Gina and MikeBy: Buffy Andrews
The Yearbook Series
The bastard was dead.
I stared at the newspaper clipping that Mom had mailed me. I had read his obituary online, but seeing it on paper in front of me made it more real. Kind of like watching the Wicked Witch of the West melt in the “Wizard of Oz” – all the evil you loathe becoming a puddle of nothing.
Richard M. Smith, 61, was ushered into Heaven on Saturday, February 11, 2012, surrounded by his family at his home.
I’m pretty sure he went to Hell.
He was a loving husband, devoted father and dedicated coach.
He was the biggest asshole on this side of the Mason-Dixon Line. Maybe on the whole East Coast. Oh, what the hell, let’s just say the entire country. You get the point, he was an A-S-S-H-O-L-E, and I hated him more than I’ve ever hated anyone in my life.
Mostly because he ruined it.
I grabbed my high school yearbook off the shelf in my office. Mom brought it on her last visit. She was cleaning out the basement, and it was among the things she didn’t want to throw away or take to Goodwill.
I opened the book and read the message I’ve read so many times I know it by heart.
To the best and sweetest girl any guy could have. You’re super in every way and you mean everything to me, and don’t ever forget that! You know I don’t like to write because I can’t express myself as well as if I would tell you but I’ll try anyways. I love you very much and want our relationship to last! You’re just a super girl, you care about me very much and I appreciate it because it makes me feel great inside, and I feel very lucky to have a girl as great as you. If I had to sum everything up about you in one word it would have to be amazing! It probably sounds dumb but that’s the way it is. I just want to let you know that I do love you and will do anything for you that you want me to.
I remember his black hair and curls. His five o’clock shadow in the middle of the day. The way his smile took up most of his olive face and the way his dark eyes danced when I walked into the room. I remember the first time he told me he loved me, and the first time we made love. Why is it that you never forget your first love? Maybe it’s because it’s the first person you gave your heart to, completely. The first time you were afraid to breathe for fear the moment would pass and you would miss some of the seconds. Life is seldom what we think it will be. Especially when you’re seventeen and the biggest concern you have is whether someone has the same prom dress.
I ran into Mike once at the pizza shop in town. It was the day after Christmas, and I was home visiting my parents. I saw him as soon as I opened the glass door and the bell jingled. He stood at the counter, holding a baby bundled in blue. The sight washed over me like a damn wave that you never see coming until it’s too late and you’re face down eating sand. And just as you try to spit out the sand and stand up, you get knocked over again by the damn hot pizza smell that transports you back in time. Back to the night that you ate pizza in the corner booth that still has your names carved in the wood. The night you got drunk on the six-pack you took from your dad’s stash in the garage. The night you made out in the woods and fell asleep naked intertwined like pretzels under a crescent moon.
He turned and saw me and then came the smile. His white teeth seemed even whiter, his smile broader. There was small talk and more small talk. About his marriage and baby and move across town.
What happened? What happened to all the plans we had? All the nights we spent lying under the stars sharing our dreams. The kind of house we’d live in, how many kids we’d have. What their names would be. What happened to us?
Life. That’s what happened. One day comes after another and another and pretty soon you realize that yesterday was pretty damn long ago and that everything you had hoped for is never going to happen. You can’t control it any more than you can control that big wave from getting stronger before it nails you. All you can do is prepare and hope that when it hits, you’ll survive.
And hope that the secret you’ve kept all of these years doesn’t drown you.