduation, I’d been having car trouble. Zak came by the coffeeshop I was holding a small group study in, drove my car around, and told me what was wrong with it (making me promise to go to a car place with my dad or with him, because “car mechanics rip girls off, really”). He would’ve fixed it himself, if he could, but I needed a new fan and he didn’t have that. We got to talk for a while, though, which was nice because we didn’t see each other much after our freshmen year of high school. He fessed up to hiding some of the truth from me in earlier years: once, sophomore year, he’d excitedly told me that he was clean when I asked if he’d stopped smoking. That night, he told me he had stopped smoking because he’d been selling back then, that and heavier drugs. We laughed at it, then, though I know I gave him a bit of a hard time – little fifteen year old me had been so pleased and never would have thought that her friend was dealing.
At seventeen – or eighteen, he might’ve been eighteen – he was clean, though, and I was so proud of him. Boy had been working as a mechanic for several years and was torn between the idea of the military and opening his own shop. (I was rooting for the small business idea.) We’d met in World History when I was fourteen, and I didn’t like the idea of yet another old friend out fighting. Zak used to grab the back of my neck or tickle me unexpectedly, both of which made me laugh or shriek or, occasionally, fall spastically to the floor. Sometimes in the middle of class, mind you. Our friends thought it was hilarious.
His girlfriend at the time had hated me.
Which really isn’t that different from his fiancee now, though this time I just find it rather sad. I’ve written about it once before, the day after I found out he no longer had my phone number, the day after my comment on a new picture of him, sans several inches of crazy, curly black hair, disappeared on Facebook. It was sad – it still is sad – because we used to be quite close, for two such outwardly different people.
And tonight I just wish I’d decided to bring my high school yearbooks with me to college this year because I realize that I’ve forgotten exactly what he wrote to me in one of them. I’ve even forgotten whether it was junior or senior year and, as trivial as that sounds, it just makes me want to cry. It was something amazing nice, what Zak wrote, with the cliche ‘never change’ bit but a really good reason why, something to do with me and God and changing his life…I hate that I can’t remember exactly what he said! Signed like the two or three other yearbooks before that: love, Zak.
And I did love that kid, too, in a very platonic sort of way. I loved our quirky friendship about as much as I loved him. He kept tabs on my baby sister for me, without my even asking, during her freshman year of high school, for goodnessakes! When my car broke across the state line and I called him to see if he could tell me what was wrong with it, he wanted to jump in his and come get me, at midnight, the week before we actually did graduate. There aren’t many friends in life who offer to do that sort of thing, just to help you, going so out of their way like that. And he did, and even though it was my dad who came to pick me up, Zak’s offer meant the world to me that night, and still does.
Which is why it makes me so sad that, when I saw him with his fiancee this summer at the farmer’s market, it was awkward and painful and we didn’t give each other hugs. He looked at me like he barely recognized me and, even though I was helpful and pointed his girl towards the right lady to talk to about setting up a booth, he didn’t so much as glance towards me when they left. I know, because I watched as they walked from one end of the market, past my booth, and down the end of the square. Nothing: not a look, not a wave, not a smile.
This is the same guy who said that I changed his life, who gave me tight hugs that showed how much he meant it, and didn’t care that serious girlfriend #1 had a huge problem with him hanging out with me. He was someone whose friendship I valued dearly, and when we saw each other for the first time in a year, he hardly seemed to remember any of this.
I guess it’s a shame.