One man searches desperately for a reconnection with his childhood friend.
I’m on social media. I have to be. Trying to market my own brand, I just have to; and even though I’m quiet, reserved and humble, I must force myself to connect with others. Incidentally, many authors go through this.
When you’re poking around in the Internet realm, you start getting curious.
Hey, I wonder whatever became of that cutie in eighth grade? I wonder if my sixth grade friend ever came out? I’ll bet that what’s-her-face in sophomore chemistry is pregnant with her tenth child. And is what-was-his-name a CEO?
Not all of the curiosities are excessive, but you start to wonder.
On Facebook, I’ll search by school or suburb, and start scrolling. Many of the faces and names I don’t remember or maybe never even knew. Some might have transferred in as I was transferring out, and vice versa. That sort of thing.
But about every fifth name, I’ll recognize. Some of these people look the same but older, and some look nothing like I recall. Weight, drug use, ten kids, bad weather, smoking, they all pay a toll on your looks. But that’s not important, really. You’re more about seeing what these former classmates are up to.
You start filling in the gaps of where they’ve been, what they’ve been up, who they’ve encountered.
Photos, mutual friends, blocked access. It all gives clues.
Some of these people, I “friend,” reminding them who I am—or telling them that my last name is different on Facebook because I like to keep my writing and activism separate from my real, inter-personal life. Some accept without a word, some almost probe too deeply, but a few go unaccepted.
Whatever their reasons for reconnecting or not connecting is wide and deep, I’m sure.
But there is always that one or two you want—and almost need—to find, but cannot. Privacy settings? Not on Facebook? But you want to find out they’re doing, and this need is so intense, you start looking around on Google.
My best friend in junior high was nowhere to be found. He was a silly kid, funny to me, and was a different nationality. He was initially my first non-white friend. I’ve been to his house. His mother was very kind to me. We both had a crush on Alyssa Milano, and both loved real Mexican food. He bragged that his house was the nicest on the block, and this wasn’t quite an exaggeration. We almost got in a huge fight one day, but that eventually passed—as things do with buddies.
I found a Facebook group for the school and posted a question:
Hey, if anyone would help, I was friends with someone who graduated in 1992 and wanted to get back in touch with him.
One response, from a cousin: I was told that he wasn’t with us any more. No explanation other than the word, “an accident.” By car? This answered nothing, really. I asked another question, but got no response, so I let it go.
But for about three or four years, this really started to bother me. I knew what Anne was up to. Carol and Frank, too. Melody and Moe, I knew what they were up to, but I wanted closure on Michael. His sister was in my brother’s class, so I looked her up.
Hey, this is Steve. I was your brother’s friend at elementary. How is he?
Similar response. “Accident.” What the–?
I had to probe. I wasn’t going to let this suffice.
Apparently, there was an accident with a gun.
Oh, okay, this is starting to make sense, but the thought still gave me a pause. I pictured him. His goofy smile, squarish head, jet-black hair, messing with a gun.
Was he a gang member? Was he in the armed forces? Was he–?
Then I pictured him on a sofa, loading a weapon, drinking a Corona. Was he alone? Were there friends in the room? Enemies?
Her add-on to the explanation to my old friend’s accident: “He didn’t know.”
Just when everything was starting to come together, at least a little bit, as I pictured the scenario as I read her words in her response to my question, she threw me a curve ball. He didn’t know.
He didn’t know what? What he was involved with? That the gun was loaded? Was he dicking around with a loaded weapon and forgot it was was loaded as he pulled the trigger? Was he simply cleaning it? Was someone at the door and he freaked out? Didn’t know what?
I sat there in my office chair about twenty minutes. I then closed out my browser.
I wasn’t going to respond regarding Michael. This girl lost her brother. Another lost their cousin. Maybe I had pried too deep. Asking the questions they might have answered—or dodged answering—for years. He would be thirty-nine now, as I am, and I don’t mean to open old wounds.
I just wanted to know.
You hear of old friends getting into this or that, some getting on with their lives in awesome ways, others hitting the pits deep and hard. You poke around on Facebook and you see model faces turned old, and you see athletic figures get obese. You see losers become famous, and you see the ugly ones turn out kind of hot.
But nothing can prepare you for your seventh grade best friend ending up dead with his insides sprayed all over on the outside. Sometimes the finality of death is worse than ten kids, imprisonment, or drug addiction. And I still feel like I don’t have closure.