Saturday, November 08, 2008

On reunions and death

I apologize in advance for the depressing, reflective nature of this post. It's been a while since I've felt the need to go all emo!kid on a blogpost. This weekend has been bittersweet for me. Yesterday, my mom picked me up after school and we drove down to Statesboro for GaSoU's homecoming. Mom was the only person I could find who would come with me, and I didn't mind because she's one of my favorite people in the world. I graduated five years ago, and the only reason I wanted to go back this year was because the Honors Program had arranged for a reception, and I knew (courtesy of facebook) that a lot of my college friends would be there. There was really one in particular that I really wanted to see, though: Holly*. She was one of my best friends for those four years. We lived in the same dorm when I was a freshman and she was a sophomore, and we ended up taking the same Spanish class first semester. I still remember having to introduce her to the rest of the class that first day - it was one of those silly "getting to know you" things teachers do, but because we were in an intermediate Spanish class, it had to be en EspaƱol. The majority of my happy memories from college are tied to Holly: going to Waffle House in the middle of the night to write Harry Potter fanfic, driving to Savannah and singing the "Once More with Feeling" soundtrack in harmony, doing callbacks to Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Russell Union...not to mention all the English classes, Jennifer Nettles concerts, and UHP stuff we did together. We had our rough patches, to be sure, but I always thought we'd be friends forever.

When I graduated, Holly was one of the few people I made an effort to keep in touch with. It got difficult: she rarely responded to my IMs, was too busy to e-mail or phone, and I guess we both drifted apart. I'd try to call and renew contact every year or so, but always with the distinct impression that she didn't really care that much. Then, last year, I joined facebook. Holly sought me out and sent me a friend request, and asked me to join a few groups she had started. Encouraged, I wrote on her wall and waited for the friendship to pick back up.

It didn't.

Which is pretty heartbreaking. I mean, why bother friending someone if you're not going their friend?

Flash-forward to last month. I received an e-mail from the UHP alumni relations, telling me about the reunion/reception. I also got an invitation through facebook, thanks to another "friend from college" that I haven't actually had contact with since accepting their friend request. I spent a frantic week trying to find someone, anyone, to go with me - the drive to Statesboro is boring at the best of times; in the current economic climate, it would be downright painful - before managing to talk my mom into it. Knowing that Holly would be there (along with several other people that I hadn't seen in five years) and believing that I would finally get a chance to talk to her about what she had been up to made me giddily eager for the night to begin.

We got there late and ended up having to spend the first hour or so at a table full of strangers. But then, finally, we were told to mingle and given an opportunity to walk around. I spotted Holly across the room with a group of mutual friends, and practically made a beeline for her.

(You can see where this is heading, right?)

She ignored me completely. I think she might have given me one of those "O hai" head-nod-jerks, but that was about it. And then the whole group - a group of people that I once considered my closest friends in the world - left. The night wasn't a complete bust: I did get a chance to hang out with some other friends, and had a great time with them, but it wasn't the same.

This morning, I asked Mom if we could go for a walk around campus. It's changed so radically since I was in school! Most of the buildings that I really wanted to look at were closed, but we did get into the completely renovated library. And guess who we ran into?

Some teeny, tiny part of me hoped that maybe the night before had been a fluke; maybe they didn't realize that they had totally snubbed me. Surely fate had brought us together (again) so that I could reconcile with my former friends. Right?

Nope. Mom made some excuse and left, giving me a chance to talk without her around. But that didn't matter. I tagged along, feeling like an outsider and trying to make conversation. I asked Holly about her post-collegiate life and was rewarded with a smile and a very succinct answer. I probably only stayed with them for five minutes, but it felt like five incredibly awkward hours. Only one person - Jennifer*, the sweetest person in our group, then and (it would appear) now - made an effort to talk to me. When Jennifer mentioned that she needed to go back downstairs to meet some other people, I said my goodbyes and left with her. I told her, on the elevator ride back, how much I had been looking forward to seeing everyone. She offered no explanation for their behavior and I, not wanted to offend, didn't press. She seemed sympathetic, though, and asked me to keep in touch.

The minute we got back into the car, I unloaded my frustration and hurt on Mom. She gave me the usual Mom-like advice, which was nice but didn't really help. The whole experience saddened me, but it also made me thankful for the friends that I have and still keep up with.

But wait, there's more!

One place I insisted on visiting was the old comic book store. I spent so much time and money in that place, it was like a second home to me. As it turned out, the original store had been sold and closed down, but luckily Mom agreed to help me find the new location. She waited out in the car while I went in, promising not to buy anything.

Unfortunately, this was the first thing that caught my eye:

A tribute to Michael Turner. My favorite comic book artist. A man I actually met in the flesh and totally fangirled over. An incredibly beautiful, talented, and strong human being. He died over the summer, and until I walked in that store, I had no idea. Once I got over the shock, I actually started crying. IN THE COMIC BOOK STORE. And then I had to buy the book, and go out and explain to Mom exactly why I had bought a book when I said I wasn't going to, and of course she understood. I opened it up a few times on the trip back and started reading it, but I kept having to stop because it upset me so much. It seems strange to be so emotional about the death of someone I didn't even know (especially four months after the fact) but I think it was that plus the disappointment of (not really) seeing my friends that did it.

So, that's my really pathetic weekend. Now I'm off to my sister's; we're going to a wedding tomorrow. I have 300+ items waiting for me in my Google Reader, several book reviews and a NaNoWriMo novel to work on. Not to mention a lesson plan about To Kill a Mockingbird to create. If you've stuck with my rambling for this long, thanks. Writing is so cathartic; I really didn't want to have to drive with this weighing so heavily on my mind. Hopefully tomorrow will be better - maybe I'll catch the bouquet or something equally horrifying. :)

* Names have been changed, blah blah blah...


Nymeth said...

Nothing to apologize for, Jessi. I'm sorry you had to go through that :( I've had some crappy experiences with supposed friends myself, so the feeling's familiar.

And RIP Michael Turner :(

N.Vasillis said...

I'm sorry that you had to go through all of that. I'm kind of having the same experience right now with a so-called friend so I understand.

Anonymous said...

ugh - I've been there! I don't even know where my best friend from college is, haven't talked with her in years. I don't 'get it', either, but whatever. Friendships do come and go, it seems. and some fun new friendships pop into your life out of nowhere!

Veens said...

ok -I want to say I am really sorry about what all really happened ... but well i knw it doesn't help ..and this of course is not what you wroter it for eight? definitely YES! :)

but something i MUST tell u - even if ti is time inappropriate :)

i loved the way you wrote it out... there was so much emotion - but none too much..
there was a lot happening but it didn't burn me or anything [ if u really understand what i mean]

the write up didn't shout but quite calmly delivered in perfect words..

do u understand- what i m trying to say? u nkow u r a really really good writer :) and i think i want to read yur nanowrimo [ whatever! ]novel too!

I generally dnt read such long posts- but u made me read them :)

I hope u do share the novel :))

I m sorry- if it was event inappropriate thing to say - but couldn't help telling u this!

Veens said...

And i m really sorry to hear abt Michael Turner!

jessi said...

Thanks for the kind words and support. :) And Veens, we'll see about me sharing my NaNoWriMo novel. I still have to finish it first!