I can't believe the news today
I want to close my eyes
and make it go away
(twenty years ago)
"What do you mean you're going to miss your winter formal?"
"I mean, I'm not going because I wasn't asked. I didn't get to go last year because no one wanted to take me. Didn't go to the Snoball nor to the Prom. It's not allowed to stag it."
"But it's your senior year! You HAVE to go."
"I can't MAKE someone ask me, you know. It's no sweat. I can deal with it"
"You shouldn't have to deal with it" he was pissed.
We had known each other for a few years. Lived in neighboring towns, went to different schools. Both our fathers were heavily involved in soccer. They were good friends. His Dad coached me. His older sister played with me. He was always around at our games. We both became soccer referees. We officiated a number of games together. Often were paired up as linesmen in tournaments. He was always there. Around.
A few weeks later I called him up. "Listen, do you think your girlfriend would mind if you took me to the formal? I think I might want to go afterall..."
My friends had been ragging on me for not having a date and I was not feeling good about it at all. Yes, teen girls can be incredibly cruel at their friend's expense. Was fed up with the snide remarks. Plus for all my "not giving a fig about it", I really DIDN'T want to miss out on what was supposed to be one of the biggest deals of high school. It was my last chance. I didn't want it to slip away and become an "I wish I had..."
"Let me talk it over with her and I'll get back to you, OK?" I'm not sure what he said but she agreed. I have always been grateful to her for that. And to him for bringing me.
I almost didn't recognize him dressed in a suit. He looked so conservative, so sharp.
He was wonderful. Steady. Attentive. He got on well with my friends. He danced almost every dance with me. He showed everyone how lucky he thought he was and what someone else had missed out by not asking me. He was THE perfect date. At the end of the night, he walked me to the door and kissed me goodnight. Just the one kiss. Warm lips pressed briefly against mine.
"Thanks for bringing me, it meant a lot to me"
"Someone from your school should have asked you"
"I probably wouldn't have had as much fun"
He smiled, "I was happy to do it, Someone will ask you to the prom for sure now"
"maybe" I chuckled
I got the news today. My brother called to let me know. John was on a mission in the Afghan mountains. His helicopter was shot down. Flood of emotions went through me. We all have experienced them with the loss of a friend. Tears, anger, the why's. John was one of the good ones. The good ones are NOT supposed to be shot down out of the air like ducks on opening season. I am NOT supposed to open the LA times to find his picture beside the caption "United in Fight That was Their Last".
This is not the way it's supposed to be. His wife, a widow. His kids, fatherless. I am angry at the whole deal. It's a price of war. He chose this profession. He'll be remembered as a hero. He died for his country. And that's supposed to make it feel better?
I've not had contact with him in over fifteen years. Youthful friendships drifting apart as they do, each moving on to another stage in life. I hear his name and suddenly I am whisked back twenty years to a time when he helped me out when it meant the most to this wallflower. I recall how good he smelled that night, just like that. How much fun it was watching him prove to the others what they had obviously missed out on. How his quiet laughter filled the room beneath that cheesy disco ball. How grateful I was that he was my friend. I will always remember.