Monday morning. Tired and groggy. Breakfast, fire up my tablet and head over to my FB page.
The friend request logo glowed red, and curious as to whom it was, I tapped it.
Eyes opened and mouth dropped; there was a name out of my past; Jim Z.
Most of my childhood was friendless; yet I could say for a time I had a best friend and that was Jimmy.
He lived up the street from me, the only boy my age in the neighborhood. I have a vague memory of his mom coming over to welcome us when we moved in, and it seemed logical we be playmates. It was so long ago I don’t remember much what we did, but what I do remember was pleasant and out of the book of What Boys Did Back in the Day; we climbed trees, hung out in forts, biked through the woods, play-fished in the river. As time went on, however, I remember him starting to like things I particularly didn’t, but him being the only other kid on the street I cheerfully went along with whatever he wanted to do.
The cracks in our friendship grew wider when we entered different schools; him public, me parochial. All of a sudden he had a different set of friends and activities. I in my small school did not make any friends, and found myself spending less and less time with him.
Years and grades went by, and I became more and more a loner at my school. I had to ride the bus with the public school kids, so soon they knew I was a misfit too, including my friend. To this day I can feel the sting of betrayal; hearing him talk about me to his new guy friends over what a loser I was. When I heard that I knew the last scraps of our relationship were over, and in the resulting hurt and anger I resolved to never speak to him. Going forward I would not friend any boy; I would be an island, and while it would be lonely I would not get hurt like that again.
More years went by; we once again entered schools together at the regional high school. It was big place, and even though we still rode the same bus I don’t recall exchanging a single word or even eye contact. He started weightlifting and became one of those to be feared for his size, and I now went out of my way to avoid him even though I shot up far taller than he. High school ended; I went on to college and memory of him faded away.
Now my mom and his mom did keep a friendship. If they had any thoughts about our relationship dying they did not share it. As I became an adult and started a family I started hearing news from him though my mom. He had started a family too, and a big one right away as the second child turned out to be triplets. In pre-Facebook years, his mom kept my mom abreast of what he was up to, and I wondered if his mom did the same to him about me.
So now, over thirty years since I saw him, was his friend request staring at me.
Mixed emotions swirled over me as I accepted, thinking he would be just another face in the FB stream.
“Jimmy says you are emailing him now.” My mother said, who did not know much about FB. “I just accepted his friend request.” I replied coldly. “Well, he wants to get together with you.” That floored me, he, of all people, after so long.
Well, to bring this to a close, yes, this weekend we did meet. I resolved to put the old baggage behind me and just enjoy meeting him again, trying to remember the good times and not the hurt. Perhaps I had been wrong in the way I handled things; running away and cutting him off instead of facing him.
We looked at each other in disbelief, and shook hands. “Man, I can’t believe how you’ve changed”, he said “I remember you so skinny!” I replied ”You look awesome!” And he did, he was doing triathlons now and was in incredible shape for his, our age.
We spent a wonderful afternoon catching up on the last thirty years, careers, wives, kids. Gone was the kid I hated, there was a man I felt genuinely comfortable with, and who seemed to return the feeling.
Just this morning I saw him return the message I sent him the day after our meeting; how great it was to see him, and how I would love to pick his brain to get some fresh fitness advice. He replied he wished we lived closer so we could be friends again. Reading that I almost lost it, and even writing this now, feeling wells up inside me. Something deep, deep within has been healed, an old hurt redressed.