Back in the day, families didn’t move around like they do now. Most of the kids I entered elementary school with graduated from high school right beside me 12 years later. If a new kid came into a class any time in between, he or she was a novelty. Now, every kid wears the crown of new kid at school at some time or another – many more than once. I suppose it builds character and self sufficiency – starting all over in a strange place where you know no one – but a new kid loses that sense of “I knew you when” that bonds the rest to a place, a time and a group of people who watched each other transform from children into entry-level adults.
Bill was one of my guy friends from high school, and a new kid. He was also the only person I knew whose parents were divorced. He lived with his mom. Bill was easy to talk to, super smart and had a dry sense of humor that made me laugh. But as I was quick to point out to my girl friends, “He’s just a friend.” At the time, I was carrying the torch for a shy baseball player who barely noticed me. A teenage girl only seems to want what she can’t have.
In tenth grade Bill asked me out. He didn’t have his driver’s license when he suggested we to go together to a special presentation one night at the school, so his mom drove us and sat in another section of the auditorium during the show. Even if Bill may have been a bit embarrassed, I think of that night as my first date, and Bill as the first guy to ask me out.
As seniors, Bill and I were asked by our English teacher to collaborate on a short story. I don’t recall if it was for a writing contest or extra credit. Earlier in the semester, I had written a spooky tale called “At the Top of the Stairs” and Bill had written – well, I don’t remember what he wrote. Anyway, we gave it a shot but would get side tracked, talking about random subjects and the great collaboration ended before it began. We were a bit shy around each other by then.
Graduation came and went. We both went away to different colleges. I found a boyfriend who was still my boyfriend when I came home that next summer. Then out of the blue, Bill calls. Asked if I’d like to go to dinner and a movie. I told him I had a boyfriend. He said “Well, I have a girlfriend, too. It would just be two friends getting together.” I still said no.
So why am I asking myself – 40 years later – what if I hadn’t?