There has been lots of bad news in my world this past couple of weeks. One of the things that has happened recently is that my childhood friend Steve passed away this week. It’s weird when stuff like this happens- I always think, do I blog about it? Do I not blog about it? The purpose of my blog is to put something out into the world that makes me laugh and maybe will make you laugh too. There’s enough crap we all go through on a daily basis, is what I’m thinking, and so why not carve out a nice little internet space where I talk about only the goofy? Really, that’s what my blog should be called, instead of The Pop Culture Librarian. It should be called Only the Goofy. And usually, no matter what my day looks like, I can think of some little conversation, some moment, some thought I had that day, that was pure silliness. And then I write about it. Granted, my life is pretty dang lovely and finding those moments is easy peasy, mostly. But every once in a while, I am thrown. And this week, with all that’s going on, I’m a little thrown.
So I am going to write about Steve. Because I’m thinking about him. And besides, our friendship was full of only the goofy.
When I was a kid, I didn’t really have a clique. That is not to say that I was an outsider, either. Rather, I was a kid who was part of pretty much every group, but also not fully part of any group. I don’t know why. When I was in middle school and high school, one of the groups I was friends with was this group of 5 boys. They all lived in my neighborhood, and they all were friends with each other their whole lives, and for some reason, they let me hang out with them too. I had many afternoons after school hanging out with this group, the only girl in a gaggle of dudes. One of them was Steve. I had known Steve pretty much my whole life, or at the very least since kindergarten. I have a memory of him in a boy scout uniform, sitting in the seat in front of me on the school bus in elementary school. There’s a part of me that always sort of thinks of him as a teeny kid in a boy scout uniform.
When we were in fifth grade, Steve and I were sitting in the cafeteria together and for some reason, he was telling me about his ancestry. Because 5th graders are all about the genealogy, or some shit like that? I don’t know, but that’s what we were talking about. He told me that he was English and French, and for some reason it sort of blew my 5th grade mind to think that my friend Steve was French. It seemed very cosmopolitan to me. So I said, “wow, you’re French?” and he said, in total seriousness, “Si!” We sat there for a second and blinked at each other, and then I said, “Shouldn’t that be ‘oui'”? And that made him laugh so hard that he sprayed pieces of chewed up bologna sandwich across the table. From that day forward, it was one of those jokes that never got old. As we grew up, went to middle school, then high school, all I would have to do is ask Steve any question that had an affirmative answer, and he would grin at me and say “Si!” and we would laugh until we cried. I know it’s not really that funny unless you’re in 5th grade, but that was the thing. There was a part of Steve and I and how we were around each other that never got past the 5th grade.
Well, that’s not entirely true. This group of dudes that I used to hang out with? When we were in middle school, they were a group of dirty, nasty, trashtalking boys. Which at that age is totally the thing to be, I suppose. And because I was the girl that hung out with them and that they sort of considered a girl, but didn’t really, they used to talk all kinds of shit in front of me. Some of it helpful to my very curious 14-year-old self, some of it not. One of the things that used to get talked about was the subject of boners. Especially calling each other out when one of them got one at an inappropriate time. This was a favorite topic in the summers, when lots of swimsuits were worn. “Dude, you totally had a BONER when Jennifer went up on the diving board!” one of them would say. “I DID NOT!” the other person would retort, with a face so red that it was pretty much a guarantee that he DID TOO. After being around this for a while, my shyness around the subject of hard ons totally dissipated. I started just asking them questions about how the mechanics really worked, and they totally told me. “So like, it can just happen any time?”…”Does it hurt?”…”What if you have to pee and you have one?” and so on. It’s all thanks to Steve and his friends that I was completely educated on boy-puberty without ever having to, you know, actually touch a penis or anything. I’m sure that if my parents knew the amount of talking about boners that I was doing with this group of boys, that they would have gone spontaneously gray. But it was innocent, and funny, and they treated me with a whole lot of respect, especially for 14-year-old boys. Not to knock 14-year-old boys, but you know what I’m saying.
Steve was also the first boy that I ever remember who told me I was beautiful. And it wasn’t even a ploy to get in my knickers or anything. It was in 9th grade, and we were sitting in the backstage area of the middle school auditorium. I had a crush on one of Steve’s friends, who wasn’t giving me the time of day. And Steve said to me: “I don’t think it’s that he doesn’t like you back. I just don’t think that he knows how to react to a beautiful girl who has a crush on him, that’s all.” Just like that. Matter of fact. Sweet as can be, that Steve.
And before this gets too mushy and you think Steve was not really a true teen boy, I also remember the time that we were on a choir retreat and someone had the brilliant idea that Steve should chug a Vernor’s ginger ale as fast as he could. Or maybe it was even multiple cans of Vernors. And maybe it was Steve’s idea in the first place, I don’t know. All I know is that Stevie boy did the deed. And he followed it up by opening his mouth and geyser-vomiting Vernor’s in the most convincing Linda Blair style I have ever seen. And he seemed really proud of that later, like he had totally accomplished something, with both the chugging and the spectacular aftermath.
I went through this period of time, when I was in college, where I kind of withdrew from everything related to my childhood. When I would go back to my hometown for breaks, I pretty much only saw a few high school friends and avoided everyone else. I felt really different than my friends then (I wasn’t), and I felt like our paths and interests didn’t cross at all any more (they totally did). I went to a party at a high school friend’s house reluctantly one New Year, and felt estranged from everyone there the entire time. I remember people kept telling me that I seemed different, and I secretly loved hearing that because that’s totally what I was going for. During this party, I was sitting on a couch, and Steve came over to sit next to me. We chatted for a bit, and I was being really quiet, only giving short responses, and kind of being a dick, to be honest. Finally, for some reason, I had to blurt out something about how different I felt, how this party was so lame, dude, and that I just didn’t get these people any more. Steve just shrugged his shoulders (did I mention that Steve was a big shrugger? He shrugged in response to a lot of things) and said something like “Eh, you seem the same to me.” And for some reason, I didn’t mind hearing that from him.
Anyhow, that was my friend Steve. He’s one of those types of people in life that you always think you’re going to go have a beer with some day, even if you’ve been out of touch for a while. So it sucks that I know that won’t happen now. Just…sucks.
If you’re wondering what I’m thinking about these days, is it likely that I’m thinking about Steve?