Wednesday, July 9, 2008

A memory

I am currently reading The Myth of You and Me. I started it this morning, and it got me to thinking back to high school. Mostly, my senior year. I don't know why I was remembering that year, maybe because there was so much freedom for me that year. I felt so very grown up and anxious to get out of Chehalis and on with real life. I had 2 boyfriends that year, neither lasting that long. One to baseball player named Brandon and the other to a boy 3 years older freshly out of the Navy named Justin. And it is Justin that I was thinking about this morning.

He was the older brother of Jason, a boy my age who I had gone to school with forever. His younger sister, Amber, was 2 years below us. Justin saw my picture at my friend, Maggie's house, and asked about me. He called me out of the blue and asked me on a date.

Now, even though Chehalis is tiny, and I had known him since I was a freshman (even attending his graduation/going off into the Navy party my freshman year), I had really only known of him. I never had talked to him or hung out with him with less than 5 people around.

Anyway, we ended up dating. He came to my work on Valentine's Day and brought me a single flower, a carnation I think. I was very touched, even though a bit pissed because, let's face it, every girl likes getting that stuff at school so everyone can see, right. But still, flowers are flowers.

We dated for 2 months, I think. I befriended his sister in that time, and she and I lasted longer than my relationship to her brother did. She was even a bridesmaid in my first wedding. Her dad videotaped it for me. He had a great family, great parents, great siblings. His brother and I hung out a lot, and I like to think I kept the peace between both the boys and their sister. They were so mean to her, and I really tried to stop that. Not just because she was my friend, but because they really did it just because, not for any real reason.

We broke up for no reason. We just stopped calling each other. But I still hung out at the house and we were still friendly. There were no hard feelings. It was like what we had had just changed to friendship.

Eventually, I got married, he got engaged to a girl I had always known as the annoying younger sister of a girl I had to gone to school with since preschool. They were set to get married the following summer after I got married.

I had just gotten back from Eugene, Oregon, saying good-bye to my grandmother who was in a coma and dying. I think I had been home a few days when I came home to a message on my answering machine from Melissa, asking if I had heard the news about Justin. I called her, got no answer, and immediately called Amy. Her husband was good friends with Justin, so I was sure she was going to tell me him and Tiffany had eloped. Gossip like that is what small towns thrive on. But I felt funny inside, like it was something bad.

Justin had died in a car accident, coming home from a bachelor party, on a small country road. A freak accident, he simply had skidded off the road and gone through a fence. His seat belt snapped his neck. His seat belt killed him. But had he not been wearing it, he would have been thrown from the car and died anyway.

I attended the funeral with my then new husband, crying for both him and my grandmother. I have never seen a church so full of people. He was well known around town and loved by everyone. That night, his family had a huge bonfire, attended by everyone, I swear, that had been at his graduation party a mere 7 years before. We laughed and reminisced about him, telling stories that we could laugh about.

Two days later, I went to Yakima, to attend my grandmothers memorial service. It was probably the hardest week of my life.

So today, reading my book, my mind flashed to an apple orchard with a pond in the dark. The only light coming from the moon. Justin and I are sitting in his truck, talking. Talking about what I planned to do after school was over. What he wanted to do now that he was out of the Navy. We kissed. We just sat and watched the night.

I've dreamed about him over the years. Always in that orchard. We just talk about things. My kids, his family. I find it odd that I can miss someone so much that wasn't in my life for that long.

I got up and googled him. Just to see what is out there about him. Google is amazing with finding people. But there wasn't anything. I tried every combination with his full name. Nothing. I am saddened by this. That someone who was so well loved in our town could be forgotten. Erased.

Maybe this will keep him remembered.


Crankyputz said...

That was a beautiful post...

Last night I heard a quote, that went along the lines of You exist to remember its importance...

Crankyputz said...

Here is the right quote:

No, it does not exist for you. You exist for it. You have come because it exists.

TheBirdman33 said...

That is a very nice story. I think it is wonderful that he had such an impact on you and the rest of the town.

I'm sorry that such sweet memories have to come from such a bad place.