Josh, an old friend from elementary school (and junior high and high school, though I didn’t see him as much after I left 5th grade) invited me (and presumably a few hundred people) to a benefit concert Saturday night via Facebook. I’d been wanting to hear his band play, so April and I decided to go. The catch is that he married my ex-girlfriend from high school last summer, and I haven’t seen her since we graduated. There was a lot of negativity between Megan and I the last couple of years of high school, and on into our freshman year of college, so I wasn’t sure how it would go. But the concert was pleasant, and small talk with her went better than it otherwise might have done. The conversation brought with it a slew of memories, images I’d forgotten and stories from thirteen years ago…
It was October of 1994 and I was in fourth grade. My best friend (Matt) Wilson and I were trick or treating, and my parents dropped us off at the big, square house on AA highway, just across the street from our school. While they waited in the driveway, I went to the door and knocked hesitantly; I was shy and afraid of strangers. But the woman who answered the door seemed nice, and she asked what grade we were in. As it turned out, they had just moved to this house and their daughter would be starting at our school soon. Her name was Megan and, being so young, I had very little world experience. You see, I had known a girl in Maryland at my after-school-babysitter whose name was Megan. I hadn’t seen her since we moved to Missouri, and I assumed it was the same girl.
I couldn’t wait for her to come to school. I hadn’t been happy since we had moved to Springfield; I had few friends, was constantly picked on and beat up, and longed to return to Maryland. I was excited that, at last, I would have a real friend who liked me. Maybe Patrick, her brother, would be with her, and I would have two friends! I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t focus on school work, all I could do was sit and daydream about when she would start school.
A week or two later, this small, blond girl joined our class and I discovered that the Megan I was waiting for wasn’t the one from Maryland, but a different Megan with big glasses and a shy laugh. In 5th grade, we started orchestra together (I played violin and she played viola), and I didn’t think much about her… except that she was the best friend of Jamie, for whom I pined all the way through 8th grade.
Jamie, as girls in junior high tend to do to lovestruck, silly boys, broke my heart in 7th grade and I began the process of moving on. The summer between 8th grade and our freshman year of high school, Megan and I started getting together more, and we continued playing in the orchestra in high school. It was in the orchestra room, while we put away our instruments, that I asked her to homecoming. We shared our first kiss on her barn roof, and neither of us knew what we were doing. A month or so later, I took her on our first formal date to the Outback Steakhouse using a gift certificate I had won off of the radio. We weren’t dressed for the winter weather, but she wanted to go for a walk after dinner, and we ran across the four lanes of Glenstone Avenue to wander through the shopping center where Wal-Mart is. I was so worried that she’d be too cold and get sick, and we found a bench in a shaded alcove where we could sit until my mom got there to pick us up.
She didn’t ask me to the LPA (Ladies Pay All) dance that year, and I was crushed, but by the summer we were close and getting closer. We would lie under the bridge on the way to Fellows Lake, listening to the creek babble among the rocks, and ride bikes along the back roads. We talked constantly and were together often, but we also fought a lot. The relationship was characterised by drama, and it began to seem that we fought more than we had good times. I lived on hope; hoping to get to the next calm period, to the next kiss, to the next happy laugh, and I coasted on the memories of the last good time. At the end of the summer, though, I told her I wasn’t Christian, and told her what my religious beliefs were.
After trying to convince me to become Christian, ending in a failed attempt to seduce me into converting, she told me it’d be better for the world if I was burned on a cross, that I was evil, and that she hated me.
It took seven months to convince most of the people I knew that I was not a monster. Megan had spread a plethora of rumours and lies about me, and combating them was exhausting. I kept pursuing her and, after that seven months, we got back together again, just in time for the summer. It was the end of our sophomore year, and it seemed like things were returning to normal. I went to debate camp and missed her terribly for two weeks, and after I returned we continued riding our bikes on the back roads and visiting the lake. I tied a gym bag to the front of my bike and stuffed a blanket in it that we would put on the ground to lie on (usually behind the junior high on some nature trails back there); the blanket didn’t get taken out and washed until I went to college. We got caught fooling around at my parent’s house one day by her father, who we had told we were going to a movie. He’d gone to the theater and become infuriated when he saw her car wasn’t there; came immediately to my house and took her home. It was funny at the time and still is; they didn’t believe her that we hadn’t had sex, and took her to a gynecologist, who told them the same thing, and they still were uncertain.
It’s a good/funny memory, though it was certainly stressful at the time. Megan was often depressed and talked about running away from home. We had many late evening conversations where I tried to talk her into staying. I guess I did pretty well, and she invited me to her church’s Vacation Bible School at the end of the summer. I was still rather anti-Christian, but I went and had a really good time. Jess, a guy I’d become friends with just the previous school year in chemistry, was there and I enjoyed the entire week. I didn’t see Megan as much as I’d have liked, which I found odd, but I was doing my best to become friends with her friends for her sake.
As it turned out, I didn’t see her much because that was the week she started cheating on me with Jess. A week or two after VBS, I took Megan to a movie and afterwards she told me she’d been thinking about breaking up with me, but now she wasn’t sure… I was always there for her when she needed me, and I was sweet and understanding, etc… I told her to do what she had to do, what would make her happy, and a few weeks later she said that we should take a break during the school year. I’d assumed she meant that, for our junior year, we’d take a break and get back together at the end of the spring semester. By the end of September, I discovered that she had been dating Jess since July, a month before she broke up with me.
That fall of 2001 and spring of 2002 (my junior year) was horrible in general, and I won’t recount it or all the loved ones and acquaintances who died, but suffice it to say that Megan and I were not on good terms, and my friendship with Jess ended when he began hating me. I never found out what she told him about me, but he despised me just as she grew to. Megan and I were both still in Speech & Debate, so there was a great deal of tension over the next two years, but I began to learn how to shrug it off by the end of the spring of 2002. I briefly dated a girl I had met my freshman year of high school that I’d been interested in for years, though I had pushed it away because I was happy (for a given value of happy) with Megan. Through this girl (named April, ironically), I met Jennifer, who started me going to church. My senior year was filled with apathy for school, distance from Speech and Megan and most of my peers, and becoming more involved with church and Jennifer.
Graduation came and went, and I was content that I’d never see most of these people ever again. But in November of 2003, Megan instant messaged me. Jess had just broken up with her because she cheated on him, and she needed to talk. I asked if I should call or come over, and she asked me to call. We talked until four in the morning, which was a bit stressful since I had to get up at six to drive to Chicago the next morning for a Model UN conference. She couldn’t believe how I had changed in the last two years that we hadn’t spoken much. I was Christian now, and active at a church and looking for a college ministry. She lamented that, if only I had been our sophomore year what I was now, maybe we’d have stayed together. I pointed out that she cheated on and left me, not the other way around, so we would probably have still broken up. Tearfully, she agreed, but we began mending the rift that had grown between us, and part of me entertained the hope that we’d someday get back together…
We talked regularly on the phone for two weeks until she started dating her next boyfriend. She didn’t answer my phone calls for several days, and then told me in unequivocal terms that she did not need me any longer and that she would call me when she did.
I’m such a tool.
That was four years ago, and I haven’t heard from her since except that she and her new husband, who was in first grade when I was in third and who was a close friend of mine in elementary school, would not be able to attend mine and April’s wedding. Suffice it to say that I wasn’t sure what would happen at the concert Saturday night, but it went well. I was afraid that Josh would hate me, that Megan would have filled his head with despicable lies the way she did with Jess, but he seemed OK. I saw Josh’s parents for probably the first time in ten years, and they were very pleasant and glad to see me as well. Maybe it’s all water under the bridge and maybe we’re OK now, just distant acquaintances, but all these memories came flooding back and I wanted to write them down.
I had forgotten what her voice sounded like (nasally and kind of annoying), and what her eyes look like. I’d forgotten her hair and her shoulders. And I was pleasantly surprised to discover that there are absolutely no lingering feelings, either positive or negative. The past is slipping away from me and, for once, I am glad. Let us move on. Let us be glad. Let us live tomorrow, rather than yesterday.
I gained a sense of closure Saturday night; not a magnificent or grandiose closure, like the penning of a final chapter, but more like a single period. It might be slight, but it is the ending. I am glad.