Twenty years ago or so I thought more about my old high school classmates and knew less about them than I do now. On Sunday I wrote an e-mail to a guy I kind of hung out with from time to time when I was a teenager. Had I not come across some information about him on the Internet, I’d have never considered it.
Twenty years ago had I been living in Washington it would have been a lot of work to find out about some of the congressional races in another state. Yesterday, however, remembering a name connected to a name in my past, I found out a former girlfriend’s husband is running for Congress. Not only that, some think he’s got a decent shot of unseating the Democratic incumbent. I don’t know him at all, but the woman he married was for a time one of my best friends.
I introduced her here as a former girlfriend, but in truth she was far more friend than girlfriend. We worked together at the college paper. Then a group of us went on D.C. internships at the same time. My roommate and sometimes friend had the hots for her. I tried to pretend I didn’t and told him to go ahead. I said that after I had tried to discourage him from it a few times. Finally I said “go ahead,” because I knew that’s what he wanted to hear, and at the time I didn’t think I was interested. Unfortunately, he only heard the encouragement without any of the nuance. Once we all got out to D.C. she and I talked and it was clear we felt more for each other than we’d let on. We decided to carry on in secret, but got busted holding hands in the TV room at the apartment complex we were living in. He didn’t take it well and I’m not sure I can blame him.
As for the romance, I would go in and out of interest in her, until a point where she’d given up on me, right when I decided I didn’t want to lose her. I spent much of the rest of the semester pursuing her. Things were hot and cold and I was my normal co-dependent self. While things were hot my roommate, Roger, pretended I didn’t exist. When things were cold he was as warm as any friend I’d ever had. The semester at the internship workplace was perfect. My life outside of there was awful. It came to a head St. Patrick’s Day weekend, when four of us went up to New York City.
It was three guys and her. She was the only one I could talk to. Roger wouldn’t acknowledge me at all and the other guy, Tom, was in an awkward situation. My sole comfort that weekend were the times I was alone with her. I’m pretty sure I remember talking to her about marriage while we walked around the city on Saturday night. She wasn’t interested, but I persisted. But Sunday was completely terrible. I decided it wasn’t worth all the stress to try to pursue her when she wasn’t sure she wanted me back and having my pursuit make it so there were moments I had no one to talk to. So after we got back to our apartment complex, I went to her place and told her I was giving up. Then I bawled.
He wasn’t afraid to squeeze her butt, but her mother wasn’t standing right there.
For about the next month we were nothing more than friends. It hurt, but Roger would speak to me again and I slowly got used to the idea of being no more than her friend. Then toward the end of our time there she came back to me. We had this agreement that when we said “good-bye” to each other I’d grab her butt and she’d grab mine, like Jack Nicholson and Shirley MacLaine did in Terms of Endearment. I chickened out, though, because her mom came to pick her up and I couldn’t do that in front of her mother.
I went home to California and she returned to school for a final semester. I worked construction and she finished her last few classes. I had plans to drive to see her. One night I called and she was an absolute snot to me on the phone, one of the few times I ever experienced her being anything other than wonderful. A few minutes later she called me back and apologized, but told me not to come visit. It was over. That moment I said “good-bye” in Alexandria, Virginia was the last time I ever saw her. I think I called her later when the Lakers won the championship to rub it in. I was still angry and pretended it was good natured ribbing, but she saw through it. I think that was the last conversation for a while.
I didn’t take that long to recover. I dated a couple of women that summer and another one the fall semester. Months later when I was again able to recall how good a person she was I wrote her a letter. I don’t remember at all the contents. I probably wrote something about wanting to still be her friend or some such sentiment. She called me late one afternoon, waking me from sleep after pulling an all-nighter to finish a communications law project. From then on we’d talk once in a while. We started as friends, dabbled in something else and last I spoke with her we were still friends.
The first day my first semester back I was sitting in my communications law class and Roger walked in. We hadn’t left D.C. on good terms with each other, because at the time the woman who shall not be named was with me again. But when he walked in he acted as though there had never been any animosity between him and me. He came and sat next to me and was as chummy as ever. He lived in the apartment complex next to mine and we ended up knowing a lot of the same people. I dated a girl who was friends with many of the guys from Roger’s hometown. Roger told them that I had encouraged him to after a woman and then went after her myself. The girl I dated asked me about it, and I told her it was true, then explained the context. I’m not sure it mattered.
My last semester I went back to D.C. at the invitation of Roger’s former boss to do Roger’s old job. I didn’t do anything all that well until the last three weeks. I wanted to get work there, but didn’t make it happen. My parents moved to Utah while I was away and I ended up there for far more years than I ever intended. The girl who was my friend and briefly my girlfriend married a guy she worked with. Now it appears he plans to run for Congress.
Roger died a few years later.
I have friends who went through a kind of ritual with their roommates if a former girlfriend mistreated one of them. They’d refuse to say her name. I’m not saying her name here, but for a different reason.
This entry led with me telling how I’d sent an e-mail to someone I probably never would have worried about had I not come across his name and had an easy way to contact him. A simple Google search and suddenly you can fill in blanks about names you barely remember. I don’t think I said anything incriminating here, but I don’t want someone to Google the candidate’s name or that of his wife and find this story, not now anyway. I’ll only inflict attention on people who deserve it or welcome it. It seems silly that I remember so much from part of my life more than 22 years ago. It’s more silly that I’d Google her husband’s name, but the Internet often satisfies my curiosity in finding out how people are doing. I can’t imagine not caring.