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AN OPEN LETTER TO S

Dear S.

Long time no speak. How are things? First, what do I call you? Since this is on the Internet so anyone can read it, you probably don't want me using your real name. How's Shaflah? Too trendy? Maybe S Minor? Or simply S? Who am I kidding. Nobody reads these posts anyway, certainly not you. So let it be Shannon. Or if you prefer, "Shannon." (wink)

I dreamed about you last night. We were at some public park, lying on the grass. I saw you first, but since one of the last times we saw each other you basically ignored me, I looked away. And then you motioned me over. I gathered up my blanket and ran to your side, where I spread out my things, careful that our blankets wouldn't overlap or even touch. Is there symbolism to this? We filled each other in on our lives, seeing as how it's been nearly a decade. I confirmed my suspicions. You were angry at me for that thing I did. But that was so long ago. And it didn't even involve you. Monica wasn't even your friend. Except in the dream she was. In the dream you gals were close. I guess you just expected more than for me to tell my story to the news. But they approached me! Literally. They were waiting at my door when I came home. O well, water under the bridge. . . .

I asked you about your kids. I know you have two. Or knew it in the dream. I was on the point of asking you about your husband I have never met, but you stopped me by kissing me on the lips. It was as if time stopped. We remain locked at the mouth so long I actually get a crook in my neck and consider rotating to the other side. And when I do, I stroke your face tenderly. It is a great kiss. Like the ones we shared in real life. How long has that been? I know. Twenty-four years. You were just a girl of fifteen. And I a self-important seventeen.

I loved you the moment I saw you. You probably don't remember it. It was at school the year before. You were fourteen. We were in an auditorium taking a standardized test. Students from all the grades were assembled, which is how a junior could be seated near a freshman. I turned around to pass the stack of scantrons to the row behind me and there you were, seated a couple rows back. You seemed to radiate all the light in the room. Your hair the color of gold. By this time I had heard about you, from Jason Newman. Remember him? He had said you were the prettiest girl in school. I didn't believe him. I was going steady with Neysa, and I said she was the prettiest. But that day in the lecture auditorium, I thought you were not only the prettiest girl in the school, but in the whole wide world. And I didn't feel guilty about thinking this. Because by then Neysa and I had broken up.

That summer, as fate would have it - permit me to stroll a bit down memory lane, and stop me if I bore you - another friend, DJ, who I'm sure you remember, showed up at my house one summer afternoon, saying we were going to the beach. I had been napping on my bed, but I got up and joined him in his car. There you were seated with two other girlfriends. Jessica and Jenna, I think. We went to the country club that Jessica's family belonged to, in Malibu. The Jonathan Club, I think it was. The group of us had a bite to eat, though I was so nervous sitting with you I lost my appetite. We talked about how I gave the other guys on the baseball team hair cuts. I thought it was just chit chat. Then we went to the water. You were wearing your white bikini. Beautiful from head to toe.

A couple days later you called me and asked if I'd like to cut your hair. I had never cut a girl's hair before, and felt so nervous, but I said yes. We made plans for me to pick you up the following evening on my way back from the gym. We had french fries at Ed Debevic's before coming to my house for the planned hair cut. Of course when I had you in the chair I couldn't think of removing one split end. Because you didn't have any. Because you were perfect. So I made some scizzor snipes in the air just for show and took you home.

Random memories fill my head. One evening when I came home after watching the Dodgers, we talked late into the night. When school began, so did we, slowly. I took you to Subway to buy sandwiches. You insisted on paying for your own. So independent! We went to Century City to see a movie. Remember which? Air America, with Robert Downey. He played a pilot. And remember the beach that night? Where in the sand without a blanket, outside of Gladstones, we shared our first kiss?

We hung out a lot those first few months of my senior year. I look back and in some ways it was the best time of my life. Yes, there was homecoming. And varsity soccer. And the fact of being a senior. But I was in love. With you. I've never told anyone this, but every morning before school I'd listen to "Love and Affection" by Nelson and imagine you, my dream girl come true. Your beautiful blue eyes. Those sun dresses you wore so well. That lilting voice that seemed to dance in the air. And your svelte figure and blithe movements. An angel. Everything I could ask for. And the song was extra fitting, because the Nelson twins had your hair!


You were spending time with Sean Marks, who as fate would have it was my ex Neysa's ex. But you led me to believe that it was just friendship. In our talks, your virginity often came up. You once remarked that it was all we talked about! I recognize in hindsight that to you it may have appeared that I wanted to be your first. But believe me, this was the furthest thing from my mind. Well, not the furthest, but not the first either.

Then one night I found out my parents were going to the movies, so we'd have the house to ourselves. It would be our special night. I ordered pizza and lit a fire, then picked you up and brought you home. Eventually we made it back to my room and there in the dark we kissed and caressed some. Your shirt came off, but not your bra. I remember you were on top of me when I heard the sound of my parents coming home. My room had no lock on the door, so off you went and in they came and I had you back home before I knew how close we had come to magic. We had another time alone, at your house, atop your bed. But when time stops and it feels like forever, it makes a kid think, what is the rush?

Then Jessica Pilch said that you maybe were having cold feet, that you didn't know how into me you were. Not into me? But I was a senior! And homecoming king! These were my thoughts at the time, I'm not proud to admit. I was stung to the quick. And then I went out with a teammate and a girl on the tennis team, Anita. And we wound up back at my house, in the dark, late at night. And this time my parents didn't come in. But how I wish they did! I fooled around with Anita as my friend watched. Not that he could have seen much, since it was pitch dark. I didn't expect it to get around school. I sure didn't say anything but somehow it had spread like wild fire. All over campus. Jessica came and said to me when you heard about what I'd done, your words were, "Utterly disgusting." Kind of harsh, but deserved I'm sure.

We talked and when I told you what happened, not in explicit detail, only confirming what you already knew, that I had hooked up with someone else, you were very upset, and understandably. We promised we would talk later. But I knew it was over. You'd never forgive me. Or if you did, surely you'd never forget, and you'd make me remember and regret it every time we got together. You called me the following weekend, left me a message, but I never called you back. How many times could I say sorry? I don't know if I ever did. So, I'm sorry. And I'm sorry it took twenty-four years to say it. Sometimes it's best to let a song express the feelings in one's heart, as in this case. So, here:


By the end of the month I started dating Lindsey. It didn't last long. I'm pretty sure she became a lesbian. The point is, our magic was gone. Two years later we came back into each other's life. Bryan Urda told me you had asked after me, so I decided to give you a call. You had the same number, had just graduated. We made plans for a walk along the Venice boardwalk. We ate pastries. You suggested I get a tattoo to go with my nose ring. I took you to see the gym where I worked out. And did I teach you how to drive stick in the parking lot? We talked about it, I'm sure of that. That night we saw Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire in an open-air auditorium in Topanga, with Richard Tyson playing the lead. I forget who played Blanche. I wonder if you remember. At intermission you complained that you hadn't found yourself, that you didn't know what you wanted. Why should you! You were not yet eighteen. At twenty, I was in the same boat. A good place to be if with you. You drove us back to my place in your convertible BMW. I invited you in for some tea but you declined. You were seeing someone. Granted, it was on the rocks, but you would be faithful, and maybe you were no longer interested in me. Once bitten twice shy, as they say. I called you a couple days later and you sort of blew me off, so that was that.

Three years later and again our paths crossed, this time at a party I threw with friends. We talked, but then Sean (another Sean, this one Brahms) appeared and "cock blocked" me, such a coarse term. You seemed to enjoy talking to him and I am not the type to vie for affection, so I let it go. Besides he's taller than me, and was more your match that way. It always made me self-conscious that you towered over me. Like Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. I wonder if that is why they broke up? Then there was that dinner at your place, where you and Sean wound up with your tongues down each other's throats. Me and my crew excused ourselves, and I didn't see you again until you were in a coffee shop and I was riding my bike. '99, I think it was. I said hello but didn't enter the joint and you nodded cooly so I rode away. Then years later, and you're walking with a baby in your arms. You're married. I'm a doctor. How things have changed!

How many times have we crossed paths through the years? I have never seen anyone from high school as many times as you, I mean randomly, unplanned. It's like we were connected. Remember that time we stopped to say hello outside that restaurant in Westwood, that day that you went to see a movie with your mom, and I happened to be seeing the same movie, and with my mom! What are the chances of that happening? The last time I saw you was in 2008, when I rode by you with your baby in your arms and we smiled at each other. It was a goodbye smile, I thought.

You're probably thinking, this dude sure lives in the past! I promise I won't go Young Adult on you. I am just trying to understand why this past month you have been on my mind, and then the dream. I decided to look you up online and saw that the man you are married to "blew tech fortune on the way to bankruptcy," that he "reported assets of $50 million and $100 million in debt." Don't you love how transparent the Internet has made us all? I hope you didn't marry this man, who I also discovered is 11 years your senior, for money. But if you did, it would be pretty understandable. Back in college, me and my fraternity brother, Pat, figured it all out, the whole battle of the sexes, when we agreed that men and women are in the game for different reasons. Men for beauty (and sex); women for stability (and status). Your husband sure got his wish in you. And you got yours in him. But now that he's a millionaire no longer, I hope you have other things about him to love, and that they suffice. You wouldn't have done much better in me. I may not be $100 million in debt. But I didn't start a Nasdaq company from scratch either. Hell, I don't even know what Nasdaq is. Don't they race cars?

My hunch (and hope) is that he'll rise higher than ever, and you with him. I'm sure he's a lovable man, in addition to being the father of your child (I believe you have one child together, rather than the two you told me of in the dream; I looked it up). He is handsome. And in one picture your noses are touching and you seem genuinely happy. And you did always like the older guys. We were an item (I won't say dating, because what teens date?) when 2 years between us was a big deal. You're beyond your years that way.

I'd be lying if I didn't sometimes wonder what if? If the dream is any indication, maybe you sometimes do, too. What if I hadn't fooled around with Anita? Would our thing have blossomed? Would I have been your first? I think it happened for you later that school year. If it had been me, would we have gotten serious? I did stay in town for college, so we wouldn't have necessarily broken up. Had we stayed together - but who am I kidding, I'd probably have screwed up somehow. Isn't that what being a teenager is about? Some high school sweethearts stay together forever. Just not us.

O, and the dream, our dream, how did it end? A girlfriend of yours handed you her cell phone, saying you had a call. You told me you needed to take the call and became instantly very serious as you held the phone to your ear. Maybe it was your husband calling to find out where you were. Or rather, to find out where your heart was while your body lay there next to him in bed. Me, I needed to pee and so I woke up.

It was a really great dream, Shannon. Just like old times, and when I fell back to sleep, I slept like a baby. But not all dreams come true. And although that kiss was about as perfect as kisses get, I think it would be better for us both if mine didn't. I want you to know, dear girl, that you have been the standard to which I've held all the girls I love, which is why I'm still single. And now that you're married, single I'll likely stay.

But whenever you feel blue, there's always dreamland where we can share a kiss or two, without strings or ado. Maybe I'll be seeing you.

Your friend, A.

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