Now, on to business ...
Today's inspiration comes from Heinous over at Irregularly Periodic Ruminations, another fabulous writer with a most excellent imagination. Heinous works hard, but still takes time out of his busy schedule to periodically answer readership questions from the male perspective. He's a good samaritan and, in his spare time, enjoys visiting with his eccentric neighbours and helping them out with their gardening problems.
The other day, Heinous posted about, among other things, his first kiss. Which of course only served to make me think. And that kind of thing can be dangerous; I don't recommend it. (I know you like humour in your posts, Heinous. Hope you aren't too upset that you inspired this little diddy.)
When I was a kid, I went to bible camp every summer. A true tomboy, I marched to the beat of a different drummer, and I really didn't fit in (not that I tried too hard). But the summer I turned 12, camp was different for two reasons. Firstly, there weren't enough junior or senior highs to make up two camps, so they combined the groups into one and held a junior/senior high camp. The second change? More boys. You see, normally the camp had three cabins of girls and three of boys. But this year, there were only enough girls to make up two cabins, while the boys filled up four. In years past, the camp was divided in half, with boys' quarters on one side and girls' on the other. But in the current year, one cabin on the girls' side was relegated to the boys, and we all got to hang out in closer proximity. As you might imagine, this would work out rather well for my 12-year old tomboy self. More comfortable with the new arrangement, I became a bit more outgoing and sociable than had been the case in other years. So I got noticed a bit more.
That summer, there were at least three new boys in attendance. Tyler, Gary, and Andy all hung out together. They were great guys, but they also didn't quite fit in at church camp, and they seemed to want to hang out with me. I was reclusive and had trust issues, so that took some work on their part. Persistent little buggers that they were, they really put themselves out there trying to get to know me.
Andy was shy and quiet; we didn't get to know each other well. Tyler and Gary were both hilariously competitive and a laugh riot to be around together. Gary was hyped up and unobservant; he never seemed to pick up on my cues, couldn't tell when I was serious or joking, and he'd keep picking until Tyler reined him in. That didn't go over well with me. So Andy, Gary, and I were chummy, but we never really became friends.
But Tyler and I hit it off. We were both quiet, sensitive, dreamy kids, and I liked him a lot. He was an intuitive sort, and he understood me. No easy feat, I assure you. So he and I spent a lot of time together that week, hunting for frogs in the swamp and hanging out in the back of the group at campfire. He was a really sweet boy, known for his red-brown hair that flopped in front of his face and the fact that he wore the same orange football jersey for the entire week.
We weren't dumb, and we knew that the other kids considered us to be a couple. But we were a young, shy pair; a 12-year old girl and a 13-year old boy. We enjoyed each other's company, had a bit of a crush, and called it a day. Nothing more. He was my friend. About the nicest, sweetest, most respectful little rednecky farm boy I'd ever known. At the end of camp, we exchanged addresses and phone numbers and promised to stay in touch. We wrote back and forth a couple of times, and he sent me a school picture, signed "With all my love". It made me smile; mostly because I noticed he was no longer wearing the famed orange jersey. And then, as too often happens, we just lost touch.
One day, I was cleaning out an old drawer, and I came across his picture and address. I decided to write him, to see what he'd been up to. For all I knew, he'd moved. It had been a few years; I was now 15. But I still had fond memories of him and thought it would be nice to renew acquaintances. I mailed the letter, thinking nothing would likely come of it anyway.
A few days later, he called. Said he thought of me often but wasn't sure how to reach me these days, and thought maybe I didn't want contact with him any longer anyway. I was happy to hear from him. It had been far too long. After we hung up, Tyler decided he really wanted to see me again. I still lived in the city, and he still lived on the farm. So he hitched a ride to town, called when he arrived, and made his way over to my house. I was surprised; still a pretty reclusive sort, I didn't get many visitors.
We hung out and talked. He was still the same sweet, sensitive boy I remembered. We decided to go for a walk, down to the community league playground and tennis courts. He stopped me while we were walking through the tennis courts and said: "Can I do something I've been wanting to do for the last three years?" (Even then, I thought that was a pretty cheesy line, but it was kind of cute coming from a 16-year old boy.) And when I naively said "What?", he leaned in and kissed me for the first time.
He spent about a week in town, staying with family and hanging out with me. And then a family obligation arose and he had to leave in a hurry. Once again, we lost touch. I never saw him again.
There are some people who always hold a special place in your heart. Who you will always feel connected to, no matter how much time passes. Tyler is one of those people. The sweet, sensitive, oddly intuitive 13-year old boy who befriended me one summer. He will always be special.
Every so often, I think of him, and I wonder what he's doing these days. I hope he's happy. He deserves a life filled with good times and great possibilities. I tried searching Facebook a few times, but he wasn't there. I wasn't too surprised; social networking wouldn't really be his thing.
And then, I read that post, and I thought of him again. So I googled. I figured nothing would turn up, but I'd just like to see how he's doing these days. He should be a well-adjusted adult by now, thriving and enjoying life.
But it was not to be. I learned that Tyler passed away Halloween of 2003. Over five years ago. I kept searching, hoping it was some sick joke; hoping to see different results. Denial is a beautiful thing when it happens. He's gone. It's real. And so I mourn that amazingly cool 13-year old kid I once knew. My old friend, taken too soon.
Which is all to say that sometimes, life just ain't fair. But at least we have our memories to carry with us. Treasures we keep always. And for that, I am thankful.
Okay. So now, you probably need a good laugh. Go read Heinous and enjoy. You get a mixed bag of emotion over here, but Heinous is always hysterical!