Tuesday, July 6, 2010


Junior year of high school, on the way to the state soccer tournament downtown, we packed seven of us into a small, 4-person sports car. Two in front, four in the back... and one in the trunk. There was an airway created for the trunk-dweller by pulling open the armrest that led to the back cavity every few minutes (which required much maneuvering of the sardined backseat). Mostly we were laughing so hard that we were crying, howling really, at how funny and clever we were, as our friend intermittently banged on the seats behind our backs from inside his car cave.

All the time, as our driver took turns too quickly and played the out-of-place rap too loudly, he remained equal parts schemer and square. Again and again, we assured him that we were all okay, especially our pal in the trunk. By the time we got to the stadium parking lot, our stomachs hurt from laughing and our driver extended the charade by pretending that the trunk wouldn't open. It was good, clean, high school fun- the kind you leave behind without a thought or care in exchange for parties with alcohol and the possibility of a makeout with the star runningback. This was probably one of my last real moments of innocence, a fleeting opportunity for childhood silliness without worrying that the popular guys and girls were watching. Leading this pack, driving this clown car was, of course, Dan.

D is for Dan. Tomorrow, it will be 2 years since my close lifelong friend passed away, and now much of our talk about him involves the length of time he's been gone, and whether it feels longer or shorter. Not enough talk is of the memories that continue to creep up unexpectedly- long-forgotten and inconsequential moments that remind me how much he meant to me, to all my lifelong friends, how deeply woven he was into our shared history. Then in the wake of these flashbacks comes a harsh, glaring realization- again and again, and never less painful than the time before- that without the ability to keep him close, we are wandering inevitably further from him as we make our reluctant way into adulthood and the real world.

Dan would have been impossibly cavalier in this transition, no doubt snaking his way into a deserved, lucrative career path that he would pull off flawlessly but with great modesty. There would have been a girl, or more likely, a string of them, that we would have met and liked. There would be beer and grilling and now, too much country music played loudly. There would be much razzing of BF and I for finally pulling it together after 16+ years of friendship.

What else would there be? A full life- he was always vibrant, robust, bursting at the seams with new possibilities, new adventures. Two years have passed but the one remaining comfort is that he was a person who never took a moment for granted, who never stopped to breathe, reconsider, or hesitate. It's likely that the rest of us, the ones who forever try to explore all options before making a move, will spend many more years trying to fit in all the life that he fit into his 22 short years.

So D is for Dan- the same as it was in my grade school games of MASH, or when it came time for my friends to find formal dates, or when we left high school behind but clung to one another as we had for so many years. D was always for Dan, and it's still for him now.


KC said...

This is really nice, Gina.

That sounds lame, but I mean it.

Emily Anne said...

Wow, agreed. So beautifully poetic and yet not even remotely exaggerated. Please send to Sandy and Gary; they would love.

LH said...