I met my best friend in high school in summer school, in a “continuous progress” math class. She was there doing Algebra; I was there because after deciding I couldn’t spend longer than a week in the company of the morons in my traditional geometry class the previous fall, I’d bailed to the CP class, where you taught yourself and moved at your own pace. I finished Geometry in the beginning of third quarter and decided to keep going, starting on Honors Algebra; I didn’t quite finish it at the end of the school year, so I did so in summer school, because that’s the kind of rockin’ nerd I am.
I ended up taking a seat behind Laurie. I’d heard of her, because she dated a guy I talked to and cut up with in the back of my English class, but we never met before then. I don’t remember how we got started, but I do remember helping her with her math, saving her the terrible fate of having to go up and ask the teacher who supervised the class. He was unapproachable in that math-teachery way, and he had hair growing out of his nose.
The top side.
At some point that summer, she invited me to go with her with a bunch of friends to see Cheap Trick at the Pinewood Bowl, and it seems like we were pretty inseparable after that. We stayed overnight at each other’s house all the time, and one night came up with a plausible and profound (to us, under the influence of lack of sleep and teenage fancy,) theory that Jesus was an alien. We shared a locker junior year, but drifted apart a little as she hung with a different crowd than I did. She kind of was my crowd; otherwise, I was busy with after-school clubs and activities and my job. But we never really lost touch, and reconnected the following summer. We shared a locker our senior year, and a couple of classes, and many second-semester mornings that started by us skipping study hall, doing a doughnut run, hanging out at Holmes Lake, and not coming back until the afternoon, just in time for applied physics.
One of the worst sunburns of my life happened on one of those excursions. By then, Laurie was living at my house, and we would sneak off to my room so she could secretly apply copious amounts of Noxzema to my burn, because to cop to the sunburn would be to have to explain how I managed to get a horrible sunburn in the middle of a weekday when I should’ve been in class. Which, of course, wasn’t going to happen. I survived with Laurie’s help and long-sleeved shirts to hide the worst of the damage.
Things changed when I went to college and Laurie didn’t, and we drifted apart, so far apart that we didn’t talk for the last three years I was in school. I assumed that would be the way it would stay until I ran into her in the parking lot of the grocery store I worked at. We ended up going for pie at VI (a tradition), and we caught up. I was engaged to Scott, and eventually I asked her to be in my wedding, and saw each other a lot during the wedding preparations.
Two months after the wedding, Scott and I moved north to Minnesota where I’d taken a teaching job, and Laurie and I kept in touch via letters and the occasional phone call. (This was back when long distance still cost money, and e-mail was newfangled.)
The second year we were up there, Laurie and I had a falling out. The reasons are not important in the here and now, but it was, to that point and to date, the ugliest break-up I’ve ever been party to. And I always, always regretted it. I wish it hadn’t ended so acrimoniously. But I was young, totally unskilled in having difficult conversations, and it seemed so irretrievably broken, I didn’t even consider trying to fix it; I couldn’t see how.
I missed Laurie, and wanted to apologize, if not to fix the relationship, then to have a better ending. At one point, I wrote a long letter and sent it to someone of the same name in Nebraska, never knowing if it was her or not. I assumed not, as I never heard back, and wondered what THAT Laurie thought of my missive.
15 years passed, and I still thought about her, wondered about her. Once I got on Facebook, I looked for her there, but didn’t find her. But when I looked again this past March, she was. I held my breath, and then sent her a note apologizing for how things had ended between us, and then held my breath some more. I hoped she would respond, but I didn’t expect her to, and I was a little nervous about what she’d have to say after everything that went down.
It took a few weeks, but one April afternoon I did get a response. Laurie apologized, too, and said that she had thought and dreamed about me a lot in the intervening years, and had prayed that we would reconnect. And as soon as read that, I felt the weight of 15 years of regret dissolve. I exhaled a breath I hadn’t quite realized I’d been holding all that time.
Since then, we’ve been talking semi-regularly by phone, because Laurie doesn’t do computers, and I hate the phone, doing a lot of catching up that culminated in my spending last weekend in Nebraska where we engaged in a 3-day, 2-night slumber party/reunion. We’ll do round two sometime this winter when Laurie gets tired of Nebraska ice storms and heads my way.
What has been amazing is that we seem to have picked up right where we left off, inclusive of the 15 years in between. It has been astonishing to me that despite our going separate ways, we still have a lot in common, things we discovered and explored independently in our time apart; parallel points in disparate journeys.
In the end, I have gotten what I wanted…a different ending; or rather, a new beginning. And I have been humbled and astounded to learn that sometimes you DO get a second chance, that wrongs can be righted, that even in the face of hopelessness, you never can be sure that something is impossible.