My girlfriend Dawn had moved back to Michigan.
She had I had had a huge fight during our senior year of high school. It was completely my fault, as I recall, though I don’t really recall the details. We had been as close as two friends could be since sixth grade; spending overnights at each other’s houses, sharing every detail about our changing bodies, boyfriends, parents, families. She knew absolutely everything about my brother, my history, my father; I knew about her much older siblings, her parents employment woes and their later eviction from their home in our neighborhood. I spent days at her older sister’s house without my mother batting an eye, and Dawn spent weekends at my house routinely.
But yet, while we agreed on many things, we were very different people. Dawn had a sense of tough confidence that I envyed and couldn’t understand. While her life was difficult, she was able to work hard on the things that she was good at and become great at them. She didn’t care what other people thought (or if she did, no one else could tell).
Me, I was a perfectionist in everything. Instead of conserving my energy to hone one or two things, I tried to be good at everything. In high school, this meant starting to dislike those who were my competitors for academic exellence, teacher attention, placement in band. I took all of my failures personally and took as a personal affront someone achieving more than me.
Which is why I had a hard time with Dawn excelling at writing, something I too thought I was good at. And I was good, but not great like her. So the fall of my senior year, I dropped her like a hot potato. Horrible. Horrible, horrible words and actions that I can never take back. She wrote me a letter one day, in response to my irrational behavior and I read it once before tearing it apart and throwing it away (mostly because I didn’t want to admit anything in it was true).
So we missed things. I missed knowing what colleges she was applying to. She missed knowing my low point that year and helping me through it. I missed her meeting and falling in love with Todd, a boy a year younger than us but funny and smart.
I ended up contacting her at some point, tail between my legs, during our freshman year in college. She had gone far away to a school in Massachusetts on a full scholarship. I was away at MSU and missing her. We exchanged long letters across the miles. I heard of how hard a time she was having conducting a long distance relationship with her boyfriend, and how they’d decided to go to MSU and move in together.
I liked Todd. I visited them on campus in their tiny, basement apartment and found a couple happy and in sync. I felt badly that I’d lost knowing the beginning part of their relationship but they told me all about it in late night conversations shared on their breaks home. Todd was kind and understanding of our friendship despite not experiencing it right from the start of their time together.
Dawn called me one chilly day that winter as I folded laundry during Zach’s nap. I had been trying to to finish my children’s lit homework and get everything done, but I stopped in my tracks when she told me the news. Her story was strangely familiar to me; it included a drug store, a pregnancy test and a lot of big decisions. She had questions. Lots, and lots of questions.
I hoped, for her sake at least, that some of the answers in her story would be very different than the ones in mine.