Monday, July 7, 2008

Crooked spin can't come to rest

Doesn't everyone out there remember their very first crush? You know, the really big one where you were almost daring enough to show it... but mostly just stared at their yearbook picture and prank called them from sleepovers? Like all girls, I remember mine. I came home the first day of third grade at my new school and told my mom that there was a cute boy in my class. His name was "Dan Numchuck. Numchuck like the Ninja Turtle weapon." In reality, it was Nemcek and he wasn't as skilled in martial arts as I had anticipated.

Over that year, we became friends in the only way that prissy nine year old girls can become friends with athletic, rowdy boys- by getting our beloved teacher to give him fake detentions on April Fools' Day, by giving him half my cookies at the lunch table, and by vouching for him when our militant playground attendant accused him of playing King of the Hill.

It got hot and heavy in the fifth grade, when I asked him out on a piece of looseleaf that I put in his locker. Even back then, I wasn't much for chivalry... I didn't mind doing it myself if it meant I'd be dating the guy with the best looking bowl cut in the school. After losing the note in his locker for a few days, he returned it, with "yes" circled. On a blustery day about six months later, I kissed him on the cheek outside the red doors at recess. The whole class watched, and one girl called me a slut.

Two years of 'dating' ensued, beginning with birthday presents of stickers and baseball cards and becoming all too serious when my perfect boyfriend was diagnosed with leukemia. My close friends and I became closer as we watched his hair fall out, and his face swell up until he was almost unrecognizable. Except his smile, which never faded in the two years of intense treatment he went through.

He returned to school in the seventh grade, and our romance ended soon after. For many people, that might be the end of the story. It's easy to lose touch with people, and even easier to dispose of old friendships when you begin to change throughout high school and college.

For those of us that went to my grade school and high school, though, this is not the case. I've known the majority of my best friends for going on fourteen years now. Dan and I continued on to high school together, and he would often joke to me that I was his longest relationship. Nevermind that some of our "dates" were in his hospital room, or at a McDonald's location that our parents both agreed upon three weeks in advance. We had dated. I have embarrassing pictures and notes and presents to prove it. When I met one of his ever-beautiful girlfriends a few years ago, he introduced me as "the one that started it all".

As we grew older, our small group grew closer despite our ever widening differences in personality and politics. Our changes had been gradual but obvious. Instead of making them into points of contention, we usually found each other endearing and could laugh at the moments when we realized how different we had become.

It was not strange to call him for a ride at the last minute, or show up to shoot pool in his basement. Last summer, he and I were somehow left carrying Bobby home on his 21st birthday. I watched as Dan picked up his best friend of fifteen years like a potato sack to carry him the ten-odd blocks back to his house in St. Cloud. These are the types of memories that I will always have, how I will always remember the boys that started out as my first crushes and ended as my brothers.

Dan and his boys were the ones who bought us our first handles of Smirnoff, they were our guaranteed dates for formal dances when we didn't have boyfriends. Their names were all so connected that I often found myself saying their names in one long breath "bobbyjakedanandkevin" rather than actually separating them out. They were the only ones we felt comfortable talking to about new guys we were meeting in college. We asked them questions like, is it normal for him not to call me back? We actually meant, will they be as good to us as you are? They told us the truth. No one will be as good to you as we are.

These are the memories that I have been reliving in my head over and over and over ever since I found out that Dan passed away on Sunday. He is the subject of every entry in my childhood diary, in most every picture I can find of all of our crew. In that stupid diary, full of immature drama and gossip, I found so many things that still somehow ring true. When I wrote about him getting cancer, I talked of his strength and sense of humor. After our "breakup" I wrote that I loved him, as if my eleven year old self had any idea what that meant. I can see now that we all loved him, anyone who had the pleasure of knowing him loved him.

I'm not really sure if I'm inappropriate in writing this. I know that I haven't been able to sum up my feelings in a facebook post to his memorial. I know that we all have so many things to say and I just wasn't sure how best to do that.

Love you all.



Teresa said...

I can't think of anything more appropriate.

Your memories are beautiful.