Wednesday, April 12, 2006

TOM/DREW

Yesterday I ran into someone from high school. Is it a big deal? In a way...kind of - for at least three reasons:

  • I have almost successfully avoided anyone from high school for 25 years
  • I remembered who he was on-site
  • He noticed/acknowledged me first. I never ever think that anyone ever remembers who I am (yeah, I got self-esteem problems, what of it?)
"Tom", (we'll call him that, ok?) was on his way to my neighboring clinical department, which just happens to be Infectious Disease. We exchanged pleasantries, deciding not to catch up there in the lobby, but I said if he wanted, to stop by my office after his appointment. I'll be honest, I never thought he would. But one-half hour later there he was.
Tom went to Ohio State, same time I was there, so hence the 'almost' in my avoidance of all things Walsh Jesuit. (Though I did run into someone else at a funeral a few years back, but I digress...) We had very few one person whom we knew outside of high school in common. We didn't travel in the same circles by any stretch of the imagination.
...unless you have a vivid imagination.
From a class we had together junior year, I got a vibe from Tom. Mind you, back in the day, Walsh was an all-boys school...hormones were in flux, so the vibes ran rampant. During this class, Tom and I were paired w/two other guys on some project. At this time Tom felt the need to confide in me. Confide might be too strong of a word. Boast? That might be better.
While our project partners did the actual work, Tom would tell me stories or allude to his truisms. Two of his tales have stuck w/me since:
  1. His trips to NYC and some 'movies' that he made there. Movies that he was sure I'd never see. Hmmmmmmm. (It's true, I never saw E.T., so it's possible he's in that!)
  2. Then there was how at 16 or 17 years old he had gone to the hall of records finding records of an expired infant who died 21 years before, but who had gotten a social security number. Tom applied for many things under this kid's identity. Tom became 'Drew'.
This was in the day before most anyone had heard of identity theft. I'll admit, the more he went into detail, the more I was intrigued. Seemingly untethered freedom - which of course was a fallacy. Everything has consequences.
I ran into "Tom" at OSU, and though he wasn't unfriendly, when around other people he kept his distance....and I know why. I'd overhear them call him "Drew". In certain ways, he did what we all wish, at some time, we could do. He escaped. He became someone else.
Clearly, I lost touch. Not that I'd ever see him at a reunion. Not that I've ever been to a reunion. Again, I've avoided these folks for a quarter of a century - do you think I'd actually pay to catch-up w/their lives??? (Actually for my 20th, I had a plan to go w/Rebecca and Andrew. Becca was 9mos pregnant and we were going to go as a threesome. I'm not sure Andrew was ever let in on this plan.)
So, now here Tom is in my office, on his last possible course of treatment to save his life. Being brought back from the brink three other times - he was amazingly in good spirits. His lover of 12 years leaving him two months prior - he was amazingly in good spirits. His house burning down to the ground a year ago - still.....great spirits.
We talked about a few high school people we knew OF - but didn't know anymore. The folks we were close to/friends with - until diploma was in hand and how dispensable they were. And though it wasn't said - how dispensable we were. No regrets.
I gave him my card - told him to call me anytime.

2 comments:

Dith said...

That's a sad story!

Good, but down.

rebecca said...

I wish I'd used an assumed alias at OSU!