Some of you may have noticed on my microblogstream (Twitter, Jaiku, etc.), a few posts about getting in touch with my high school sweetheart again. It was very random and ironic since the night before I happened to be doing a typical guy-thing by Googling ex-girlfriends. Although, I evolved my technique that night by moving from Google to Facebook. Lo' and behold, there I found my girlfriend and, really, my best friend from high school. I looked at her picture, and the fact that she had a new last name (cringe!), and decided not to send her a friend request. She partially represented my past on the east coast (where I once again live). It is a past I have large, bad memories of. Not that my childhood was particularly rough, it was just something I was really quite happy to move on from.

Seeing all of these familiar sites, living in New York, is very surreal. I was excited at first--seeing my first A&P supermarket in about two decades was a strange thrill. Passing the sign pointing to the mall I was a rat in brought warm waves of nostalgia to my heart. For some reason, though, when I got to Manhattan-proper, those waves of nostalgia were replaced with much more negative feelings. It felt like regression, now--like I was "falling" back, instead of simply making a mature, adult choice to move with my wife to the Big Apple so she could pursue a career on Broadway.

The negative feelings got worse when I realized I'd likely have to take a dayjob I really didn't want to take. I remember, when I was in high school, my step-dad was out of work for a while. I couldn't understand why he couldn't just get a job someplace. I understand now a bit more of what he was going through. I'm not an old man (and neither was he), but I do feel like I shouldn't be doing certain types of jobs at my age--like retail--like temping--like anything entry-level. So, this added insult to injury.

Then throw in CRAZY heat and CRAZIER humidity (and us not having an air conditioner), a landlord who decided the first 6 months we paid up front would cover the last 6 months instead (eventually we worked it out), on top of being in a huge, unfamiliar city (along with a few other things I won't even go into) and you've got a recipe for one depressed ThePete.

Then, there she was--looking a bit older, but still beautiful--not too different from the way I remembered her.

It was around 2AM and while I was tempted, I guess I just didn't want her to think I was lonely--she'd have no idea if I was married or not and a friend request from her ex from a very long time ago at two in the morning might seem a little... desperate. Of course, the deep-down reason I wasn't going to contact her was that I didn't need another reminder of my past and my current regression toward it.

At least, that's what I thought.

So, I went to sleep after watching some anime on my new iPhone (which, in itself is a mixed blessing).

The next morning I began my day with the same new ritual I've developed since getting that iPhone--I reached over to my nightstand and picked it up with the interest of checking my Twitterstream and my email. In my inbox was something from her--it turns out she had been pondering the same thing about me, only instead of Facebook, she was doing it on LinkedIn.

I smiled and got a little nervous--not sure how to react or how to feel at that exact moment. As with all things a bit too heavy to deal with, I just left the email in my inbox for several hours and focused on other things, occasionally letting my mind drift back to it. I told my wife about it and she thought that it was very cool that my high school sweetheart had contacted me and even encouraged me to be in touch with her. My wife is great, that way--not a jealous bone in her body (though, she's an actress, so she expects the favor returned when ever she gets to kiss a guy in a show! =( ).

Ultimately, I wasn't sure why I should reply to her. Life is always more simple with fewer friends. One thing I've learned as an adult American is that keeping friends at this age is hard work. Lots of phone calls, coordinating, canceling, rescheduling, blah, blah, blah. I thought the reason we get married is so that we don't have to bother with all that stuff anymore. Friends. BAH!

But I replied anyway.

The next morning I got another email from her. I won't go into the details, but let's just say it was actually really fucking great to hear about her life again after so damn long.

It made me feel old--but in a good way. Like I had seen a lot and changed a lot. She had done so much that I hadn't and I had done so much that she hadn't.

It was a strangely wonderful sensation.

I found myself entertaining the idea of being active friends with her again.

How great would it be to see just how much each of us has changed? How awesome would it be to find out what we thought of each other as full-grown adults? How drastic a change had each of us gone through, or how minor? I know I felt like I hadn't changed at all since I last saw her last--at the end of our freshman year of college, just before she transferred to another university and we lost touch.

Of course, that "lack of having changed" feeling I had was before I'd read her email. In it one of the things she asked me was something like:

"Since when do you drink coffee? Do you still chug Mountain Dew all the time?"

I smiled. Ohhh, if she only knew!

Well, she could know! So, I told her in my next email.

Something else she said in that first, longer email was that her husband wasn't entirely happy that she was in touch with me again. She had been with him almost the entire time she and I had been apart, and they have a family and he was still bothered by her being in touch with me.

Whoa. Shades of the power held by that devilishly-handsome kid I used to be!

This was a strange feeling for me, though, since I wasn't that kid anymore--not by a long shot. I'm out of shape and... married!.

Nothing takes the rosin off the old bow like marriage, lemme tell ya!

Whoa--that sounds way dirtier than I meant it to.

I wasn't sure what to make of it so I did what any typical guy would do--glibly joked about it. It was like when my wife asks me if I think she looks fat--I tell her MOOOO!!

She laughs because she knows I'm being sarcastic. I said in the email that I've been with my wife for 11 years--ironically, I wrote this email on our wedding anniversary--I'm really not a threat--not that she had told me he felt I was. (Whoa, bad sentence, sorry.)

After I sent the email, I checked my Facebook and saw that she had friended me. I confirmed the request, actually being happy for a bit.

Yep--happiness at the thought of my own past coming back to haunt me.

Crazy-talk! =)

That's the thing--she and I really had been best friends--a fact I think I only realized as I started writing this post, right now. We had done so very much together in just few years. We were in ROTC together, we worked together on a science fiction cable access show (don't ask! It was kind of how we met), we went to air shows, movies, skiing and a lot more. I think we only "officially" dated for five months or so, but we were very close until that first year of college.

I won't go into the gritty details, but I will say that when we did lose touch, it wasn't an accident and I was sad that it happened, but understood her feelings. We had been very close and she was no longer comfortable with that, so (as I recall) I respected her feelings and that was that.

I probably wasn't fully conscious of it at the time, but if I had bothered to think about it, I would have realized that she had been a seriously huge part of my life, up to that point.

She had been a person I probably should never have let out of my life, entirely. But I was young and shallow and was already dating someone else, so I just shoved through the pain of losing her as a friend and moved on with my life. It was easier since she was no longer at the same university.

Flash-forward all these years later and thanks to her, I was suddenly able (and willing) to reflect on one of the most formative periods of my life.

I remembered questioning my lack of faith in God one time as a teenager--I was wrestling with what I wanted to be when I grew up, so while she and I visited New York City on some sort of field trip, we were on a tour that led us through one of New York's famous gothic churches. I decided to give God one more chance--I remember praying, asking Him to help me figure out what I should do with myself. I remember she interrupted my prayer and I sharply (read: rudely) told her what I was trying to do and she immediately apologized and let me continue praying.

"Did it work?" I recall her asking me as we left the church.

"Not really," I said sheepishly. Minutes later I felt the wad of paper in my back pocket--it was a short story I had started (I thought it was to be a novel, at the time).

Yeah, writing would be in my future, for sure.

Oh yeah, and I was still an Atheist. (Sorry, God, you had your chance but I didn't feel that wad of paper until after I left your House! You snooze, you lose!)

ANYway, she had been there--there when I decided to be a writer and when I reaffirmed my Atheism (both major parts of who I am today). When I strayed from the writing path, she was there, too--in Air Force Junior ROTC. She was one of my best officers. She also looked great in that uniform. She was there when I decided I wanted to be a pilot. Sadly, she hadn't been there two years later when I failed my pilot physical.

Maybe she's some sort of signpost for positive things in my life or something?

I dunno.

Regardless, I was very happy to be back in touch with her and was seriously starting to look forward to seeing her in person again. She doesn't live too far outside the city and occasionally travels here for work, so I thought coffee would be something we could do at some point in the near future. Of course, that thought made me smile--what would that conversation be like? How would we react to each other in person?

It was a downright intoxicating curiosity.

Then, two days after I had gotten that first email from her, I get another one--not a response to my last email, but a terse, handful of sentences explaining that she would have to unfriend me on Facebook, that it would be nothing personal and that she would explain later.


I just shrugged it off and went about my day, hoping it wasn't anything serious or weird.

The next day I get a longer email (still not a reply, though), explaining that her husband is still upset about her being in touch with me again. He doesn't like it and she's afraid that she must respect his feelings. She apologized for pulling me back into her life only to shove me back out again.

Just like all those years ago, I respected her feelings. The thing is, I don't really want to move on.

At first glance, my past sucks--it's all missed opportunities, low grades, failing to realize what I should have been doing as a writer from the start, adolescent angst, parents, being a kid--etc. But here, this wonderful, huge chunk of my life comes rushing back at me and for a few short days I'm happy about my past. I can suddenly see so much happiness that she and I shared together--that I'd never have seen if it weren't for her contacting me.

Then I realize that for some reason, because of some thing that happened all those years ago, we can't even ponder that old happiness in the same room, or even talk about it in an email.

That mistake we made all those years ago, won't go away either, but should the feelings he has now still be so real to him?

I think I understand how he feels. But I think strength comes from forgiveness. Strength comes from doing the right thing. Forgiving the past and stepping forward with new, positive eyes, trusting the future and yourself to make the world a better place.

I guess I wonder if he'll still feel this way in another ten years. At our thirtieth high school reunion, will I be able to ask my prom date for a dance?

At our fortieth?

I just made myself really sad.

It's been five days since all of this went down and I keep thinking "Bah! In no time at all, I'll have forgotten all about her making a brief appearance in my life again."

But, so far, it hasn't happened. I keep thinking it will and it never does.

Honestly? I'm beginning to think it never will and I'm not sure I want it to, either.

I want my old friend back.