pages from my lost youth

“Long walks, long talks, after dark;
We vowed we’d never forget.
Now it’s hazy.”
Stay for a While, Amy Grant

My senior year of high school was disjointed and confusing and wonderful and stressful and joyful and tragic and busy and unspeakably sad. It took forever and flashed by in an instant. Probably the same as it is for everyone in one way or another.

How is it then that it’s slipping almost entirely away from me? I see blurry snapshots, fogged-over, early-stage polaroids. Clips from silent films in black and white.

A few nights ago, I was flipping through my senior yearbook. I was reading to a friend of mine some of what people had written. Stay in touch. Best friends forever. I’ll never forget that night we drank all that peach schnapps. That kind of thing.

After reading what one guy had written, she said, “hey, that’s really funny.” I thought about it. I told her I thought I read a manuscript he wrote once. ¬†And that it was funny too. I remembered he was younger than I was (I looked him up in the yearbook and he was a junior when I was a senior — it seemed like an eternity) and that we would sometimes hang out at his house and talk about writing. He would show me some of what he was writing. Maybe I showed him my writing too, but I probably didn’t.

For some reason, I thought I might still have one of his manuscripts, so I looked through some of the rest of the box of high school. Sure enough, it was in exactly the manilla envelope I imagined. But he had mailed it to me in the fall after I graduated. I hadn’t remembered that. I only remembered reading parts of it at his house. This version had a note, telling me he had written more, although it was still unfinished and that he really wanted to know what I thought. And he was thinking maybe he should give up writing altogether.

Did I ever tell him what I thought? Did I ever even read it? Did I ever even talk to him again? I kept it all these years, but then I would. It’s something someone wrote.

It was funny. It was rough, sure, but certain lines, turns of phrase were beautiful, hilarious. I didn’t remember any of it. The narrative calls it an “autobiographical novel” and indeed, all of our classmates and teachers come to life on the pages (with nearly all of their names intact). One might call it biting satire. Or possibly seething rage. The foundation for most comedy.

Everyone feels lost in high school, but I had gone to one high school for part of freshman year, moved half way across the country, then moved back to that same high school my senior year. All of my freshman friends were still there but they’d had years of experiences without me, were entirely different people. I knew everyone but I didn’t know anyone.

But the manuscript. Near the end of the portion I have is a scene where the narrator sees a girl he’d never seen before (being a year younger, he hadn’t been at the school when I was there the first time) and everything changes. Harps, angels singing, and so on. It’s not necessarily me he’s writing about, you might say, except this new character and I share a name.

I think now about how scary it must have been to send this to me. Did I really never even read it? Did I read it and really not ever reply? Did I read it and yet really not remember?

Whatever happened, I was awful.

I tried looking him up online and couldn’t find him. Anywhere. It made me really sad to think that maybe he didn’t become a writer (I certainly didn’t find his byline anywhere). He was really good. He should be writing.

The closest I came to finding anything was a piece of “The Office” fan fiction written by someone by the same name in 2006. It was pretty good, so maybe it was him.

I asked a friend from high school if she knew what happened to him. She didn’t. “He was always really weird,” she remembered. Was he though? Did I think he was weird or did I just know that everyone thought he was weird? When you’re 17 is there a difference?

The only moment we ever have is this one. And then it’s gone.

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