Just like millions and millions of other people in the world, I've been swept up by the Facebook mania that has old friends and acquaintances reuniting even if for only an hour or two to reminisce about high school memories or college stories of debauchery.
But every once and a while if you're active enough you might get a pleasant surprise when you bump into someone you had completely forgotten about or finally catch up to that long lost friend that you lost touch with right after graduation.
That's what happened to me about two weeks ago. As I sat there losing my shirt in a cyber game of Texas Hold 'Em, a small bubble popped up at the bottom of the screen alerting me to someone sending me a friendship request. The person's name didn't ring any bells so as I do in most cases, I went to her page to see a picture and even then I was only vaguely familiar with the person I was looking at but the alert said that we went to high school together so it was possible that I knew her once and just couldn't place her name or face. So I accepted her friendship request and almost instantly I received a message from her.
"Hey Chris, how are you? I didn't think you would remember me."
I didn't have the heart to confirm her doubts so I played along.
"Of course I do girl give me a little credit. lol."
I hoped she'd buy it after all it was a computer, not like she could hear the uncertainty in my voice. We chatted for a few more minutes before she ended the conversation with,
"Well, I need to feed my little boy. It was really cool talking to you again. Take care and by the way, have you learned how to change a flat tire yet? lol."
And with that, she was gone. Back to her life pre-reunion. But that's when it all came rushing back, hitting me like one of those brain freezes when you eat ice cream or drink milkshake too fast. But this time it was the mention of the flat tire that gave me the jolt.
I had just graduated from high school and it was the end of June and I was on my way home from somewhere late at night and it was storming outside. Back then I drove like the typical teenager... carelessly, so of course I hit something and blew out a tire.
So there I stood in the middle of a monsoon beside my mom's Mazda without an umbrella, trying to get someone to stop. And finally someone did. When the car pulled up to me, my first thought was that I must be crazy to even consider it.
And then the window came down. It was a girl and back then that was all the background I needed to check. So I hopped in.
"No problem Chris" she said.
I looked at her and was caught way off guard. But before I could say anything she added, "yes I know you. I should, we've gone to school together for the last seven years. Ever since sixth grade."
"I knew that." I lied.
"Oh you did? Well what's my name?"
"I said what's my name?" She pulled the car over to the side of the road again.
"If you can tell me my name, I'll take you home. But if you can't, you gotta get out here."
She must have seen the terrified look on my face because she pulled off again. "I'm kidding. I'll take you home. You never said a word to me in four years of high school so I wouldn't expect you to know my name."
"You make me sound like such a dick." I waited for her to correct me or reassure me that that wasn't her intention, but she never did.
"My name is Dana."
"Oh, I knew that."
I gave her the directions to my house and we rode quietly for a while. I stole peeks of her out the corner of my eye. She wasn't a beauty queen so I could understand how I had completely missed her for four years straight. But even behind the glasses she wore, she had that shy, quiet, sex appeal about her. The kind of girl that was pretty but didn't know it. To ease my own guilt, I thought I should try to make small talk.
"So, how's your summer going?"
"Not too bad. You?"
"Havin' a ball."
"I guess you're going to some big college to play football next year huh?"
"Actually no. Didn't get any scholarship offers."
"What? But you're so good!"
This girl was growing on me every second. The more we talked the more I realized why our paths never crossed. She was going to Princeton on a full scholarship which meant she was smart, which in teenage terms meant she was a nerd. But a cute one. She reminded me that the last time I spoke to her was during gym class Sophomore year when we were on the same softball team and I told her to keep her head up after she struck out. She said that was the first time she allowed herself to even consider the fact that I might not be a total jerk.
We kept talking until we pulled up to the front of my house. By the time we got there I was wishing the ride had been a lot longer. She was so different than the girls I had hung out with but something about her made me nervous and that didn't happen often.
"Hey Dana, look, if I was a shitty person to you in school..."
"Don't worry about it. It's the nature of the beast. Jocks, geeks, populars, misfits, yadda yadda. That's high school."
"Yeah but..." but before I could finish my statement she reached over and kissed me right on the lips. Nothing long or passionate, just a quick and gentle peck on my lips. It was over before I could really enjoy it. And we just sat there for a few seconds looking at each other.
"Thanks for the ride."
"No problem. Good luck in Atlanta."
"Yeah, thanks. Good luck at Yale."
"Yeah, that's what I meant, Princeton."
I got out of the car and turned back towards her when she rolled down the passenger side window.
"You better learn how to change a flat tire before you get to Atlanta. There might be a lot of young ladies that'll need a gentleman's help." And she smiled before rolling up the window and driving off.
And there I stood outside my house getting soaked watching her car disappear into the night and the storm. Something inside of me was yelling for her to come back but the words never made it out of my mouth. For the first few years of college, every summer that I came back home, I looked for her and even asked old classmates about her but I could never find her. That night in front of my house was the last time I ever saw her.
Until 15 years later when I got a friendship request while I played Texas Hold 'Em on Facebook.