The Truth Was in the Title All Along

January 17, 2012 § 5 Comments

I was a sixth-grader at a birthday party at a roller rink when my best friend at the time, Maureen, came up to me and whispered, “Bill died. That’s why he hasn’t been in class.”

Bill was the new kid in school.
He’d taken the empty seat in front of me in reading.
We’d been paired up to work together on our King Lexicon reading dictionaries.
He hadn’t been in class all week.
Every day I’d look up at Mr. C., note Bill’s absence with a nod of my head, and give him a “What should I do?” shrug. He’d shrug me off and I’d work alone, bored.
Honestly, I barely knew him, aside from spending an hour a day with him for a few weeks, but I knew he was diabetic.
He got to have orange juice whenever he wanted.
I had a little crush on Bill.
He looked like an older Atreyu from The Neverending Story.

I don’t know the details, but there were complications from his diabetes, and he passed away over the previous weekend, which is why he wasn’t in class. Mr. C. must have known and never said a word. Most kids must have just assumed he had moved on, but Maureen’s mom was a nurse, so we knew.

I spent the rest of the party in the bathroom.
Not crying, just stunned.
Died? What does that even mean?
To a sixth-grader, not a whole lot.

At the agreed-upon time, my Dad picked me up. I sat up front, while my older brother Mike and his best friend Jamie sat in the back. They were sophomores in high school. They must’ve been really bored. It was Saturday night; we’d always listen to “Saturday Night at the Oldies” on the local radio station. The song “American Pie” came on; my Dad, Mike, and Jamie screamed the words at the top of their lungs. To this day, I have an absolute aversion to that song. I hate it because it reminds me of death.

It would get worse.


A few things happened that summer. I set off fireworks in the street outside my house with Mike and Jamie and twin boys who went to the rival Catholic high school. I forget their names but I believe they were very cute. I remember having so much fun that I turned to Mike and burst out with, “Mike, I love you!” and he looked at me in the strangest way, and sort of scoffed and gave me a hug with his arm hooked around my neck. He was in high school, for Pete’s sake. You can’t go around saying “I love you” to your little sister when you’ve also got your driver’s license, but I knew it.

Later that summer we went to a concert! My first concert: Billy Joel, Storm Front, at Hershey Park. My Dad went, and my Mom, and Mike, and my best friend at the time, Nicole. My Dad let Nicole and I wander through the crowd by ourselves, but I realized later he was watching us with his binoculars the whole time, because when a rough-looking biker started giving us a hard time, he was by our side in about 5 seconds.

I bought a Storm Front t-shirt. The one with the big red flag. So did Nicole. My brother got a different one, “Only the Good Die Young,” with a big circle and a cross and a rose and a whiskey bottle. It looked very Catholic and very scandalous at the same time.


Two years later, eighth grade for me. I was thinking about trying out for the volleyball team when I entered high school the following year, so my Dad was going to take me to a game to see what it was all about. Mike was a big-shot senior at this point, getting ready for his final wrestling season. He was good.

We were just getting ready to go the volleyball game when Mark, who happened to be my best friend at the time Katie’s older brother, ran up to our front porch. Mark and Katie lived two towns over, so it was odd that he was on foot. Mark and my brother weren’t especially close, so this was even more odd. Mark was drenched with sweat and crying, so it was triply odd.

“Jamie died,” Mark gasped when we opened the front door.
My Dad and I just stared at him.
JamiediedisMikehome?” Mark repeated.
My Dad made him come inside and sit down.
My brother came downstairs; he had probably just gotten home from wrestling practice.
He had on his “Only the Good Die Young” shirt.
Of course he did; he wore it all the time even though it was fading and ripped.
My Dad and Mom and Mark and Mike went to the hospital.
I went to my room and did homework.
And then I probably read a Babysitter’s Club book.

The next day, it was all true. Jamie had had an aneurysm. He’d been out hunting, up in his tree stand, and felt something. And just like that, he was gone. He and Mike had just been elected co-captains of the wrestling squad. They would each keep that title through the season.

The local paper ran an article about his death, about the shirt my brother was wearing at the hospital, about the heartbreak. My high school would create a memorial award in Jamie’s name. My brother was the first recipient. Last year, as a senior, his son Nick received it.

I have no idea what kind of heartbreak my brother felt, losing his best friend.
We never talked about it, and I am not even sure I can imagine it.
I’m sure he thinks of him.

For Mike, and my Mom, and my Dad, “Only the Good Die Young” never plays too far past the opening bars. It’s too painful. I don’t disagree. But I have that same reaction to “American Pie,” too. It comes on, I turn it off. I didn’t know Jamie well but I can remember him clearly in that moment, singing happily, driving home after learning of Bill’s death. The two are intertwined in sadness in my memory, and it does seem equal parts maudlin and portent: The truth was in the title all along.


(This melancholy post was inspired by Will Stegemann’s project, A Year of Billy Joel, which made these long-buried memories pop back up in my brain. You should be reading it.)

Be Kind to the New Girl

February 3, 2008 § 6 Comments

twice you burned your life’s work
once to start a new life
and once just to start a fight
(The Long Winters)

It recently (as of 10 minutes ago) came to my attention that I no longer have any of the archive files from my previous Web sites.

No posts.
No poems.
No short stories.
Everything I’ve ever written is gone.

It would be really nice if I could shake my fist at the heavens and blame this on computer failure and whatnot, but, unfortunately, I know exactly what happened, and that was one, big, huge, fatal Human Error. When backing my shit up a month ago, I deleted the existing backup folder, and then just replaced my Music and Pictures folders. And then emptied the Recycle Bin. Meaning, I deleted all my own shit without even realizing it.

So, I can forget about further posts to the Vintage/From the Archive category. And I’m taking my still-to-be-received tax refund to Best Buy later today and buying a personal laptop, because this setup where I have a work computer and then I back up my personal shit at home once a month IS CLEARLY NOT WORKING.

And from there, I guess, I rebuild.

From the Archives: Risk

January 23, 2008 § 1 Comment

[It seems so long ago when I wrote this; I must’ve been 22? 23? I remember at the time all this seemed like a huge revelation to me; reading it now, my reaction is more, ‘Well, duh, no shit, Meredith.’ But maybe everyone struggles to come to these realizations — and then, after realizing them, pushing them to the back of your mind, living with them, and living in spite of them. And it all seems extra timely today, as I continue reading news about Heath Ledger’s death and autopsy according to 18 different Web sites, trying to make sense of it still.]

You could run away.

You could get lost.

You could choose someone else.

You could get angry and never speak to me again.

You could disappear and i’d never know where you went.

You could get mangled in a horrible accident.

You could get suddenly ill.

You could get tired.

You could stop loving me.

You could change.

You could get kidnapped.

You could leave.

You could die.

You could do anything, anything could happen, and so many of them would hurt.

Fearlessness is a requirement to live; live fearlessly, love fearlessly, open our hearts and live and love, day by day never knowing what could or will happen in the future — being brave enough to open our hearts to the happiness of right now and pushing ahead, ignoring but acknowledging the dangers to ourselves, to our hearts, to those spaces we’ve filled up with you — only knowing that there are no guarantees, and that ultimately, everything ends.

From the Archives: Remember When Scott Sort-Of Broke My Jaw? (October 5, 2003)

March 18, 2007 § Leave a comment

[It’s important that you watch this commercial, all the way to the end, before you read this post, otherwise this story will make no sense.]

Sunday morning, 9:15 a.m.: Scott and I begin imitating Raoul Bova’s flop-on-the-bed routine from the above Gap ad.

Sunday morning, 9:30 a.m.: Scott and I are on our way to the emergency room after I, unsuccessfully, for reasons that are impossibly to explain, tried to grab the back pocket of his jeans while he was mid-flop. I missed the pocket and instead his heel smashed into my chin. I can’t close or open my mouth and we know immediately there’s some jaw issue. I am crying a bit but mostly laughing at the utter ridiculousness of the situation, though both cause extreme pain and it’s best if I not speak and show no facial expression.

Sunday, 10:30 a.m., 11:17 a.m., 2:34 p.m.: We are humiliated but amused by nurses and doctors asking “How did this happen” and further questioning along the lines of “Was this domestic violence?” At one point a nurse sequesters me away from Scott to ask “Honey did he hit you?” and I’m laughing as I try to explain that it was just horseplay. It was all Rauol Bova’s fault!

Sunday, 3:30 p.m.: We emerge from the hospital with a diagnosis of “almost but not quite dislocated”, follow-ups scheduled with oral surgeons, prescriptions for painkillers and steroids, xrays, and instructions to eat only a liquid/soft diet for two weeks.

Sunday, 3:45 p.m. I burst into tears while attempting to eat mashed potatoes.

[Today: My jaw still cracks when I chew, because I never went to see that oral surgeon to have it realigned. Also, our obsession with Raoul Bova pretty much ended that day, which is a shame, because according to IMDB, he’s since been in AVP and What About Brian, both of which I’ve heard are way awesome.]

From the Archives: Posts That Remind Me of Falling in Love With Scott

March 8, 2007 § 1 Comment

I Wish You Were Here
If I wake up sleepy at approximately 3:09 a.m. and send you a text message that says something like “I wish you were here” and you show up outside my window a half hour later, there’s a good chance that you are fucking awesome.

[I remember this one, in particular, because I remember this night, and this spate of insomnia I went through, and how Scott really wanted to be right there beside me through it. I’m pretty sure I fell asleep next to him by 3:45 a.m.]

The Big-Boned Team
My favorite part of the whole weekend was when I opened the door to the theater, heard Craig Kilborn say “The Huskies, the big-boned team,” and felt disappointed that I missed my absolute favorite commercial ever, on the big screen, and then I laughed, loud, interrupting the preview quiet, half with delight and half with rueful disappointment, and midway down the aisle I heard him start laughing, loud, too, and I knew he was laughing because he heard me laugh and I knew he’d been thinking, “Where is she? She’ll be so sad she missed her favorite commercial” and then I slid into the seat next to him, and he kissed my hand and we grinned, softly, at each other.

[I love this sentence, partially because it really is just one big sentence, and partially because it might have been one of the first moments I suspected that I might, oh shit, be falling in love. To this day, Scott and I refer to March Madness as the most wonderful time of the year, and we also look at it as a semi-kind of anniversary … and it’s just a little over a week away now. Also, it’s a damn SHAME that that commercial isn’t on YouTube.]

Shock and Bra
I secured a quick and definitive Trivial Pursuit victory last night, thanks largely to my highly successful and perfectly executed “shock and bra” campaign.

[I suck at Trivial Pursuit, to this day. However, shock and bra worked. Scott is easily distracted.]

New Category: Vintage

March 2, 2007 § 2 Comments

I’m starting a new category, as of right now, today, this moment: Vintage.

I’ve blogged in quite a few places before, and I have lots of archives of those old posts, some of which I’m kind of proud of, and in relation, kind of sad that they aren’t online anywhere.

So I’m going to break them out now and then.

That is all.

Where Am I?

You are currently browsing the Vintage category at Shampoo Solo.