Sunday, May 21, 2006

It Must Be My Time of the Year

It must be my time of the year...well, actually it happens about twice a year. And, I suspect it may continue to happen the rest of my life. While I was driving home from my conference in Louisville, I was flipping through my XM stations and heard a snip-it of "Take My Breath Away." Oh, that old cheesy song, I know. Remember Top Gun? Remember the late 80s?

Well, for me, the late 80s were high school. My sophomore year, I switched from public school to a private school. I was a new kid--something I had never been (or at least didn't have any recollection of being). Shortly after I started at the new school, I met a boy--a boy who liked me. And, wow...I liked him. He had huge dimples, braces of course, and beautiful red lips with a wide smile. He worn wonderfully faded Levi's and RayBan Aviators (come on, it was the 80s-they are back, ya know). He always complemented me and confided in me. Plus, he was older. He was a Junior.

He had recently been through a bad break-up that was legendary and had driven him to some not so great "escapes" that he, with help, had recently overcome. He fought with his parents, was jealous of his sister, and often felt like he could never please anyone. Pretty typical stuff. I loved it that he shared this stuff. I loved it that he wrote me notes discussing what he might wear at Homecoming. I still have every note he ever wrote me, packed safely away...forever.

I still remember one day when he was in my room (yes, my parents used to let me have boys in my room--how crazy is that?) and he had on my favorite shirt of his, the 1988 Winter Olympics shirt and we were listening to music. "Take My Breath Away" came on. It was one of those moments for a young girl when you suddenly realize you like being a girl.

Our other song was "Don't Give Up" by Peter Gabriel. Strange that I remember that? Maybe. We continued to go together (as we referred to it back in the day) off and on throughout high school. While this isn't something to be proud of, I think I cheated on every boyfriend I ever had with him and he cheated on every girlfriend he ever had with me. I loved him, no doubt about it. We found each other irresistible, yet I had not patience for his indecisiveness and insecurity. He had no patience for my desire to avoid his friends.

We met one year while our families were both vacationing in Florida. I spent the day with his family on Sanibel Island. My parents drove me over from Naples. After a few hours playing cards with his family, we left for a walk on the beach in the dark, knowing the day would soon end. We returned, me with sand in my hair and in "other" spots only to find my parents there-talking with his parents-both worried we had disappeared. This went on for years and I could never totally let go. He would still call me, corner me to talk, ask for my advice, complain about his girlfriends, and of course tell me he still loved me. The night before I left for college , he called and said he wanted to meet to say goodbye.

We met, in the parking lot of school. He was in tears as we said goodbye, of course so was I. Ever have that funny feeling that this is it? I thought this was probably it. I thought I would never return to Indy and he was scheduled to ship off to the service just a few weeks later. Certainly our paths would never cross again. I heard he got married while in the Navy. Then, I heard it didn't work out and he was moving back home. Funny, I was moving back home too.

I was home for a few weeks and always wanted to call him or stop by and see him where he used to work in high school (I was certain he was still working there). But, I never did. Whenever I was near, I looked like crap or I would suddenly be too afraid of what the outcome would be. But, I still thought about him all the time and hoped by some miracle I would run into him.

Soon, I got settled in Indy and my life started to take a shape of its own. I wanted to move forward instead of living in the past and I gave up on the idea of making contact. Months past, I started school again and met Jeff, who would become my future husband. I totally gave up on the notion of reconnecting with Chris, wasn't even on my radar screen. Jeff and I took a weekend trip to Philadelphia to pick up my household items I left in storage when I returned home. On the way, I called my dad from a rest-stop pay phone. I can see myself standing at it as if I was watching from across the room.

"What do you mean?" I asked. "No, there is no way it is Chris." "I really think it is, Kris." My dad said, "I'm telling you-it's him." Well, I was convinced it wasn't and I would just find out the truth when I got home. The truth is it was Chris. He was right. And, my denial meant I missed the funeral. What an awful tragedy. This one was horrific and isn't even worthy of describing. But, about twice a year, something will spark my memory of Chris and for days, sometimes even weeks later I will have dreams. Sometimes graphic, sometimes obscure, sometimes more like memories. But, they almost all end in the worst way--just like life ended for Chris. This must be my time of year because ever since hearing that song, I have had disturbing dreams and thoughts during the day that, if I focued on them, could no doubt bring me to tears.

I wish...I wish...I wish...I wish I would have seen him just one more time, I wish I wouldn't have been so vain as to focus on what I looked like and so little on what he meant to me. Certainly, I wouldn't want my life to turn out any other way than how it has. But, I would have given anything to see him again as an adult--to laugh and share in memories of our adventures and remember how ridiculously in love with each other we were. Sometimes I strain to remember his smile. Other times, his image almost haunts me.

And then I think about how small I was in his life--I think about his mom and dad, who I know loved him so very much and were always worried about him. I think about his wife, even though they were in the middle of a divorce, who knew him as a man. I think about his close friends and all the others who knew him and loved him more than I did. His death really changed me. Sounds sort of crazy, but I have never been quite the same. Sure, the nightmares, but also the inability to brush my teeth without worrying someone is behind me. The fear of opening the door to strangers, and the thought that I always hear something or someone when I am in the shower. His murder changed who I am. And, no doubt, loving Chris changed who I became.

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