11.11.2011

Sometimes I Forget Who I Am and I Do Semi-Cool Things

When I was in high school, I knew this boy named Chris. As I've said before, I grew up in a pretty small town. There were maybe four or five elementary schools that fed into my middle school and my middle school fed directly into my high school. So in about 6th Grade, I had met most of the people I would be going to school with for the rest of my adolescence. But Chris was a transfer during seventh grade. I can't remember from where--I think his family had moved here from the next town over. He fit in right away and was always around, but usually on the periphery of my school activities.

In high school, Chris and I had a lot of classes together, but we had never really spoken. He was in all the honors and advanced classes like me, but he also wrestled and I think he even played football. He was like the poster child for being well-rounded. He was also pretty cute, in that adorable nerdy-boy-next-door-who-also-plays-sports-and-will-probably-run-the-space-station-someday kind of way. Completely untouchable by the likes of me, especially once he started dating a sweet girl named Allie who could have easily have been a movie star.

And it wasn't that I liked him, per se. But he was a good guy, smart and funny and likable. Every once in a while, he would catch my attention and I would think, "Yeah, he's the kind of guy I want" or even "He'll probably grow up to be the kind of man I'd marry." More observation than crush, more appraisal than interest. Though I wouldn't have minded being his friend.

But I didn't have guy friends in high school. I barely had girl friends. I always wanted to be a part of an awesome group that teenage television sells you every weeknight and that my siblings seemed to find so effortlessly. But, on the rare occasion that I got invited to hang out with an already established group of people, I would feel like an outsider and would quickly become a wall-flower. I tended to have one friend at a time, a best friend. Or even a few at a time, who were unconnected to each other. I did better one-on-one (okay, so rereading that makes me realize that maybe I'm just an attention whore).

Anyway, somewhere during junior year, Chris and I started being paired up occasionally. In Spanish, we were in a group together, with the assignment to write and perform a skit in Spanish. As much of an overachiever as he was, his Spanish was absolutely horrible. Oh, he knew all the words by memory and used the correct grammar, but it was like listening to a robot. A robot with a Canadian accent. Which was doubly impressive because Chris didn't have an accent when he spoke English... I'm off track. Hold on.

Oh, yes. So he and I were spending more time together. We were chemistry partners for a while. I helped him edit a few of his English papers. He tried to help me learn calculus--it went...okay. We were even a part of a calculus study group that met at our friend Carlie's house. Even in all of this, we weren't really friends. Not the kinds of friends that saw each other outside of school or talked on the phone or anything. Just, study buddies, if that. We were even sometimes competitors, but not in an adversarial way.

But near the end of senior year, we were seeing even more of each other. It quickly became clear that he was going to get Valedictorian and I was not (stupid Chemistry class!), which was something I had always wanted. But after he wrote his speech for graduation, he brought it to me all self-conscious and wanted to know what I thought. I thought that was kind of sweet and I can't resist helping pretty much anyone. So I helped him edit it and polish it. And I failed at talking him out of the three redneck references, including "Git Er Dun!" as the closing line of the speech. This broke my heart a little, but I healed.

It was around this time that we found out he had gotten a prestigious internship that I had also applied for. Instead of being jealous--oh, that's a lie. I was completely jealous. But when he told me he got it and he was so excited, I didn't want to come off as a totally self-centered jerk. So, in order to say something, I casually suggested that he send me e-mail updates. I told him it would be the next best thing to actually going. Inside, I was thinking that was the worst way to combat the jealousy, but I never thought he'd actually do it.

But he did. A few days after graduation, I opened my inbox and saw a long e-mail from him, detailing all of the fun things he was getting to do and the big names he was getting to meet. And I wasn't jealous, strangely. It was awesome to hear about it and I wrote back with more questions. We wrote on and off for his whole internship. He left the internship a few days early, because he was headed into Plebe Summer at the Naval Academy. That's right, he was smart, cute, athletic, and IN UNIFORM. He was like the perfect man!

Once he got to the academy, I figured I wouldn't hear from him again. Then, one strange summer afternoon, I got a call from his mother. She said he wouldn't have Internet access until the end of the summer, but she knew we had been writing and thought it might be nice for him if I continued writing "the old fashioned way." She cautioned me not to put my first name in the return address or he might be teased for getting mail from a girl. I was tempted to do that anyway... But I never did. We wrote letters a few times and on one of his rare breaks, in which he got to use the phone, he called me.

It was a strange and uncomfortable conversation, since we hadn't ever spoken on the phone before and things that I found so easy to write (just my day-to-day activities, nothing super personal) seemed weird when spoken. But he told me about the things he was doing and how it wasn't as difficult as he had imagined, but also harder in other ways. Before we hung up, he gave me his new Naval Academy e-mail address and we said we'd keep writing. But then the e-mail didn't work right at first and we never really got back into it.

And I never heard from him again. I would see him on Facebook sometimes and message him that way, but he didn't respond and I didn't have anything that interesting to say. Or anything that I wanted all his friends to read on his wall. So we lost touch, like we would have done right after graduation, had it not been for our common interest in that internship.

But every once in a while, I think about Chris and our "summer of letters" (probably a dozen e-mails and a handful of letters, just in case I've overstated how involved this actually was). I think about that time and I wonder WHAT THE HECK?

That was so not me! I was NEVER friends with boys. I am shy and kind of reclusive and not at all the kind of girl who does things like that. I don't write letters to acquaintances or TALK TO THEM ON THE PHONE about the things I wrote to them in letters. What the heck, self? Who were you that summer? And then I think: why can't you be like that all the time? Maybe you would have a relationship right now if you weren't so "shy and kind of reclusive and not all the kind of girl who does things like that."

And during the time I was writing those letters, I never once had this overwhelming feeling of needing him in my life or anything. But the hopeless romantic side of me would butt in occasionally with, "Wouldn't this make a great love story? Started as friends, wrote letters all summer, fell in love, and got to tell this story to your grandchildren?" But even when I was saying that to myself, I knew it was ridiculous and that I didn't really like him like that. But I would also find myself doing interesting things, just to have something to say to him. Or I would suddenly check a petulant attitude, because I would think about how it would sound to Chris through a letter and didn't like what he would read. And I would sometimes wonder at myself, at the fact that I was involved with something so...different, but I kept going, seeing where it took me.

A few years later, I got into that same internship, as a college intern instead of a high school intern. And it was a GREAT experience--better than it was for the high schoolers, because I had so much more responsibility and freedom. And I thought of a few of the stories he had told me. But mostly? I just enjoyed the experience and rarely thought of him.

Now, years later, I think about him about once a year or so. I think about those letters and how out of character it was for me to write them. And I wonder what he's doing, And then I remember he got married a few years ago. I saw the pictures in my newsfeed on Facebook. She's lovely and tiny and perfect for him. And I remember noting, at the time of his wedding, that I had no feelings of jealousy or regret or anything like that. I wasn't even particularly happy for him (other than what is usual and customary), because aside from a few letters and one phone call, I really didn't know him at all. And then, when I would think of him again, I would have to remind myself that he got married and graduated from the academy and is some kind of aeronautical engineer (come to think of it, I'm not even sure if that's what he does), not a boy on his way to an internship and Plebe Summer.

Today is just such a day. For some reason, today is a Chris Day. And since he was on my mind, I thought I would tell you guys this story. A story that never goes anywhere and doesn't have a happy ending (or a particularly sad one either). But also a story that reminds me of the things I can do if I just let go of my fear or hesitation or limitations and just live in the moment, just see where things take me. That is what a Chris Day is really about. Wishing and hoping I can find a small part of the girl who wrote those letters. And reminding myself that interesting things are available all the time, if I can just take the opportunity when it presents itself.

I wonder if anyone else has an occasional Chris Day or if this is some weird phenomenon with just me. I mean, my story is kind of lame (most people would not be stunned by my completely normal and probably pathetic letter-writing behavior), but it's my story. And I'm sure you have one of your own. So tell me about your Chris Days.





Today's Word Count: 0 (because I write at night)
Monthly Total: 18,065

4 comments:

  1. I SOOOOOO have Chris days. Except I call them Kevin days. I couldn't really put it as eloquently as you have put it here, but he was a good friend in high school, we sort of lost touch, yada yada. We even still live in the same town, and every few years we'll say "Hey! We should hang out!" and we swap phone numbers (again) but we're both not phone people, so we never call.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Sarah Pearson11/12/11, 2:50 AM

    Simon. My day is Simon day.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Right? It's not like some epic love story that I missed out on or anything. It was just so out of character, but it was fun! And I'm terrible at keeping in touch, which makes this both surprising and also predictable. ;)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Oh, man... Yes! I have those days, mine are Shane days, only... I did a bunch of out-of-character stuff, but mostly stuff I wish I'd never done, and never acted like that and it makes me cringe, but I still sometimes wonder what he's doing with his life, and his wife, and his baby (maybe more than one, I don't know)... I think about telling him that we're having a baby, not that it matters, but... I can't seem to talk to him without losing my mind and trying to undo all the things I said so many years ago, things that truly DON'T MATTER now, but I'm embarrassed that I ever said them/behaved that way, and the more you try to fix stuff like that the worse it gets...

    SO really, not at all like your Chris days, except for the mild case of "what-ifs"

    ReplyDelete