Monday, October 15, 2007

Found becomes lost

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.


eric1313 said...

I love the title of this post. Very evocative of the situation you describe.

Sounds like you are a fine judge of people. Also have to say there's nothing wrong with joints, home made wine and giant maps of the world!

It's heartbreaking when stories like this unfold in the theater of the real. Syd Barret of Pink Floyd was just such a troubled genius. He was their original singer/guitarist, their founding member to be exact and main songwriter, but only on their first album, Piper at the Gates of Dawn. He became embroiled in hallucinogens and grew more and more unstable until eventually becoming "barking mad" as some have put it--schizophrenic, clinically speaking.

There was always debate as to weather the drugs caused it, but it's generally agreed that they only sped him along what would have happened anyway. What is know is that when he tried to quit drugs, his "friends" (not the band members, actually) who he lived with would put LSD in his morning tea and start him tripping anyway, to 'help him lighten up', as they put it.

He eventually lost his song writing ability all together. But, he became the Floyd's main source of inspiration for many albums to come, Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, and much of The Wall.

Sorry to relate this one to you. But the way you described C, I was reminded deeply of Syd Barret. I hope he does recover for everyone's sake involved.

Miriam said...

Wow. That's powerful. I hope he really does find all of himself one day. And maybe it was a good thing that you were able to grow away from that relationship.

Ant said...

Damn. That was moving. You seem to have a lot of these dark tales from friends and exes - more than your fair share I think...

Innocence lost can be one of the cruelest parts of life - but I think Eric's right, he was possibly on a course to this mindset anyway, drugs or no. There's also the possibility that you remember the spark that he had through rose-tinted spectacles, but were young enough and in love enough not to see his bleaker characteristics?

Sheila said...

I believe the eyes are truly windows to the soul. My "first love" was in High School. He began doing drugs and one day as I looked into his eyes, they seemed so dark and empty. The boy with the beautiful smile was no longer there. It frightened, sickened and saddened me.

I distanced myself from him and lost touch with him. I saw him again a few years later and he seemed a little better. That was years ago, but I still think about him from time to time, wondering how he is, how his life is going.

Hopefully your friend will find his way out of the darkness. Perhaps when he does, you two can be acquainted once again.

Beth said...

I had friends like that from university - full of laughter, creative, bordering on genius. Sadly, some have now been diagnosed manic-depressive - two committed suicide. Such a loss.

Abbey said...

Great post.

The Lisa Show said...

I love reading you.

Martini said...

Excellent story. I, myself have dreamed of a special someone, someone who did not become my highschool sweetheart, but I wish she had. Back in those days I found myself defending her, and wondered why I was practically the only person who saw her brightness.

She is now a national reporter for CTV. So I still get to see her all the time, so to speak.

All Mod Cons said...

You know, you really do have a kick-ass way of writing. Straight from the off I'm hooked. It really is a pleasure reading your posts.

NamesAreHardToPick said...

I read this post and in some ways I almost wondered if you were someone I know talking about me except the drugs and India. But there is a girl I know who is very concerned about my current state and believe me - being on the other side - I try not to make her worry.

Nonetheless, that was eye opening reading it from the other side. I can definitely feel the emotion in your writing as that was beautiful. I hope all goes well with him and that your fears will be calmed.

Psychgrad said...

That's quite the experience. It is very hard to watch a friend or someone you love/loved become a shadow of themselves.

I tend to always want to solve people's problems or say whatever needs to be said to make things turn around for them. Of course, it doesn't exist. I think Miriam is right...maybe it sounds harsh, but it was probably wise for you to go in your own direction as you started university.

On a different thought (brought about by your post)- I totally screwed myself by telling a few people I know about my blog. Now I can't write about these kind of personal experiences.

Dorky Dad said...

Fascinating. Actually, it sounds like his life would probably make one heck of a book some day. I hope he's gone through that dark period, though ...

Anonymous said...

loved the post. its probably a huge adjustment for him to be back here...especially after being in such a different world with different lifestyles/perspectives/values in India.

I hope the 'old him' breaks through soon!

captain corky said...

Great post!

I'm curious about his situation and experience in India... If you ever find out please share it with us.

cdp said...

I love reading you too. And obviously my mind is still very much where it was when I wrote that, because this had me in tears.

You have such an incredible writing talent.

And I heart you a lot.

Crushed by Ingsoc said...

I'm sorry to hear he hasn't found himself again.

Genius can be a lonely place- it's hard when only you really follow your own thoughts, I guess.

The spark can be brought back- but only he can do it.
If he finds the incentive.

...BeccaLynn said...

Do you have an email address?

DG said...

Wow. That must be really hard watching someone you love and care about go down a dark path. A guy I used to have the biggest crush on and kissed a couple of times when we were in middle school ended up getting heavily addicted to drugs in high school and ended up running away before he finally agreed with his parents to go to a rehab. Thankfully, he's much better now.

Princess Pointful said...

Eric- I am familiar with Syd Barrett. Interesting analogy. Although I'm sure for a lot of people it is just a run-of-the-mill tale, it does feel tragic to me.

Miriam- It probably is a good idea, otherwise it would have been much more painful. That doesn't mean I am happy we lost contact, though.

Ant- I don't know that I necessarily have more darker characters in my life, so much as that I tend to be the person of choice for people to open up to about such things. I have kind of been the eternal psychologist for much of my life, making it fitting that I ended up here.

I may be mistaken, but I do really believe there was some brilliance underneath it all. I'd experienced adolescent "love" before, and it was a little more than what that could account for.

Sheila- So very true. What a poignant image.

Beth- I am so sorry for your loss. It is those losses that never make sense in the grand scheme of things.

Abbey, Lisa and AMC- Thanks so much! This was a bit of an intense post for me to write, so I'm happy you enjoy it.

Martini- Thanks for stopping by! I will be headed your way soon!
The way it turned out, it looks as though there may be concrete evidence of that spark, hey?

NamesAreHardToPick- I am intrigued that you intrinsically picked up on the other side of this story. I can't guess how troubling it must be on the other end to know you are invoking such emotions in others... though I'm sure I am the last person on his mind in that domain now.

PsychGrad- As I said above, as the eternal psychologist, I do the exact same thing. I think I had a bit of a complex for a while that I wasn't enough to save him. You have to let those kind of thoughts go, though.

Dorky Dad- Very true. Hopefully his sense of insight is still there.

Libby- yeah, I guess cultural shock along with whatever trauma would be a particularly dangerous combination.

Corky- Thanks! I do wonder if I'm ever going to find out the whole story. It would really help settle things in my mind, but, again, I am kind of the lower point of concern at this moment.

cdp- I'm touched that you had such a reaction. As I said, this felt pretty raw for me, too (and yours obviously triggered something in me, too). I do need to stop making you cry, though :(.
I heart you too. You are one fabulous blogette!

Crushed- Thanks for your hopeful words. I do like to think there is still something there, albeit likely a little hidden at this stage.

BeccaLynn- I wrote back on your blog :)

DG- Glad to hear things are better for him. Very stressful all the same.

Ultra Toast Mosha God said...

What a fantastic story of young love. It seems that it rarely lasts - often for the reasons you have given. I wonder what nastiness made this change, and whether it is worth meeting up with him to find out.

Indiana James said...

This one hit close to home for me as well. Going through high school, I was lucky to count 2 best friends. One guy, one girl. The girl and I, as you two did conversed for hours on end, never about the regular hum drum of high school life, but bigger things in the world and what lay ahead for us.

There were feelings that developed but for a myriad of reasons we never got together. Recently shes taken a departure from the norm and for lack of better terms has gone off the deep end in terms of her expectations of friendships and state of mind.

This girl was the love of my life as well as my best friend. It was so hard to see her go through it and harder to be the subject of unfair expectations. Eventually, I had a choice to make and blew it up.

I rarely if ever hear from her now and I get updates and each time I hear something new, it horrifies me. I wonder how it could have gotten to this point with her. From where were to where we are now, it's like different lifetimes... Le sigh. I just hope she finds a good place.

Michelle said...

it is crazy to imagine what past loves are doing now. especially ones you were so close to for years and years.

i'm scared for this dream of clancy to come years down the road for me. so scared.