Wednesday, February 23, 2022

The Last One At the Lunch Table

Image credit here.

I had a dream that things were like they used to be.

J was in the kitchen making us pancakes, and M was there, except he wasn't married. I'm sure C was somewhere with the blanket, the one he used to keep in the back of his car for bonfire nights, and would eventually fall asleep in.

I was there.

Five years ago I posted something to this blog when I was feeling the kind of nostalgic that is premature, nostalgia for the present moment, before you've even left it. I wrote about my boys, the ones who I grew up with, loved, fought with, sang beside, prayed for. I told myself (and the seven people who read this blog lolol) that I would keep them in my life always, that I would watch them all get married, as if I was trying to will it into being.

It never happened.

I didn’t see any of my boys on their wedding days, not one. I still think about it sometimes, how despite everything that held us together, it didn’t end up happening that way. A has yet to get married, though, so maybe there’s still a chance.

I found out recently that one of my boys goes to the church my husband and I have been visiting. I thought that I recognized him from a distance, all these years removed, but I wasn't sure. It's weird when someone whose birthday I never forgot and middle name I know has become sort of a stranger standing across the room, both of us too shy to say hi.

Lately, I've been wondering if I found my people prematurely.

That I met my kindreds against all odds, but we grew up, and it had to end. We had a good run, but I peaked early, and those were the only kindreds I was ever going to get. I don’t actually think this is true, I’m being dramatic. I’ve met a handful of souls since that make me believe there are still, to quote Perks of Being a Wallflower, cool people left to meet.

I remember this freshman at my high school who I knew of peripherally. He made friends with a group of close-knit seniors. He would sit with them at lunch, and they were all best friends. I always wondered what happened to him after they graduated and he was left behind. What do you do when you’re the last one at the lunch table?

I look back and see a moment in time. That era and our shared history has a certain warm glow in my memory, though what I remember now as being beautiful and fantastic was actually riddled with a lot of growing pains. I will never forget sitting in a Starbucks parking lot as my sister cried about one of our boys, inconsolable. Or the night that C took us both to get Boston Crème donuts when I came home from college, heartbroken. We blasted country music and 60s soul in his car like it was a lifeline.

It seems childish now, but that’s what we were, in some ways. We hadn’t quite become our full selves yet. The stakes were high, and the emotions were real. We drew on our Converse and sat on roof tops. We made pretentious comments and huddled on the beach at night and ate our bodyweight in half-price appetizers.

C had a church key (actually, almost everyone did), which meant access to the church 24/7, where we played games of Masterpiece, listened to “Walking in Memphis,” and broke each other’s hearts. Sometimes we would lay in the pews while J improvised on piano, with Z on drums bringing down the house. One winter, we rode around in someone’s truck, picking up old Christmas trees and burning them to a crisp in the fire pit. Our collective consciousness was rooted there on the church grounds.

I'm not sure how to get back.