In the parking garage one night a while back, I ran into a girl I used to be friends with in high school. “Used to be friends with” sounds like we had some dramatic split, but that’s not how it went. We just used to hang out a lot junior year, and then we did it less, and eventually we never did it at all. We were walking in opposite directions in the garage and our eyes met as we passed. We both stopped and said hey and joked about how we always noticed each other walking by in the hallways when it was too late to say hello. And then she was like, “We should hang out,” and I was all, “Yeah.” But we never did. Because she never did anything and because I never did anything. Because I freaked out and had to analyze everything we ever said to each other or did.
Did we stop being friends because we lost what we had in common? We used to make an “underground literary magazine” together, and we were in the same really small English class junior year. We had fun together, but maybe once that class ended and we stopped making the magazine, we had no reason to chill anymore.
Maybe (most likely) it was me. I really hated a girl she was friends with our senior year, and I was very vocal about it. Also, when we were working on our literary magazine together, I was really controlling. We joked about it in meetings, but it’s now clear to me that I was a terror.
Maybe we just weren’t compatible on some fundamental level. We used to talk about how it was hard for each of us to read or understand the other’s social cues and emotions.
After careful analysis of every part of our interaction in the garage and all of the possible reasons for our not hanging out anymore, I have come to the conclusion that I have no idea what to think.
Over the past couple 24/7s, I’ve been caught up analyzing or talking about things I did in high school. You know how you’re supposed to gain perspective on things with time, and how tragedy is supposed to turn into comedy? That hasn’t happened to me—the feelings of embarrassment/humiliation/pain are just as fresh as if they’d happened yesterday. Like that time I asked someone I didn’t even know to Sadie Hawkins because I thought that might secure me a date for prom—I feel as shitty about that now as I did then. And it’s not like I’m gonna look back on these days any differently, because I haven’t stopped making the same old mistakes. I go back and read things I wrote for a senior year English class and am mortified by how terrible they are, but I’m still writing the same clumsy way.
Everything I did wrong then I’m doing wrong now, and everything that hurt then hurts now. I thought I’d forget about high school after graduation and make myself into a whole new person. Turns out I can’t. ♦