The first semester was ending, myself at a new school with new friends and much to look forward to. I began hanging out with a football player we will call Football Frog. He was nice...quiet and shy, as I remember. I don't recall how the crush unfolded, or if it really was a crush. It might have just been two lonely people at the right place at the right time and there we were. Hanging out. I think a kiss might have been thrown in there somewhere, but for the most part it was just an innocent high school relationship in the making. I would go to the games with my friends and smile when I caught a glimpse of him in his football uniform and afterwards, we would go to the parties around town, drinking beer out of a keg and watching his buddies perform immature-look-at-me stunts. I don't even remember his name (not the first time I've said this and I'm sure it won't be the last). I knew there was something different about this frog, as if he had a secret he was keeping. His eyes looked sad and there always seemed to be a heavy weight on his shoulders. I never met his family, but later I would know what that weight was there for.
One evening, Pager Frog called me up to go for ice cream. Harmless enough, since we kept in touch as friends. We went to a place down the street from my parent's house and sat outside eating ice cream and catching up. There was a Von's Grocery Store across the way and I noticed the bright lights of dozens of police cars. In the town I live in that could have been called Mayberry back then, rarely had anything huge happen. I asked another couple what was going on and they jumped into this wild story about how a couple went in and held up the store with a gun and were being carted away by the police at that very moment. Wow! I thought, how sad. I remember it was Christmas time and those people must have been desperate for money. I always feel sad for people who have nothing. Although I didn't grow up wealthy, I never went without the basics and it made me very sad to see a homeless person on the street or people who had way less than I. I looked on at the police scene with a heavy heart.
The next morning, my phone rang. Never a good thing for the phone to be ringing way before school even starts. I answered and a quiet, reserved Football Frog was on the other line. "I'm moving," he said. "Huh?" I think was my answer. He said quickly that he was moving south to live with relatives and that he would get in touch with me later. "Huh?" After hanging up, I got ready for school wondering the whole time what the heck he was talking about. Would I see him at school and he would laugh and say it was a joke and for the first time, reveal a playful side?
Walking through the halls at school on my way to my locker, I realized that it wasn't a joke. Talk was everywhere and a friend came up to me to reveal the horrifying story I would never forget. Football Frog's parents had held up a grocery store the night before and were taken off to jail and he had to move in with relatives. I literally had to shake my head wondering if it was all a dream. What? I still shake my head when I think about what that poor frog must have gone through. I wonder where he is now, what is he doing, how is he, what happened to his parents? All of those questions played in my head, but no one knew how to get a hold of him or where he was living.
Eventually, I moved on and accepted that he wasn't coming back. I accepted that I would never see if we had any potential for something more long-term. My heart always weighs heavily when I think about what he must have gone through and I hope he has moved on and made a better life for himself. I was left with so many questions and it was probably one of the first New Year's (My New Year's Eve plans always turn out disastrously) I didn't feel like celebrating.
Lesson Learned - Sometimes your questions of what went wrong, in any situation, are never answered.
(Thank you so much to Nick Allen for the humbling picture!)