He thought she was an ice princess. She thought he was a freak. He wore bathrobes to school. She wore pleated plaid skirts and penny loafers. His hair was a curly, frizzy mess. Hers was tame, shiny, straight and blond. They wanted absolutely nothing to do with each other.
They were total opposites. But opposites, as they say, attract. Is it possible their biology teacher knew that when he decided to create a seating chart out of the blue? For months the students had their choice of seats, but suddenly they were being told where to sit. The funny thing is that most of the 11th grade class didn't even change seats, but for the "ice princess" and the "freak" - well, they were more than aware and annoyed that they were now forced to share a lab table. For a moment it did feel like the end of the world.
The first few days were tense. There wasn't much speaking, but yet not as much eye rolling as one would expect. It wasn't really until the day they had to make a baby that everything changed! Together they had to create DNA and draw the resulting child. Perhaps the moment that the friendship blossomed and a bond was formed was when without any hesitation or discussion, the two agreed that no matter what happened, their child would not have a unibrow! That's a reasonable, right?!?
From that day on, suddenly the two enemies became close friends. They would hang out on the weekends at the bowling alley, hit up their favorite restaurant, talk for hours on the phone about anything and everything. When she would host parties for close friends, he was always the first one there and the last one to leave. He was the only one brave enough to show up in a toga for the toga party she held. A toga, I suppose, isn't that far off from his bathrobe!
It was a strange thing, that friendship. Two mortal enemies became fast friends. He was always there to make her laugh, she was there to cheer him up and listen to him when he needed a friend. Just as sudden as that tight bond was formed, it was taken away.
* * * * * * *
I will never forget that last time I talked to him. He wasn't himself. There were no smiles, there were no words. Just him walking and staring at the ground, while I talked to him trying to get him to open up and say what was wrong. Too quickly we had to part ways to go to our respective classes in that now torn down Fine Arts building.
The next Monday is a day I'll never forget. January 1996. We were so close to finishing our senior year of high school. So close to getting a fresh start in a new place, with new friends at new schools. Keith never got that chance. That morning I vividly remember a mutual friend pulling me aside and telling me the news that suddenly my fingers can't even find in them to type. Holy cow - 14 years later and it can still make me cry! I didn't make it through that full day of school, it was just too damn hard. Nothing like having your first funeral be that of one of your best friends. To this day I can't really even listen to that Mariah Carey/Boyz II Men song One Sweet Day!
I still think about him quite often and wonder, if he hadn't pulled that trigger, what would he be doing now? I like to fantasize that he didn't choose to leave us, but instead was forced to move away as part of a witness protection program, and that one day when I least expect it he'll pop back into my life. I guess its a long, unrealistic shot, but its easier to keep that fantasy going than to really accept the truth. I will see him again someday - floating on our respective clouds in togas playing harps - and I will smack him upside the head and ask him WHY???!!!