When I was 15, I went to a new school. A boarding school that required crisp white shirts and ties and tights under blue tunics. I went because I was tired of my small town. Tired of feeling like I never quite fit in, like the people I had known my whole life refused to accept me fully. There was a spotlight on me, because of my family and small town politics, and I was never quite enough.
The first day I arrived was pregnant with hope and expectation. I wore a white blouse and new brown loafers. My short brown hair was neat, I was more nervous than words can describe. My roomate had long blonde hair, a flowing dress and a sash tied around her head. She casually asked me if I smoked pot. I lied, said yes and changed as quickly as I could out of that white blouse. Looking at my selection of baggy Umbro shirts and soccer shorts, I felt, again, entirely out of place. She spat in the face of authority, had been arrested for possession. I loved her immediately.
I found my place there, but as my view of the world expanded to what I had never realized existed outside of my small town (Janis Joplin! Pot! Freedom!), I became more and more angry. I’m not sure why the teenage years seem to bring anger, but they do.
There was a boy who made my heart jump. Our shy smiles culminated one night at a dance, where I smelled the Tide on the shoulder of his shirt during an awkward attempt at courtship. A relationship never blossomed, but we became close friends for years. After high school, we went in different directions (geographically), but kept in touch. One night I wrote him a drunken email saying I may have always been in love with him afterall. It was a combination of homesickness and loneliness manifesting in feelings for someone who I loved, but not like that. He wrote me back and said of course he loved me, too, he always had. We never spoke of it again, but it affected our friendship from that day on, eventually disintegrating it.
I’ve lost touch with both of those people and sometimes am saddened that the people who affected you profoundly at one point in your life can become little more than a fond memory.
He is married with a child now, and she’s a nurse on the west coast. We’ve been in touch loosely, but I know that it’s not the same anymore. The innocence is gone. I have no interest in a lot of the things I once did. But every once in a while, I remember what it was like, amidst all that confusion of being 15 and then 16 and then 17, of discovering that the world is a big confusing place, of realizing that it will be years before you ever understand the things you used to take for granted.