Slapped with a memory. Two in fact.
Whenever my mind reaches into memory, out of the blue, it's never good. Rarely good. Usually some past horror, some embarrassment that won't fade comes fully in to view, filling up my mind's eye. But today, for some inexplicable reason, I was hit - one - two - with memories that were different. It was like my heart or soul was trying to get a message through to me. Fully aware that I'm being overly exhibitionistic with my life right now, I'm going to record both memories for you. One today, one tomorrow.
I've mentioned that my childhood wasn't a pleasant one at home, well it wasn't much better at school. I wasn't bright, attractive, athletic, rich - I was the kid who made Valentines for myself so my box wouldn't be empty. I was that kid.
It's odd what you get used to. After a few years of being outside, I grew to prefer rain. I developed an internal life that I still cherish, I developed a keen ability to watch others without being seen, I developed an allergy to phony, pitying smiles. All that's OK with me now and, in fact, I'm OK with me now.
But there was one night. I would have just been 16. I was downtown and walking home. There was a gang of the popular kids from my grade at school and I just put my head down and walked through them. They weren't a gang, really, it was just a bunch of kids hanging out. You could almost smell their popularity as they joked and kidded with each other. Suddenly one of the girls suggested they all hop into their cars and head out of town to the Husky gas station for fries and gravy.
They were tumbling to cars when I heard a voice say to me, "You want to ride with me?"
It was Dale.
He was the coolest guy in our grade. Good looking, athletic, rich, bright - the opposite of everything I was. I looked at him in shock. I'd been tricked before and I wasn't getting caught again. I didn't even answer.
"Really, you want to go with me?" And he pointed to his pick up truck. His smile seemed genuine.
The other cars were pulling away and it was clear that he was including me. I mistrusted his intentions but I wanted to go. I wanted to just feel what it was like to be part of the group. Included. For once. Included.
I got in the truck and he put on the radio and we sped out. I had no words. I didn't know how to talk with the likes of him. So he just chatted about the music and made jokes about school and teachers and such. I relaxed into the car. I knew I didn't have to talk. And suddenly I knew that it was going to be all OK.
We had chips and gravy and though the other kids weren't really keen on me being there, no one dared say anything to Dale. Such was the power of his popularity.
He drove me back and this time I talked a bit and he seemed to think I was kind of funny. He dropped me off at my house and I felt somehow subtly changed by that hour and a half.
Not much changed at school, except there was less teasing, less to be afraid of. Dale never really talked to me again after that but he did always say, "Hey" when he saw me in the hallway.
I don't know what made him want to be kind to me that day. I don't know why he decided that I was human and deserving of a break.
But, I don't care why.
He gave me a memory, this memory, and it's a nice one to have.