The Curse of a Good Memory: A High School Friend


The curse of a good memory. No good memory can be bad, especially as you get older, right? I’m not sure about that.

There are memories of those who have died. Maybe those memories are good, but you wind up feeling bad when you remember they are no longer here.

One memory that sticks in my mind is that of a high school friend. He lived across the streetcar tracks from our high school. A two-minute walk to get to class.

In the ‘30’s where he lived would have been rated a row house, among a line of 10 or 12 of them. Now in years much later, they remained the same with further depreciation. I think he had to check his house number before he entered to make sure he was going in the right house. Maybe a distinguishing feature among some of them was the lack of paint on the outside, or peeling paint that needed to be scrapped, primed, and a new coat of paint applied, which was never going to happen.

I never heard anyone in our school refer to him as living on the other side of the tracks, figuratively or literally. Maybe that was in deference to me, because they knew we were friends. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt, and say they never even thought of him in that way.

My friend had a good soul. Easy-going, kind to everyone, never provoked an argument I was aware of. Willing to do a favor. He had a kind word for and about everyone.

He could have been angry about his circumstances, but I never saw that. Angry because he knew his lot had been cast. There was no money for college unless he got a scholarship. A scholarship would never happen either, because as he told me, he, “Kinda got by” when it came to grades. We never compared our report cards side by side, but I fully understood what he was saying. A college education back then was just as important as it is now. Today’s job market may be tending toward a Master’s or PhD, for a sufficient vocation to be secured.

As with many after high school, I lost track of him. In reflecting now, I don’t believe I ever saw him again after the night of graduation. You don’t start a friendship to be only a high school friendship, but this one must have wound up that way.

Several years ago I read an obituary of someone with his same first and last name. He certainly was not named Jones, which would have made any ID impossible, unless the obit mentioned he went to our high school, which it didn’t. His name was not of the ordinary kind, but I’m not sure it was different enough to not be duplicated even in our small town.

I don’t know whether he had a good life. Whether he was able to meander through the maze of madness called this earth, and find gainful employment to provide a decent living for him and his family. I can’t even remember if he had a wife and children in the obit. That’s shameful. Years and miles and miles should never separate friends. Even not seeing each other should not have allowed me to forget the good talks we had in high school, and some things about life he pointed out to me that are still valid today.

I should have at least raised a glass of wine in a toast to him, to the fact he was important to our friendship, even if he were not ultimately important to the world.

Think about your friends tonight, close and distant. Let them know. Do not do as I did.

The fact that one has a good memory should not be limited to what you want to remember, but what you should remember.

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