To Be Continued
Because in life sometimes, there’s more to the story.
I sent her a text message this morning. The response I got back from her mentioned that she was thinking of texting me after she had finished breakfast. The two of us had similar thoughts, but I had beaten her to the punch. What I find really cool about that is the fact that we can express that to each other now. There was a time when that was not always the case.
I had graduated the fifth grade and was feeling sad about leaving my school and going to a new one. I felt like I was growing too fast and didn’t want everything to change as quickly as it was. On the way to the grocery store a few weeks after the school year ended, my mom was trying to make me feel better about growing up and trying to help me understand that I couldn’t change things back to how they were. I wasn’t with that.
I was headed toward the exit of the Lucky’s grocery store with my parents when I heard someone call my name excitedly. I turned around to see a girl running toward me. It was someone I hadn’t seen since the summer of 1990. The young lady I married at the swings was as tall as me, or she always was, but it felt more noticeable. I remember thinking about how long her body seemed. We were about 10 years old then; we were growing. We embraced each other in a tight hug and began quickly catching up. Our parents were talking with an occasional chime-in from from us before they left us alone to talk for a moment.
I remember how excited she was to see me. I was too, but it was all a little overwhelming, I couldn’t fully process the moment at the time. The conversation was a bit of a blur, I remember something that sounded like her family was moving away, or thinking about moving away, there was talk of what middle schools we were going to and what people were up to.
Soon, we said our goodbyes and exchanged well wishes for a great remainder of the summer and a hope to see each other again. We hugged once more and then she ran off to catch up to her parents. I stood near the automatic opening doors watching her jog away and began wrestling with the feelings of simultaneous happiness and sadness of the moment. On the ride back home, I was even more against the notion of the future. I didn’t want to grow older and not see my dear person, my first friend, anymore. But, as can and does happen in life sometimes, both of these things happened.
Sometime during 1996
Eighth grade. I made some new friends and had adjusted relatively well to my new school. That was all well and good, but I still missed my person. I had wondered about her in spaces throughout my time in middle school, some days it hit me heavier than others. I would beg my mom every so often to take me to the old home where my first wife used to live, but she always said no, trying to explain to me that the family that used to live there was gone. Eventually, she gave in and took me there after picking me up from my friend’s house after school one day.
I don’t know what I expected to find. I guess I hoped that I would knock on the door and she would be there. I knew deep down that she might not be, and she wasn’t. I think I knocked on the door several times, but no one answered. I love my mom for indulging me, but she provided little comfort. I suppose I had to see for myself. It was a quiet ride back home that day.
Sometime during 2001, ‘02
I was 18 and in my first year of college. Every so often I continued to think about that young lady I last saw at the Lucky’s grocery story eight years before. I wanted to know where she was and how she was doing. I felt I was at an age where I could begin actively doing something to try and change the situation.
The internet was a new thing in my home at that time. We had a dial up connection through America Online (remember that?), and at some point I thought I would use this new technology to find her. So, I hit one of those People Finder sites, like US Search and spent some time trying to locate her. After a while, when I found what I thought was a possible match, I paid the fee for the full address information and set to work on writing a letter. I mailed it to the address and after about a week or so, the letter was returned to me. Rats.
Sometime during 2005, ‘06
College was almost over and MySpace was getting pretty hot. I resisted this social media platform for a while before giving in. The selling point for me? Coming across people I hadn’t seen in years. That meant an easier and free way to possibly find the one person I had carried with me since the end of elementary school.
I set up an account and immediately got to searching for her. Profile photos were the easy way to tell if you had found who you were looking for, right? However at some point, I started to get a little worried. I wondered if she still looked the same? We were young adults now. There was a lot that had transpired that we missed in each other’s lives. Did she have crazy piercings or markings on her face? How would I know which search result was the right one if her picture wasn’t there? Some people used cartoon characters or some other image as the profile picture and I wouldn’t be checking those ones. What if she had some weird screen name that would not at all be clear as to who she was? Did she even have an account?
I started finding results that looked promising. There were only a handful that could have possibly been right based on the age and current state where they lived. There was also the possibility of her living in a different state that came up in some of the results. The tricky bit was, only a few had the real name listed, but it wasn’t spelled how I knew it was. Different people; cross off the list. The next ones, a smaller number, surprise surprise, didn’t have a photo of a real person and the real name wasn’t listed. I thought of sending a message to those accounts to see if one of them was who I was looking for, but I think back then you had to add someone to do that. So I gave in and stepped away from it that day.
I ultimately went back a few months later and searched again several times, but had no luck. I kept seeing more or less the same results. I had a fleeting feeling about one of those results, the profile had a picture of a cartoon penguin-duck looking character. The age was right and the city was about a few hours away from me, but there were absolutely no photos available of any family members that I might recognize so, I dropped it. MySpace was a bust.
I had been out of college for less than a year. I was 23 now and trying to figure out what was next for my life since I hadn’t gotten into the grad schools I had applied to. One day, I was hit again with the urge to try and search for my long-lost childhood person. I didn’t use MySpace this time. I went back to the online People Finder sites. I found a possible match and paid for the full information again. Then I set to work writing another letter. I mailed it out and waited. This letter also came back to me, but there was one difference this time: a forwarded address was noted on the envelope. I figured it couldn’t hurt to send the letter there and see what came back.
It took several days, but one night while at home watching television, I was checking my email and saw a familiar name in my inbox with the subject line that read: “Long time, no see”.