2018 Jun 19

15 minutes: I haven't seen you for 50 years, but

I feel like it was just yesterday we were playing dodgeball on the school lawn.

You were surprisingly good at it. I wasn't.

It was one of those days when everyone was picking on the unpopular girl. I had no idea why she was considered unpopular or how she got that label, but once she got that mark, it seemed everyone was expected to pick on her. Even my brother.

You refused to join them though. 

When the unpopular girl became the target of the balls, you protected her. You caught the ball my brother had thrown and threw it back at him, taking him out of the game.

I was in awe. Not just because you dared to swim against the social tide, but you were good enough to succeed. Even if I had wanted to take your place, I was never good enough at dodgeball to protect anybody. Not even myself.

I think that was my primary memory of you. Someone who was willing and able to stand up for principle.

Another memory I seem to have was that one time you threw your arm over my shoulder, asking "do they know what a brain you are" or something. I don't quite remember the circumstances. But I do remember being surprised at your friendly familiarity. Maybe I was too reserved, too shy, to imagine myself doing the same thing. I don't know.

I didn't see you after the sixth grade, when my family moved to Syracuse just a few months into the school year. But you were probably the classmate I remember most from those days. Perhaps having a bigger impact on the direction of my life than any other student at the time.

And now, all these years later, what do we have left to say? We're little more than strangers now.