Gone, but not forgotten
by Dom Chioffi
News travels fast…
I was sitting in my living room watching football last Sunday night when a text arrived. I glanced at my phone and saw it was from a high school friend that I’ve remained in light contact with over the years. I assumed he was just wishing me a happy holiday.
I opened the text and read the words… and then I read them again. Immediately, a pit formed in my stomach. I sat back in my chair and took in what he had just written: a girl we had gone through high school with, the twin sister of one of my best friends, had died a few days earlier.
The news was especially poignant for me because this person was my first “serious” girlfriend. I have not seen or spoken to her in 35 years and yet the news stung.
Our relationship lasted through a good portion of our junior and senior years of high school. Because I was such good friends with her twin brother, by default, I was hanging around their house quite often. Before I realized what was happening, we were a couple.
I had known her for years, mostly because she was one of the most adept female athletes in the state. She could run, jump and throw at such a high level that she eventually became one of the top heptathletes in New England. Unfortunately, injuries derailed a career that might have taken her to much greater heights.
Her home life was unique in that it was filled with six brothers and sisters along with a constant rotation of foster children that would swell the occupancy. The environment was in stark contrast to my own where it was just me and my parents.
I remember feeling intimidated when I first started going over. Not only were her father and two older brothers hulking figures, but it wasn’t uncommon for there to be severely disabled children present. I had never been exposed to children like these, but over time they warmed my heart, mostly for their ability to express unconditional love.
Due to these arrangements, my girlfriend had household responsibilities far beyond me, always cleaning and caring for the younger children. I marveled how everyone in the house worked together to get through each day.
My parents always liked her, mostly because of her jovial personality and because she returned the ribbing that my father was accustomed to dolling out.
We went to the prom together and celebrated with our classmates, but instead of attending the after party, we decided to escape to my family’s lake house where we made a fire and drank a cheap bottle of wine.
After graduation, our relationship dissipated as everyone’s life started to head in different directions. I never had an inclination that we would progress any further than we did, mostly because she always told me she was going to marry a boy from a few towns away who she had a crush on for years. I had no idea who this guy was, but he was a constant in our relationship simply because he was “the one” in her mind.
Ironically, she did marry that boy and from what I understand, went on to have several wonderful children with him.
I often wondered whether our paths would cross again, but that won’t be happening. If they had, I want to believe I would have told her what an important role she played in my young life.
It’s amazing the memories that have been flooding my head since I heard the news of her passing. That one little text from a friend conjured up events and situations seemingly lost to time and reminded me of a person who played a small but poignant role in my life. At some point I’ll have to dig through my attic to find some old photos that I’m confident are there.
This week’s film, “Queen & Slim,” focuses on a young couple who never got far enough for a photo. While out on a first date, an extreme situation occurs that forces them to go on the run to save their lives.
This is a high anxiety film that uses the modern landscape of social media to help propel the story. It’s an interesting commentary on race and pop culture and where they might converge when something horrible happens.
Check this one out if you’re in the mood for a twisted love story set within the tension between race and authority.
A traumatic “B” for “Queen & Slim.”
Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.