From up in a tree, directly over my head, a man was asking to bum a smoke. Welcome to Seattle.
Seattle wasn't the main vector for today's weirdness, however (and I promise I'll steer clear of the word "vector" for a while, since I've already used it this week). Iowa was.
First was an email from Billy, one of my former students at a small, private college there. I first knew him as an Upward Bound student while he was in high school and I was interning from grad school in Maryland. I later went to work for that college; he later enrolled there. But those later years were the epitome of "you can't go home again"—a place that was once a haven for me was now full of difficult dual roles and plenty of politics, as well as learning my own limits and inadequacies. By the time I moved on to Seattle, I felt a great deal of disgrace.
In light of this, I'd not have guessed Billy would count me a friend years later. Nevertheless, when I was included on a mass email from him last week, I decided to respond and ask how he was. His reply came today, lengthy and full of personal details, struggles, and joys (he now works full-time for Upward Bound at the same college). I'd labelled so much of those years "failure" and packed them away in the back of the closet, and today, out pops Billy to challenge that notion.
My next surprise came while rummaging through a rarely-used email account. Amid the junk mail was a notice from Classmates telling me I had an email message. Ever suspicious of these rackets, I logged in to find a note from Lisa, an elementary school playmate:
From: LisaI responded briefly, letting Lisa know I did remember her, that I'm in Seattle now, and how to get in touch with me.
Sent: September 30, 2004 09:30:45 PM
Subject: Hello from the old days
...Like you are going to remember me...we went to elementary school together for several years. Me, you, and Michael Ulrich were pretty tight. Remember Star Wars lunch boxes and Marvel Heroes on the playground?
Email me if you remember me!
Lisa was my first crush, on the cusp of realizing that girls were different in some very attractive ways (rather than just to be avoided). She was our constant Princess Leia, and even though our recesses preceded the infamous Gold Bikini, she was still the one to be fought for and won. Not that she couldn't hold her own; that was another part of the appeal. So yes, Lisa, I do remember you.
Not only that, but I think you'd be surprised to learn that you might actually be the last one to remember me as I was. The future was a blank slate to us, full of promise. So much changed, Lisa. That slate got marked up soon after, with scribbles and warnings I tried so hard to decipher, crazy things no one else could see. It changed me. And hearing from you after all these years, married with three kids, I catch a glimpse of what life might have been like if it hadn't, if my slate had stayed like everyone else's, filled in little by little by choices made one by one.