It was 2006 or 2007. I was leaving work, pulling my car onto Flower Street, when you zipped by right in front of me on your bike. I had to brake to miss you. I could have sworn it was you. But what would you be doing – at our age – zipping a bike through downtown L.A.? 3,000 miles and 20 years away from home? We made eye contact and you disappeared behind parked cars. I know it was you – you gave me that look. It was 1987 you, the last time I saw you. But it was you.
Are you even still alive? Google won’t tell me.
Last night I had this dream. My two sons (age 9 and age 4) and I had broken into your house. And you were pulling into your driveway and we were desperately trying to get out before you could get inside. But we couldn’t find our way out. You were putting your key in the door and we had to hide from you and get out before you could discover us. You try doing this with the 4-year old whose idea of playing hide and seek is yelling out where he is as soon as you stop counting so you can find him. Terrified of never being found again.
Somehow we made it out and walked past on the sidewalk just as you went inside. But you knew. You knew. You glanced backward and gave me that look again. That look like you knew something I didn’t.
My dad was in the military when I grew up so we moved around. Not nearly as much as some do, but I changed schools a few times. Different states. It’s rough when you’re a kid, but one huge thing I learned was how to come into a new situation and figure it out immediately. Intuitively. The politics, the dynamics of the relationships, all that. Every time we moved my parents told me not to be sad about the friends I left behind, but instead to just go to school and make new ones. I got practice at this – I got good at it. Figuring out who to be friends with and who not to. But there was one thing I never learned.
When my dad would come home from work and tell us we were moving again, we would be devastated. We would cry, we’ll never see our friends again, all that. But you learn to put that aside because it hurts too much. You learn to figure out the place you’re moving to, not to dwell on the one you just left. You learn to forget your old friends. But I never learned how to say goodbye – it hurt too much. Terrified of never being found again. So I never have.
So I never did.
Are you still alive? I saw you. Are you a ghost? I see ghosts. Different states. I see dead people. I saw you. Sometimes it feels like I can’t see alive people anymore.