Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Fire and Rain

As I get older, I find myself reminiscing more - I guess that's really what writing memoirs is all about. For instance, after my swim the other day, my mind focused on the lock on my locker that belonged to one of my high school running friends and I realized I will never be able to tell her I still have her lock because I've not heard from or seen her since graduation. However, I WAS fortunate enough to find someone ELSE I thought I had lost, my best friend from high school, Jo-Lynn. Is it just a coincidence that Jo-Lynn popped into my head while I was lying in that MRI machine last week listening to the James Taylor song "Fire and Rain"?

Before I say anything else, I just want to say that there are only a few people in my life that I am or would have been willing to die for. One of them is Jo-Lynn. If I had a sister, I would have wanted it to be her. The last time I heard anything definitive about her, she had left her husband of two years - they lived only three hours away, in Dayton. This was sometime around 1990. He wrote to tell me. Why did HE write? I'm not sure - he was actually a friend of mine from college who pursued her (she went to a different university). I thought he just wanted to meet her because I talked about her all the time and how much I missed her.

The last time I saw HIM was when I moved to Cleveland in 1987. I visited him in Dayton. During that visit, he showed me his "scrapbook" -- containing things he had collected from years of relationships with different girlfriends. Scarily, he had stuff of MINE! Stuff he took from my college dorm room. Stuff like, my earrings (!) and some drawings! He was reluctant to show me anything after MY "entry" in the book, but when he left the room, curiosity made me look. It was then that I realized what he didn't want me to know: he was obsessed with Jo-Lynn. He pasted her college ID and other stuff of hers in there. Years before, she had told me they had a brief relationship, but I thought it had ended. (For some reason, HE never told me about it.) 

The whole episode scared the daylights out of me -- I felt like I was browsing through the belongings of a psycho/serial killer. I didn't sleep that night, and I was very happy to finally get home the next day. After that, he wrote and called often. I just let him talk. Imagine my surprise when he told me, in a letter, that he and Jo-Lynn were getting married! 

I should have done something. I should have called her and pleaded with her to get away! But it was her life, and I didn't want to get in the way. I was also afraid that if I said anything, the two of them would think I had feelings for him and was trying to stop the marriage for selfish reasons. So I did nothing. I NOW know I made a terrible mistake. She was my best friend and I loved her, and when it mattered, I did nothing. I do not know the hell that she went through with him, but from only a few statements she wrote, I know it was truly a "hell," and I feel partially responsible.

So now, over 20 years later, I found her on Facebook. I didn't know if she wanted to hear from me. I was scared that her feelings for me might have changed even though mine for her have not. Over the years, I had Googled her name over and over again and never found any information (my mistake was not using her married name). And the past 20 years could never be described as "water under the bridge." We're 44 years old. We have different lives. We travel in completely different circles. But we're only 3 hours apart. Is there a cosmic significance to that?

When I saw her photo on Facebook, I cried. She was the same. The same smile. The same hair. I sent a friend request. She accepted. She said that I looked the same. I told her I never had a friend like her. She told me the same. I read her "25 random things about me" only to find that all the things I loved about her in high school are still traits she carries to this day. I realize now that some of her best characteristics are the very things that make me the person I am today. Jo-Lynn was one of those rare people who just told you the cold hard truth, whether you wanted to hear it or not. She was never about lying or schmoozing or stroking people's egos. She is the reason I resent people who bullsh*t, lie and backstab (things that make it difficult for me to be in the marketing workforce). But she is also the reason I work so hard at being truthful and honest. It may not "get" me anywhere in life, but I can live with that. I have few regrets, but letting Jo-Lynn go is one of them.

Writing all these feelings out may not paint a nice picture of me as a friend, but it IS honest. And although it's not sports- or technology-related, it's still another life-lesson learned. I hope not too late.

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