I dreamt about my high school sweetheart last night.
These things seem to come out of nowhere sometimes. I haven't seen him in over five years now, spoken to him in over four, and am only the recipient of the occasional update, some of it hearsay, some of it more reliable.
With a little reflection, I think it may have been triggered by reading a powerful post by cdp about her boyfriend from her teens, who is now serving in Iraq. Although the situations don't match up, exactly, there is a common theme of this loss of innocence and how overwhelming it is to realize that people you knew, people who were your whole life at one point in time, find themselves in such dire situations.
C. and I dated for around a year when I was 17. We fell for each other out of the blue after our first few hours alone despite going to the same high school for years. Things were different between us than in my previous attempts at high school romance. What stands out more than anything were our conversations. We would talk for hours on end-- not about the things you associate with high school, like sports, gossip, movies, but rather about bigger ideas, like philosophy and humanity. We would spend Friday night holed up in his upstairs bedroom, smoking a joint out the window or drinking his secret stash of homemade wine under the bed. An entire bedroom wall was taken up by a world map, and I would point my toe at a random country to begin a discussion, or we would laugh at the archaic pre-Berlin Wall fall borders and names. The first night I spent at his house as his girlfriend, we laid on his bedroom floor as he made me tell him everything I wanted from life, from the most material to the most abstract, before I snuck into the guestroom down the hall.
Despite being the grade below me, he was my prom date when I graduated, with a scarlet tie that matched my dress perfectly. That summer I spent a month backpacking through Costa Rica with my best friend. I wrote him elaborate letters full of random observations I thought he would've made in my place. I returned home with a different sense of things, a broader sense of the world, ready to begin college.
Early that fall, sitting on a rock overlooking the water below, it felt as though, as cliche as it may have been, my whole life was ahead of me, and I spontaneously told him that I thought I loved him. He wasn't able to respond.
Then everything fell apart. The distance between me, in college, having expanded my sense of the world, and him, in high school, overwhelmed at the looming reality of life, expanded in an instant. He was too scared to end things, but too scared to let them continue, and after nearly a month of feeling like I was in limbo, I chose to formally put things to rest, despite feeling like it was the thing I wanted least in the world.
We moved on, as people do. I started playing the college student role, throwing myself into classes, playing at dating. We were friendly, saw each other at the occasional party, although attempts at real continued friendship never went very far. He called me a year after we split up to apologize, saying he was in a dark place at the time, and really took me for granted. He also claimed that I had been of a tremendous help for him at the time. In the years to follow, we would contact each other at seemingly random intervals, and somehow fall into the deepest of conversations.
In our time together, it became clear that he was plagued by some of his own demons. For me, he did represent an archetypical troubled genius of sorts. He had so many ideas, yet they became so clouded over by moods and especially by substances. His calls would often seemingly be inspired by a self-appointed break from drugs.
A few years ago, I received news that he had left for India, apparently to do the proverbial attempt to find himself.
Apparently he got lost along the way.
Some time later, a friend called me to tell me that he had apparently went missing while abroad. It was Christmas and his parents hadn't heard from him in months. It was crushing to start imagining the worst, of all the situations that could have ended so horrendously, with no one on this side of the ocean being any the wiser. Thankfully, his voice crossed that same ocean, calling his family early in the New Year.
That summer, at a party, a woman I had never met before but apparently knew him reasonably well spoke of the mixed blessing of spontaneously bumping into him in her Indian travels. While she was at first pleased to see an old friend, she claimed that she wanted to leave that reconnection behind for the moment, as he was apparently in a very bleak headspace, as well as being caught up in a rather fierce drug scene.
The next updated came probably a year later, when my mother ran into his mother. He had returned from India with something missing. His mother said that she knew something traumatic had happened, because this man who used to be so full of laughter and ideas had stopped speaking and no longer smiled. He simply holed up at his parents house and spend hours alone, barely uttering a word to anyone, lost in thought.
I can't even express how incomprehensible this all is for me. I can't make sense of someone I used to be so connected to being so lost. He was so full of life, and now he sounds empty. And even though I know our friendship faded out a long time ago, I feel heavy when I wonder about what runs through his head now, back in that same room I used to laugh in.
Apparently things are improving slowly, with him having returned to work. However, despite using such objective standards in the assessment of people in my professional life, I care little about them at the moment. What I mull over is whether that spark is back, because even if I never see him again, the idea that it has dissipated is excruciating.
Monday, October 15, 2007
I dreamt about my high school sweetheart last night.