Someone has said that the farther we get away from an event, the better we may understand it.
I guess time does work that way. What we lose in terms of memory may be more than made up for in perspective and context. One question that has stayed with me for decades has to do with high school. I think back on the friends I had there – the real friends, the soul mates. I’m not talking about associates – the people who sat next to you in class or that you were on this committee or that with. Nope. I am talking about those few souls that stuck to you magnetically, in spite of every superficial consideration.
My best friends were not like me. I was no risk-taker and my friends were reckless – daredevils by comparison. I wonder what they ever saw in me; how was it that I didn’t bore them to death. And over the years I’ve come up with almost no satisfactory explanations. But I have kept in touch with them over these years – these decades – and have learned more about them as their lives – and mine – have unfolded and I have a verdict.
What I shared with those guys – the thing that we had in common in spite of our different temperaments and ideas is this: in that rigid, closed-off world that we were then shoehorned into, that poor institution that packed closely together a thousand kids who didn’t want to be there with a hundred teachers who didn’t want to be there either, my friends and I shared this one, overriding conviction: there has got to be something better than this.
We knew it somehow. It might have come from religious training or simply from the fact that we would not let our innate sense of the beauty and possibility of life be squelched. But this is what we saw in each other. None of us ever wanted to be first in line. We just wanted out of the line. Or, as they would have put it: “out of this damn line.”
I admired their rebellion. I would never have done the things they did, but I knew that there was somewhere a justification for it. I needed to keep hold of that idea and my association with them kept alive in me the notion that there was something more, something better.
Maybe we didn’t always know what that something was, but on certain days we did. If and when the temperature got above fifty degrees in early spring, we knew that that better thing, that better place was outside those lead-painted hallways and somewhere nearer to the blue river and the great sandstone boulders that we could wade out to in the white shoals.