If you ever want to get an idea of the passage of time and the curious way in which it’s both important and trivial, both tangible and intangible, then log on to your Facebook. I know it sounds like bullshit, but trust me. Log on to Facebook and I’ll tell you about my occasional late night mental hobby.
There are people I used to know back in middle school. Everyone has people they used to know back in middle school. For me, though, this is a particular shock to think of in retrospect. I’ve found that most middle schoolers go to an expected high school. Like all the kids from that place go to that place after, that’s how the town works and that’s what everyone expects. I didn’t do that. I’ve never quite been established, because I switched elementary schools in 3rd grade and went to a better funded one further away, and then I went to a better middle school further away. So in every environment I was a fresh face, and high school was no exception.
Getting older, I was toying with my decision making abilities and on something of a whim in the parking lot of a grocery store with my mom, I decided to go to a totally different high school across town, by the beach. Which was fine, sort of. Again, I was a fresh face, and maybe in retrospect this is why I’ve become as outgoing and forward as I am. I never have those “remember in 2nd grade!” stories. I can go back to 9th grade, but everyone’s always trying to forget high school, even while they’re still in it. To this day and possibly to the end of my life I’m always going to marvel at being a character in old memories that become stories over time.
“Remember that time when we all..!”
“Yeah!” I’ll exclaim, excited at the confirmation of my existence since at least the time of the story at hand.
In middle school there were these people I knew. They were the people that my school drama revolved around. There was every side character, every cameo appearance, and of course the main characters that made up my friend group. For three years as my brain, body, soul, and penis were exploding with growth, these people became embellished into my view of the world.
So, imagine the internal tremor when I went to a totally different high school and then never saw any of them again. For the next four years, I learned of new people who were already pretty molded, and I spent the time pretending to be as molded while hastily playing catch up. But the time for embellishment had passed. A part of me figured that that was the way of things and didn’t hold any high schoolers as being immovable. In any case, the phenomenon I’m laboriously describing doesn’t apply to any high school classmates, but that might be for the simple reason that not enough time has passed.
But high school! What a ride! The knowledge, the learning curve, the alcohol, the eager sex! At the time, I thought the funny thing about sex in high school was that it’s a lot like holding a gun for the first time. You know the principles of it — pull here and this thing will shoot off with a bang! — but using it and understanding the principles, the (social) physics of it, takes time and a lot of mistakes. So suddenly, all of these girls are dripping with accidental physical seduction and the guys are exploding with lust, and there’s this gun everybody’s using but no one knows how it works. Everyone’s getting shot and becoming someone else and you find yourself cowering in the corner of a dance with a glass of 100% chaser (because mom told you not to drink), wondering when you’re gonna get shot. Then you see a perfect pair of legs crowned by a tight black dress and a great ass cross your vision and you fall into her gladly, losing yourself in every sense of the word. Because she winked at you and you were kind of cute after all and didn’t you have bio together?
The point here is that no one had any fucking clue what they were doing in high school, and whoever says they did are stupider than the lot of us and have obviously missed everything for a solid four years.
So, there’s all this going on with school, and family pressure, and you wanna be cool because of the sex thing, and you want to be liked because being liked feels good with or without sex, and there’s all of this sudden frantic scratching for identity and purpose and everyone’s wide-eyed and looking for something that every adult’s been hinting should pop up at this time if you were going to be happy later in life.
Then it’s over. You’ve chosen your college, either honestly or socially, and you’ve made meager plans for the next few years. You keep in touch with a few kids, and make friends with ones you never would have talked to in high school and your life kind of goes on, and you begin the real education of learning that you aren’t entitled to anything. (The rich unfortunately fail this lesson by default and that’s a shame because they need it the most.)
And here I sit, at that point. When I go on Facebook and I come across someone from middle school, I’ll go to their photos and notice how their face has changed from what I remember. I imagine the lives they’ve lived in the interim, and I compare it with mine, and it’s in that moment of comparison that I notice that I’ve changed, too, and that what I feel when I do this is either a temporal lack of synchronization or a temporal synchronization. Because I have the image of how that person was, and I guess somewhere deep down I imagined they would be a certain way today and they are or aren’t. I still can’t tell which. I can’t tell if they’re exactly how I imagine them to be or if they’re totally different. Because I comb those faces and I say, “Yes, there are the eyes, there’s that nose, I remember that smile, and oh that hair, of course, but it’s just so different,” and I guess the differ—
Oh, I get it. I get what’s happening. When I see the facebook pictures now, I see two people at exactly the same time: who they are now and their middle school counterpart. I superimpose them together and get a weird nonlinear representation.
Which makes me feel that I see those people better and more totally than I’ll ever see myself.