In the midst of everything that's falling apart in my life, I've been in the process of salvaging something that's very important to me: my friendship with Hopkins. Not in e-mail, but face-to-face.
It has its benefits and its pitfalls...every once in a great while, something creeps into the conversation that stings one or the other of us- and this time, it was my turn.
He's currently working in the travel industry, and the subject of Florida came up. Everybody still wants to go to Disney World, Universal Studios, and Busch Gardens, all centered around the Orlando area. Some folks still go to Daytona, and then there's the large contingent who still make the pilgrimage to Panama City. I felt the hair stand up on the back of my neck when it came up, and I wasn't sure why. I had never talked to him about my disastrous Senior Trip, but my stomach began churning and I could hear a little voice hissing, "Context!" in my mind.
As I concluded the story of that nightmarish trip, I said, "I don't remember, did you even go on your senior trip?" The moment the words hit the air and evaporated, I realized before he answered that I knew. I had just made a very concerted effort to forget.
"Yeah, I went; there was a lot of drinking. We went to the beach. There was an amusement park. That was about it," his voice trailed off.
An image flashed through my mind of my friend (and his classmate) Stacy sitting at the kitchen table at our house talking about the trip. I can't remember a word of it. I just remember telling him that I hadn't come to see the bus off, as I had done the three previous years when my friends left for Florida, because Hopkins had already said his good-byes- and then I burst into tears.
After Hopkins lowered the boom on me graduation night, I collected myself enough to make it to my room before losing my shit, but then I took to my bed for the duration of their trip with a wretchedness that would do Blanche DuBois proud. My mother forced me to attend meals and bathe, but I otherwise refused to do anything except listen to depressing music at high volume and try to melodramatically die from a broken heart in the way only devastated teenage girls can.
"We are going out tonight," Stacy snapped, "to hell with him, or Baltimore, that's where he's going to college isn't it? F--- that, and f--- him." He told me when he would be back to pick me up and departed, knowing that he might need dynamite to dislodge me from the house later.
True to his word, he showed up that night and pretty much dragged me out the door to points distant. We went to the next town over and cruised. We hung out in parking lots and talked to our friends. He told all of them his theory of what he thought Hopkins was and why (it was quite unflattering, because he was being righteously indignant on my behalf). The girls consoled me. The boys who knew me best told me I was a nice girl and I'd find somebody better. Somebody, and I don't remember who, told me to go home and start packing for college, because that would be my fresh start.
So it was, but I spent the whole summer in Bowling Green writing dozens of letters that I never sent, much as the pile I composed and never sent to Maryland over the course of the next academic year. While having him back in my life is a source of joy, it's best never to forget the pain, either. The two are inextricably bound together, no matter how much one believes in the green light.