When: 16 April 2004
Where: Neil’s house
Who: Several classmates
Weather: Warm, dry
When my classmate Neil invited the entire eighth grade class to his birthday party, I was thrilled. I was new last year, and not invited, but a year later my place was secure. The house was big, as was the yard, all built on an irregular lot at the foot of Mount Wilson. I yearned to have a house like that. But as I walked through the arbor, I saw someone I didn’t expect.
My friend Annie and I used to sit on the sidelines of the schoolyard every day at lunchtime. It was she who first coined the phrase “that’s so random,” referring of course to me. Also, she was very tall, and ended up being quite attractive while the others became orange weirdos.
So we were fairly close and it surprised me very much to find out she’d taken Neil as her boyfriend over Christmas break. They were even voted cutest couple by the yearbook committee– the devout Buddhist basketball star and the shy Jewish malcontent. Before the yearbook came out, they broke up. Annie, in the tradition of jilted women of all ages, got a short haircut and avoided talking about it.
When the news broke, everybody took sides. In a mindblowing instance of lack of sympathy or tact, I took Neil’s side (a) because I understood where he was coming from, (b) to demonstrate my masculinity after hanging out with girls all the time, and (c) to distance myself from whatever feelings I might have had for Annie. And none of this actually mattered in the long run because it was an eighth grade romance and who cares. I had only hurt myself.
Which is why I was surprised to see her there. Why I chose this moment to take a mental picture, I don’t know. But one day, all of this would return to haunt me.
Next: On reconnecting, and failure thereof