Woah, what? Hold up.
I was a freshman in high school and he was a senior. I only noticed him because he had senior drawing the same time I had freshman drawing and the art room was only divided by a series of supply cabinets. I would see him and his ultra cool friends hanging outside the art room everyday after class before the next block began. He was fascinating to me, there was something super enigmatic about him. He was a stocky dude, tattooed, and goatee-d. He walked with a cane because he was in a terrible car accident a year or so earlier and had lost most of the feeling in his right leg. He had the warmest eyes I had ever seen and I was completely captivated by him. So much so that one day, I had to say something.
He was hanging out by the pole near the art room between blocks one day. He was by himself, I think just waiting for the next class to begin. I walked up to him in my clumsy 14/15 year old splendor and said hi. I told him I wanted to draw him. He smiled and said that would be pretty cool. The next class, the art teacher from the seniors walked over to our section of the room and asked if anyone wanted to join in on the figure drawing session they were having. We had a substitute that day so we weren't really doing much. Immediately, my hand went up and I went over to the other side where this kid, K I will call him, was the model for the day. he smiled warmly and told me he would be good on his word for letting me draw him.
After that, he would wave hi when passing me in the halls and called me "Shorty" because I was very much smaller than him. He drove a cherry red chevy impala from 1965 with black leather interior and always had the best music collection in his car. Sometimes he gave me a ride back to my house, which I always secretly delighted in.
He wasn't an idiot though and knew I had a crush on him. But he had a girlfriend and that was that. At least then it was. I still had to tell him how I felt, in that he was very much an inspiration to me (which was true, we had great creative conversations and always had this warm connection, plus I was very impressed with the way he dealt with his injury and how he had almost died.) I wrote him a letter about how he was an awesome person to me and I went to his work (he worked at the supermarket near me) and I handed it to him while he was sweeping up spilled green beans in the produce aisle. I ran out of there thinking he thought I was biggest geek ever. He never said more than thank you ("that was very sweet of you!") in regards to the letter. Later on, he asked me to take photos of him at his graduation where he had painted on his cap the date he almost died as a reminder of how fragile life was and how he had come past that. I still have that photo buried in my trunk.
Here's where the real inspiration kicks in. He had been part of the TV studio/video production program at the high school. He actually used to broadcast a really funny radio type show over the lunch menus on the educational network where he played lots of punk and indie rock and make really crude jokes (as crude as he could get away with, of course). Just before he graduated, he won a best music video award at the local high school video awards and it was then that I started to have an interest in video production.
Before this point, the only camera I had ever picked up was my friend's new fangled digital camera and a 35mm my mom had lying around, the kind where you had to wait for the light to stop blinking before taking a picture. K really liked my artwork and thought I had a good eye for movie making and suggested I should get into video production. Of course I jumped all over that my sophomore year. The rest is history on those fronts. I joined "TV Studio 1" and never looked back.
I didn't see K for nearly a year after his graduation. Then one day, while I was working to set up a three camera shoot for the yearbook signing celebration, he appeared, laughing and goofing around with the TV studio director. He saw me wrapping wires and hauling cameras and came running over to me, arms wide for a hug. it was a bit overwhelming for me, but I hadn't stopped thinking about where he was, what he was doing, even a year after we last spoke. He was especially flirtatious, but my social ineptitude at the time didn't even begin to clue in on his intentions and I merely felt he was just happy in general. He gave me his number and insisted that I should call him so we could hang out. I told him I would, but of course I didn't. I couldn't. What would I say? What would we do? All of our interactions were based on school and now he was no longer a part of that...
Fast forward a few weeks and I get an unrecognized phone number on our caller ID. I just got home from school. It was cloudy out and I wasn't feeling all that well. I changed into my PJs and was just doing some homework when the phone rang. It was him. Asking what I was up to. Pretending to be upset that I hadn't called him. He said he would pick me up in 20 minutes and we would go hang out. OMG. WTF. I could barely breathe when I hung up the phone. Everything I felt for him the previous year came rushing back. I had often hoped he would call one of these days, and there he was, calling me, taking me out for ice cream and long deep, existentialist conversations after sunset. My mom made fun of me for being out so late. I floated to bed that night wondering what the fuck was going on.
Two days later, he comes over with The Breakfast Club, we watch it on the couch with my parents asleep upstairs and by the end of the night we're snuggling and it was fucking wonderful.
We dated for a while, not a super long time, but enough so that when it ended, when he told me he wasn't interested in being in a long term relationship at that point in his life (he was, after all, about to head to college), there was a sting. But I kept quiet and I didn't let it get to me. It hurt, but it should have been way worse. I think maybe I was a bit relieved, like if we had kept going, I would have ruined everything and lost him as not only a potential lover, but a great and truly supportive friend as well. We went through a lot in our short time in dating, not like dramatic relationship shit, but rather intense milestones and moments. I was there for the first time he ever played hockey again after his accident. His mother and I cried watching him back on the ice, excited to be overcoming a really tragic event. He was there for me when I pushed myself in soccer and drawing and writing, always offering up useful critique and genuine praise. Even after we ended as a dating couple, there was never any animosity. How could there be? We didn't end because we hated each other, it just wasn't the right time in our lives, and maybe it was never meant to be. I think it's ridiculous how mature I handled that whole situation. I could have cried and screamed and begged why me and ripped up his pictures and gave him the evil eye everytime we crossed paths, but that never happened.
We hung out occasionally after that, going on trips to Boston or hanging out at bonfires in his backyard. He was my prom date and got really into being as geeky as possible - we had matching prom outfits, me in my red dress with sheer black cover and a wreath in my hair, and him with a black and red houndstooth jacket and a little red bowtie. We both worked at the same cable access job, but on different days, and occasionally we would drop by on each other's shifts and watch bad PSAs and polkatime and talk about whatever. We lost touch after I went to college. He went out to Westfield and I went to MassArt and while I would see a bunch of his friends from high school at MassArt, he never seemed to come visit.
So now here I am in 2008, very far removed from the world of Taunton, MA and all the characters within and seeing his writing on the stupid facebook wall is launching me back into all my old memories. It's funny how I'm a much stronger person now. How I'm a much more social person. How I can look him in the eyes now and not tremble or feel heartache. And yet, he's the same, for the most part. Teaching, and working at a liquor store, but still philosophical and creative and warm. And it's making me miss having him back in my life.
So I guess this entry's for him, someone who didn't destroy me or make me cry myself to sleep. If you ever want to know what brought me into filmmaking, this is the story and this is the dude.