Monday, March 26, 2007


I had a friend for a couple years in high school who came to visit me right after I started college. He spent the weekend with me and I thought that it went well, although parts of it felt odd and stilted. I gave him my bed and slept on a mat on the floor. On the last night he was in town, we walked around downtown and then wound up sitting on the steps of a church across the street from campus. We talked for a long time about many different topics. I don't remember the specifics of the conversation as much as I remember the feel of the evening, but I do remember that we talked about how he felt like a brother toward me and how we would always stay friends even if we changed outwardly, because we were compatible at our cores in a way that couldn't change. The next day I walked him to the bus station and sat with him while we waited for his bus, which was an hour late. It felt awkward and silent and I didn't understand why.

He went home and told his girlfriend that it had been the worst weekend of his life and that I was incredibly annoying. I don't remember his exact words, but it was something about how if he had gouged his eyeballs out with dildos, it would have been less painful than spending the weekend with me. His girlfriend, apparently, thought that this comment was funny enough to merit posting on her blog. So she posted it. And I saw it the day after he left.

There is a whole complicated afterstory, but the upshot of the whole thing was that he informed me that he didn't want to be friends with me anymore but that if I felt like contacting him online sometime, I could feel free to do so. I tried once, a few months later, at which point it became clear that our friendship and our ability to remain in civil contact with one another were dead.

It's funny, because that was in 2002, over four years ago, and I'm totally different now, and I can even recognize what it was about me that irritated him so much, and I haven't even thought about him in years. But I was just browsing and I came across his poetry. Same name, and it's definitely him in the photograph. It was so startling and unexpected. And the most unexpected part was that it still hurt, even though I would have thought that I was totally over the whole incident, if I had thought about it at all. And his poetry was good. I'm not exactly a highly-qualified judge of poetry, but I would say it was more than just good.

It feels strange to identify so strongly with my 18-year-old self, although I am so different now than I was then. I am much more self-possessed and aware of things and I make people laugh and I am happy and I feel vital, full-colour, in a way that I did not in 2002. And the sharp criticism that was issued to me when I was 18 would be more or less irrelevant to the way that I am now. But the hurt is still there, the connection to those strong feelings of loss and inadequacy.

I turned 23 on Friday, and over the weekend I read a letter that I wrote from myself at 13 to myself at 23. It was dated July 1997. The letter itself was three typed pages. It also included a photograph of me, a photograph of my best friend, a list of the addresses of some publishers that I had found, two (mostly terrible) poems that I wrote, a couple of baseball cards from my then-favourite teams (the Baltimore Orioles and the Los Angeles Dodgers), a copy of the magazine in which I had an article published when I was 12, and a copy of the most recent issue of YM magazine. (For those of you who may not be familiar with YM, it was one of the premier magazines for teenage girls in the '90s, and one of the three teen magazines to which my sister subscribed, along with Seventeen and Sassy [the precursor to Jane magazine]. The name now appears to have been purchased by and somehow incorporated into TeenVogue, as the YM website offers subscriptions to TeenVogue.)

It was more or less impossible for me to relate to the girl who wrote that letter. The letter was interesting, and it was neat to find out that I have more or less fulfilled all the goals I set for myself when I was 13, and it was funny to see this 13-year-old girl stating her forceful opinions about politics and Paula Jones and the environment and what kind of dog her adult incarnation should own. But it didn't feel like me who wrote it, in that I didn't really recognize myself in the pages, other than it being similar to other writing of mine that I still have from that period.

I wonder if in five or six more years, I won't feel any pain or hurt when I think about bad things that happened to me when I was 18. Really, I wonder if I will still relate to my 18-year-old self when I'm 30, or if I will feel as distanced from 18 years old then as I do from 13 years old now. Or if there is some sort of fundamental difference between being 13 and being 18 that causes 18 to imprint itself and its feelings on your brain more fully, in a way that will last forever.

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