Think back, a long time back, to when you were a 13-year-old dweeb, even if you were cool. Because no one is ever really cool when they are 13. In our hearts, in our minds–in reality–we were all awkward as hell.
I was cool, but then again, I was so not. I know this. I not only accept this. I celebrate this, as so often I feel so many of those 13-year-old feelings at an age when I should not.
What’s very cool beyond the fact that I hung with the cool crowd that collectively was cool even as every crowd member most certainly and individually doubted their coolness, is that I still keep in close touch with many of the folks who dreaded sweaty armpits, unkempt hair, parents in the way, and the host of all other horrors that could occur–and always did–during the seven hours in which we were held prisoners in the brick-and-mortor compound known as “Junior High School.”
That’s right, Junior High School. Middle School as a concept, much less a reality, didn’t exist in those golden olden days. It was Junior High and nothing more. We were simply and merely the afterthoughts of our older brothers and sisters who’d fought their own awkward ways through their early teens. Our very survival depended on keeping acne breakouts to a minimum, avoiding the gym showers, and in the close-in D.C. suburbs, wearing Peter’s jackets if you were a boy and anything Ladybug along with a silver circle pin if you were a girl. We straightened our hair with clothing irons because flat irons had not been invented, and if that didn’t work, we rolled our locks around beer and soda cans to get a sleek and straight look right out of the pages of “Seventeen” and “Tiger Beat.”
Tonight I find myself keenly remembering every nuance and subtlety of those days that decades can never erase. Tonight I emailed and called girlfriends in much the same way as I passed notes in math class. Do you remember him? Do you still know him? He’s showing up on my Keys doorstep in 48 hours. Yep, he actually took me up on my open invitation to visit me in the Keys, as I wish all of you would. Yep, I’m kind of nervous. Yep, I’m kind of excited.
“He was so nice,” answered one. “He had some great parties,” answered another. “You’ll be fine, and so will he,” agreed one more from those days so long ago.
And so it is I find myself frantically cleaning and vacuuming my about-to-be-foreclosed-upon beautiful little home in hopes that at least I can welcome this long-lost-I-think-I-remember-him friend who needs a break as much as I need a friend from a shared past that only those who lived it, through it, can really understand.
And so it is that my Keys girlfriends are giggling and anxious about this unexpected development in my quiet life. And so it is that I am confounded by the prospect.
With luck, I won’t break out in nuclear-sized pimples and my life will seem together and calm and good even if it isn’t always that way. Even if I still straighten my hair and hope for the best.
With luck, this visit will be easy and wonderful, even if this is only a quick visit from a long-ago friend from a long-ago-life that harks back to long before our happy and not-so-happy marriages, before our heartbreaking vulnerabilities and grown-up toughness, before all the other adult angst we’ve collected over so many decades. Before we knew anything. Back when we knew it all, and all was possible.
Can’t wait to meet you again–or is it for the first time–my junior high pal. Sometimes you just have to shake up your life and live it. If only for a weekend.