I Did a Terrible Thing in High School That I Can't Remember

“Are you coming?” she asked, on the message chain. “Because if you’re coming, I can’t be there."

The point is not what happened, because I don’t actually know what happened. Or rather, I don’t remember what happened, which is the most disconcerting thing of all. All I know, really, is that at some point I did an awful thing I don’t remember.

In high school, I was anxious and I worked hard and I had a lot of friends. Those were the main things. And also, my mother was dying. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, but still. I clung hard to my friends, especially one, who I’ll refer to as B. I thought she was the luckiest person I knew — the prettiest, the smartest, the most stylish and confident. I remember watching her work in study hall, how frantic and relentless her handwriting was, how her notebook pages swelled with ink, the way her textbooks were always stuffed with folded handouts. It all looked so comfortable, the way her whole life did.

After we graduated, B went to the only school she’d ever wanted to go to, and I went to a huge university. I came home sometimes, and when I did, I saw B. At least at first, and then not at all. These are old memories; they are vague and covered with the dust of what seems like a million years — the alumni football game at our high school, a visit to my dorm, driving around on a weekend, ending up at a diner in the middle of nowhere. It’s during my second year of college that things really start to go blurry, when B disappeared from the world entirely. But that was also the year my mother died, so I lost of lot of information. And it’s strange what happens, how the people you thought were the most important get replaced by other people you’re sure are the most important.

I heard B got married, had a baby. I moved, I moved, and I moved again. I missed all my high school reunions because no one could ever find my address, and I never bothered to make sure they had it. The idea of attending reunions was never particularly attractive — if I saw anyone from high school, I wanted it to be the folks I was closest to.

A handful of years ago, I learned via a Facebook message that some of my high school friends were planning a meet up in Boston. "I’ll try and make it," I said. And then, a message from B. “Are you coming?” she asked, on the message chain. “Because if you’re coming, I can’t be there. You know what you did. Friends don’t do that.”

As I said before, I didn’t know what I had done. “Did you kill her dog or something?” another friend asked, after she read the Facebook message. And then I started thinking or rather falling into a spiral of anxious terror. I wasn’t worried that I’d killed someone (exactly), but what had I done? What had happened between us or between me and someone else in relation to B that made her literally unwilling to be in the same room with me?

It’s possible that what happened had to do with a mutual friend and college housing. When I spelunked through the memories of people who knew me in college, that’s what they came up with. I’ve tried to reconstruct it, to sort through the possibilities of what I might have done and when and why. Not because I think we can ever be friends again, but because it’s scary to me that I might have lost a huge chunk of my memory, or, that I could hurt someone and then forget about it, dismiss it like it’s nothing. That that’s a person I could be. This is basically the reason for this essay — the fact that since this whole thing happened, the Facebook message chain, B’s anger — I’m still thinking about it. As much as I’ve chastised B in my head for being mad at me, for not letting it go, even though we are in our thirties and really, we’re still hanging onto this, here I am, here I have been, obsessing.

Since we are in our thirties, and we have already lived lives on top of lives, some resembling scar tissue more than others, decisions need to be made. I never really get it when people say that the past is in the past, because it never really seems like it is. The past for me is constantly reloading, showing back up. But not everything in the past has to have the same weight, I guess, and so maybe I can say something like, I am sorry for whatever thing I did when I was the person I was then. If that person is still in me, and I’m sure she is, because I’m not sure people really change that much, I hope she has managed to be better behaved since then.

A while ago, maybe it was years ago, I was in the town where I went to college, in a car with a friend, driving into a parking lot, and I saw someone I think was B. She was wearing a mustard-colored coat and walking quickly. We didn’t make eye contact, but I wonder if she saw me. In a dark part of me that I try not to indulge, I wonder if she knew it was me and if she went home and told all of our once-mutual friends that I look terrible. It’s funny how, even in my imagination, that is still the meanest thing she could say.

Anyhow, after all this time, I hope she’s doing well.