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"We have each other now."

By the time I graduated from high school, I'd pretty much had it with my classmates. What seventeen year old doesn't imagine him self different from his cohorts? I did not attend the graduation gala, choosing to gather with a few close friends to conspire about whatever might come next. Most of the graduating class immediately dispersed, disappearing from that town, never to return. Some to college, others to war, a few to marriage, many into that foggy foreground that surrounds every great life transition. I stayed around town for a while working the balance of my adolescence off in familiar territory. I eventually moved on and out into a world where, for the first time in my life, I knew nobody and nobody knew my history, either.

Life continued like that for the following twenty years or so.
I'd periodically go back to the old neighborhood and occasionally see someone I'd grown up with there. I'd sometimes warmly embrace them, but more often crouch down so as to not be seen. It seemed that either I had their number or they had mine, the genuine goods. We'd watched each other through the gangly early period where we were each crude approximations of who we might become. I was hardly convinced that I'd even then become something. Simpler to just avoid the encounter.

Over the years, I'd learn snippets of the stories told about me, how I'd fled to Canada to avoid the draft (not accurate) and how I'd joined a commune somewhere (also not true), reminding me just how much of my formative years had been fueled by cruel rumor. Anything to undercut anyone sticking their head up above cover. How those stories seemed to sustain themselves while staining the protagonist. How the native prejudices and preferences of the neighborhood seemed permanently stuck in a place long gone and otherwise irrecoverable.

Now in my later years, I count many of my former classmates as friends, or at least FaceBook friends. We seem to have more in common now then we did then when we were chrysalises failing to communicate. We've survived the cycle so far, been our larvae, butterfly, and back into more adaptable chrysalises. We largely know and somewhat understand the arcs of our lives. Most of us no longer need to pretend not to notice the obvious. We share foundational experiences and the dialect to accompany them. Every single one of us still carries a map inside of that small city circa 1969, and we each grieve what's no longer there. We have each other now. And though none of us were raised anywhere near a ghetto, the eighties left us with a term to refer to our relationship: Homie.

©2019 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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