crushing on life

It kills me that I have to thank Facebook. I mean, really. I've been grinding that axe for years. Facebook sucks. Facebook is evil. Who needs Facebook? I've done just fine keeping in touch with the people I want to keep in touch with, without it.  

All of that still holds true, as far as I'm concerned. But credit where credit is due. And this wouldn't have happened without The Book. So thanks, Zucky (she said, with her middle finger extended).

Also deserving credit: sleeplessness. Sleeplessness on an early Saturday morning, coupled with the realization that my twenty year high school reunion is coming up, and a morbid curiosity as to what those twenty years have done with (to?) some of my classmates. What does one do with this formula? Well naturally, one Facebooks.

I think if you hooked me up to an EKG, and/or whatever equipment is used to monitor brain waves, you could probably chart the visceral reaction of my body to logging on to Facebook. I mean, I just fucking cringe, I really do. And I don't even have a single thing on my page, other than a couple profile photos. No personal info. Nothing on my timeline. No friends. I totally get that if you've been 'booking since the beginning, all of that stuff just sort of fleshed itself out with the new formatting. But I only rejoined within the last year-ish, and only because Spotify held a gun to my head to make me do so. (Assholes.) And I don't have any interest in going through and filling all of it out at this point. I mean, I know who I am and what I've been doing with my life. I know who my friends are, and where to find them. I'm good, thanks.

(God, look at me. I can't go five lines without 'bookslamming. Really do hate it though. Have I mentioned that?)

Anyway, I logged on because I was curious to see if there'd been a page set up about my twenty year reunion (there has, but no date set yet). And one thing led to another, and I found myself typing a name in the search box. No, not an ex-boyfriend. I'm not that masochistic. Just a girl who I knew in another lifetime, who during that lifetime, meant the world to me. (Alas, who we are between the ages of ten and eighteen doesn't always bear much resemblance to the adults we grow into. And that girl broke my heart worse than any boy ever has. But that's another story for another time, if ever, though probably not, because there's nothing to be gained by raking over those long-cold coals.)

So I looked at this girl's page, this erstwhile friend, for a minute or two - at her status updates and kids' pictures, and the photographic grid that comprises her network of friends. And I let myself surf the wave of contradictory feelings that always, predictably, rolls in when I engage in this semi-annual exercise: sadness, pride, wistfulness, relief.

And then I saw a name and a face in a square, with six letters underneath it: SCI-Arc.

And I frowned. No way, I thought to myself. No fucking way. Because those six letters denote a place downtown, where I live - an architecture school - walking distance from my apartment.

And the name and the face belonged to a boy this girl and I knew in high school, in Arizona - a boy two years my junior, with whom we were friends, but with whom I was better friends. In fact, I won't lie; I felt a proprietary pang when I saw him listed as her friend, because nuh uh. Because Sure, you were in the same classes, and some of the same plays. But mostly, you were busy doing your cheerleading/Homecoming Queen/modeling thing. And you weren't there for the best bits. For the back row giggles and the goofing off after school. For the inside jokes and the connection, and that unique blend of teenaged angst-meets-crush, of unknowns and miscommunications, of ego and adolescent attraction. But hey, it's cool. You got to play with pom poms. 

The name and the face belonged to one of the very, very few people from my past that I would welcome in my present.

I had to message him. I didn't even hesitate.

I tried to pitch a lighthearted but sincere tone. A hey-wow-you-work-where-I-live-aint-that-crazy-haha? tone. A look-I-hate-Facebook-but-I-couldn't-resist-saying-hi tone. I didn't say anything about meeting up. Just that I wanted to say hello, and cheers to having survived these twenty years. Fear of rejection is a terminal condition.

After I clicked send, I realized I may have made a mistake. For selfish and unselfish reasons. Selfish being the realization that I'm not sure I want to be on anyone's radar, even people I once cared for. I've loved being off the grid, in terms of my past. I've loved letting them wonder. And unselfish being the realization that it might not be the coolest thing, to randomly parachute into someone's life after so long. I knew nothing about this person, other than the glimpses I'd had, of the man he was starting to become some two decades ago. My message in a bottle might be an unwelcome discovery, on whatever island he's drifted to.

He didn't, after all, appear to be a big Facebooker. He appeared to be a man who was happily, quietly living the life he'd been living since I'd last lain eyes on him in the 90's.

But he didn't keep me in suspense long, and his response to my note was warmer and kinder and more enthusiastic than any Girl From the Past has a right to expect. We swapped phone numbers that same day, and made plans to meet for a drink the next night.

And tonight we had that drink, and another after it, and spent four hours tripping down memory lane, and then backtracking to the present day, seeing as we did so where our paths ran surprisingly parallel. And I don't know how to describe what it was like, without resorting to cliche and bad metaphors. So I'll just spew out some words and thoughts, and maybe the right shape will form.

Unexpected, but heartwarmingly familiar. The confidence and sure carriage of a man who's grown into himself, and who knows who he is. A far cry from the gawky fifteen year-old with darting eyes and a nervous giggle - though the giggle remains untouched, instantly recognizable, and just as contagious as ever. I stole sidelong glances at him as we toured the silent, empty school where he works, and listened to the way he spoke with gratitude and self-effacing humor about the life he's built for himself. Seeds of sensitivity and shyness - things that tangle up and twist a teenage boy into knots, into his own worst enemy - sprout and bloom, and manifest as deeply admirable qualities in a man: empathy, humility, and self-awareness.

We carefully unfolded pages from the past and compared notes. He shared things with me about his life as a teenager that I'd had no idea of. Painful, heartwrenching things that made me wish I could reach back to 1993 and hug the everloving shit out of the boy largely responsible for making it such a fun year. Things that made me cry, to think of him silently bearing, during a time when I knew him only as a happy, fun-loving kid who lived to make other people laugh.

He told me what he remembered of me - of teenaged me. And it was like someone handing me a flattering snapshot of myself and saying, Hey, I think you dropped this.

He told me what he remembered of my father. And it was like someone delivering a letter, twenty years late, that had been lost in the mail. An unexpected few minutes' worth of delight on this, the one year anniversary of his death. And I was so, so grateful for it, though I couldn't tell him, because if I'd tried to, I would have cried (again).

But mostly it was catching up on who we've since become, telling one another a bit about the things we've come to love in life - many of which are the same, it was lovely to learn. And then he drove me home and we pledged to get together again soon. And it was just so goddamn nice to be able to peer into the past and not have to cover my eyes for once.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I'm most in love with life when it surprises me. So yeah. Don't mind me. I'll be over here in the corner for a little bit, just crushing on life.