I attended the high school from which I graduated for only two years. With the exception of a few quickly-made close friends, I always had the sensation that I knew but didn't know everyone with whom I went to school. Now I barely know anyone with whom I went to that school. Their stories are all part of my personal mythos--I enjoy hearing news of what became of them--but they're now woven into different quilts,
patchworks which I cannot really piece together.
She did not "need" to get married, as the old expression goes. She was one of those bright, capable people, year-book-editor-type, with a quick wit and wisdom that seemed 17 going on 36. She had the sadness beneath, which some people of depth have, but I cannot/could not winnow out quite what it meant. I knew her, a bit, but I didn't know her. If you'd asked me before that week when she showed up to school engaged, I'd have told you that she would get a degree in journalism or education, and then either worked for a newspaper, or taught other people to do so.
She had a child ten months or so after her wedding. Her first marriage lasted a very few years. While I was in college, I ran into her just after it had ended. She told the woman I was seeing then and I that she had gotten stories published in magazines, but she wrote under pen names. She was not sure of the pen names. She seemed to me to be in some personal bad place, although we were all merely standing outside the discount store where she worked. A mutual friend told me that she often passed out on the store floor, from sheer individual exhaustion.
She married again, to a fellow we knew slightly because he played sandlot basketball with us, who owned his own little business. I believe this marriage lasted a fair number of years, but foundered at last. I have not seen her in perhaps a decade. I know her, but I don't really know her. I suspect we each would say we were friends, but the amount of time we ever spent in a room together is calculable in very finite quantities.
I'm not very much the type of person who thinks people should "escape" the small towns in which I grew up. I sometimes feel that my own "escape" is more an exile. But I wonder what her life would have been if she'd escaped to Manhattan, or to Portland.
Her daughter must be 26 now. I wish my high school friend
happiness, but somehow, also, a durable car, a tank full of gas, travel to some distant horizon, and a few dreams fulfilled. I don't really know her--I never did. But I'm fond of her, somehow, anyway.