September 2010 Archives

The Melody

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I have this friend. This former friend. This 18 years ago we were friends-friend, Chris. I think about him a lot.  We went to church together. That's where we met. I wish I could say that we introduced ourselves and became fast friends. But the truth is, I was hesitant and he was persistent. He simply weaseled his way into my life by being so damn nice and funny. I didn't think I needed him, but I was wrong.

When we were 15 and 16 respectively, we used to pretend we were married so we could go test drive new cars. When the Dodge Daytona came out, I sat in the driver's seat at the lot on 29th street while he told the salesman, "She makes the decisions. I'm just along for the ride." They laughed like frat boys and I rolled my eyes. I didn't even have my learner's permit yet.

Chris was my best male friend. We both honestly valued what we had, the way we had it. We never kissed, never shared a romantic moment the way lovers do. He dated and I dated. And we critiqued each others dating decisions.

I was cranky with Chris. I let my foul moods show because they didn't trip him up at all. He was an optimist, always smiling, always thinking the best of me even when I didn't. Unlike all the other guys I knew, Chris required nothing from me but a good laugh, a little time.

A lot of that time was spent in the car. We lived about 20 minutes apart. When he had to drive somewhere, he'd call me and I'd ride along. We'd play music and talk. Once, he showed up at my house and told me he had to play me a song. It wasn't like him to specifically pick one song and reserve it for my listening pleasure. I got In the car and on came Robert Plants "Mood For A Melody". I sat there, dumbfounded watching Chris sing along. No embarrassment, no restraint.

When I finally did get my driver's license and a car, Chris was standing there the day I shut my entire right hand in the door. I had just bought a waterbed after remodeling my bedroom. I sat there on my new grey carpet with ice on my hand while he put together the bed, smiling at my every complaint.

One summer we went shopping at Crossroads Mall to get Chris some Dating Jeans since I had deemed his current pants as part of his problem in getting girls. He tried on at least six pairs. Each trip in the dressing room got us more hysterical because, apparently, I had some very high requirements of jeans. Fearing the saleslady at Dillards was going to throw us out, we bought the least offensive pair and left.

Toward the end of high school I had a particularly difficult break-up with a boyfriend, so I spent more time with Chris, ditching school, going to his track meets and eventually, attending his junior prom with him. When he fell during a race one afternoon, I ran onto to the track as if his life depended on it, which, of course, it didn't. I specifically remember being angry at myself that day, because I cared about him so much.

I was with him the first time I got drunk. We went "fishing" with our friend Tony. Just sat by the lake and drank cheap beer, staring at the stars He popped in on all my summer jobs. He bought me roses, and during my 18th birthday party he sat there on my living room couch with the guy I had a crush on for six years.

Finally, the time came when Chris introduced me to a girl he had been dating that he felt he was in love with. I was seriously involved with someone myself and I definitely wanted Chris to be happy. But if you think it's tricky to gel with the spouse of your best friend, just imagine if your best friend is of the opposite sex. The chances of you losing that friend or the friendship drastically changing forever are very high.

Thankfully, I had no problems with the girl Chris chose. My biggest requirement was that she loved him, wholeheartedly. And, obviously, I needed her to love him more than I did. Check. Check. He married the girl and I married my guy.

But that didn't stop my fears being realized. I wish I could explain right here what happened. I almost wish I could tell you that I did something stupid so I could at least have more of a story. The fact is, one day Chris was my friend and the next, he was gone.  The details are, at best, confusing. But something was severed. Broken.

18 years later and I still can't get past it. There was a time, I think, when I tried to believe it was no big deal, that I was doing him some sort of favor by staying clear. Like I was a martyr, all "Let It Be" and crap. But now... now I just feel sad about it... confused and wishing things were different.

I tell the story because, with Chris being on my mind more and more, I wonder what it is that makes us, as humans with long term memory, believe that people can be cut out of our lives and forgotten? I'm not able to do it, even when I wish I could. For me, it seems like a lot of energy, maintaining a story that just doesn’t add up. I can talk a lot of shit about how someone is gone, but it doesn’t make me stop thinking about that person, especially if they made a difference (good or bad) in my life.

Is it taboo to say that we still think about someone from our past if that person could, in anyone’s imagination, be linked to us in a passionate or romantic way? Wouldn’t want to hurt the current husband, girlfriend or lover. There was a time in my life when I didn’t understand jealousy but those days are over. My insecurities are alive as anyone’s. But is that who we are, a people who cater strictly to our fears and suffocate the good that can come of a relationship such as the one that Chris and I had? 
What about the former romantic relationships? Am I the only one who believes that those relationships don’t have to end but they can evolve into friendships that are healthy and valuable to our relationships with current partners?

One of my favorite songwriters, Jim Bianco said:

You don't choose the memories that stay with you all your life
You think you do but they choose you and then they hold on tight

That’s where I’m at these days. Determined to let those memories mean something more, floored at their value. Wishing you would do the same.