Remember the song about the man who saw his high school girlfriend in a grocery store and he waxed poetic about their relationship. The song has been remade hundreds of times; no, not literally, but figuratively. Everyone looks back at their past during troubled points in their life and yearns for a simpler time, or thinks about a lost love and wonders “what if”.
Those are precisely the reasons I have never joined any social networking sites; I have not wanted to be found by anybody wanting to reconnect with me, nor I them. I have never been curious about anybody from my past. I have lived a very cyclical lifestyle; aside from family that I am bound to by DNA, there is nobody in my life that was here 10 years ago; three people that were here 5 years ago, and only one that I speak to or see regularly.
If I had any desire to know people from my past, or they me, I am assuming we would have continued (or even started) a friendship while we were in high school, which is where I assume most of the connections on these sites begin.
However, due to a very recent career move, I was required to join several of these dreaded sites; I reluctantly agreed, but made no move to advertise my presence. I simply signed up and existed. All was well until approximately a month ago when I received a “chat” message from somebody:
“Wow, I loved your work on that piece.” Him
“Thank you. I appreciate you following.” Me
Mindless banter regarding my work.
“So, do you still have that ’57 Chevy you used to drive?” Him
A few minutes of stone silence on my end.
“Are you still there?” Him
“Yes, I’m still here.” Me
“Don’t you remember me?” Him
“No, not really. I apologize.” Me, completely clueless as to who I am chatting with.
“We used to date, in high school.” Him
“Oh. We did? I am so sorry. I guess I dated a lot.” Me
“You used to drive a ’57 Chevy BelAir. You lived in the ghetto, remember?” Him
Yes, I am thinking, I know who I am, who are you?
“We dated for like three months, junior year. I don’t remember why we broke up; but I remember making out like crazy, until my jaw was sore.” Him
“Oh, yeah, now I remember you.” Me, still having no clue, but trying to be polite.
The banter continued for a few hours that night; he told me how he was unhappy in his marriage with his wife of 10 years, how he had lost his passion for life, how life was basically dragging him down. He was nostalgic about our relationship and wondered about me all these years; he was happy to have finally found me and hoped I was doing well and was happy.
We ended our conversation that night wishing each other well; I told him that I hoped he would find peace in his marriage, but that I thought he deserved to be happy, I believe everyone does. He thanked me for some advice I gave him and we said good night.
For the next few weeks, we said hello in passing, wishing each other a happy holiday but nothing more.
Then, a few nights ago, the inevitable happened; he said hello and we chatted for three hours. He opined how unhappy he was with his wife, and asked when I would be in town again. When I told him I would be there next week for work, he asked if we could go to lunch because he wanted to say some things he never had a chance to say in high school.
I asked how his wife would feel; he said he did not care anymore about how she would feel. I told him I was in a committed relationship; he said it was all right with him, he still needed to say what was on his mind. My heart ached for him.
He remembered why we broke up; he admitted that he had been a virgin when we were in high school and that he feels I wanted more. I confessed that I was a bit “fast” in those days and gave myself away far too often and to too many people; like the tacky country music song lyricizes, “looking for love in too many places”. However, it made me remember him.
As we ended our conversation again, I realized how dangerous these sites and this new genre of communication can be. I longed to tell him that if he put those three hours of chat time into his marriage, imagine what he might get in return; but I did not want to judge or imply.
He is holding onto a memory of a girl that no longer lives; maybe she never did… But each time somebody sits behind their keyboard and holds out hope searching for a lost love from high school from 25 years ago, they can only be looking for memories. It is like pulling out a dusty old scrapbook and looking at photographs, the pictures are static, they cannot change; time has passed, things change, people change, but the photos are the same…