|My 21st Birthday (Half My Life Ago). He had painted Pooh on my t-shirt.|
I met Matthew because, two weeks into my freshman year of high school, Mrs. Todd changed her seating arrangement in Algebra I, assigning me a seat one row over from Matthew's. Matthew was a big guy with long, dark hair, and he wore a lot of black to include boots and a trench coat. Coming from the family I do, though, I've never been intimidated by big guys or people who look or dress differently than most, and Matthew's face lit up every time he saw me.
What started as an exchange of greetings became conversation, then note-passing. We passed hundreds of notes in Algebra I, which led to our earning very poor grades. (He failed the class, in fact, while I squeaked by with a D.) I saved some of the notes we passed in class and pulled them out, the other night: laughed hysterically, remembering how I would write something about someone only to write, immediately after, "Scratch out the name," so that--if Mrs. Todd intercepted the note--she wouldn't know to whom I'd been referring.
Eventually, Matthew and I started hanging out. We went to the movies and ate pizza near his house. My family has fond memories of Matthew's being around in our (quieter) part of the county. I remember his meeting me out and about while I was in college. He reminded me, the other day, that I took him to Chuck E. Cheese's for his twenty-first birthday. Silliness.
I saved all the letters Matthew handed me in the hallways and all the ones he sent during my senior year of high school; he'd graduated and moved to Florida. I kept all the letters he sent while I was in college...and living in Maryland between my freshman and sophomore years of college. The notes and letters I pulled out the other night span six years, and I know I saved others and tucked them away in other places.
We wrote about music, movies, books, friends, crushes and relationships, classes, home, etc. We wrote about everything to include how much we talked on the phone and how angry his stepmom was, at one point, over their phone bill. I laughed and laughed, the other night, remembering our Driver's Ed class. (I've been horrifying people with my driving for a very long time.)
What struck me most about the letters was how often (and how early on) Matthew wrote down that he would always be my friend. Here I am, some twenty-eight years later, thinking: how did he know? A few weeks ago, I sent a message that said something like: "Hey, there's nothing wrong, but can you call me?"
We hadn't talked on the phone for years, but in moments, he responded: "Now okay?"
And I've been in a painful season of questioning so many things about my past, but while hanging out with Matthew, recently, all I could think was: I was loved. I am loved. I was loved. I am loved.