When I was about eighteen, I had a girlfriend, B, whose estranged, abusive stepfather was the guy in town who sold worms out of his front yard. He had a very famous and weatherbeaten sign facing Sixteenth Avenue that said in scrawled black letters, ‘BAIT WORMS HELLGAMITS’. I still have no idea what ‘hellgamits’ are, but based on his childlike handwriting and second-grade education, I strongly suspect a misspelling. Yeah, I know, an internet search would reveal the answer easily enough, but I actually like holding onto that particular little mystery.
As far as I know, he’s still in business. I haven’t driven that stretch of Sixteenth Avenue during the last couple of times I was in town, but as of a few years ago, he was still at it. And no, I didn’t stop by to say hello or anything. In fact, I never met him back in the day, and I didn’t want to, either, all things considered.
And what happened to B? Well, I was in college at the time, and one of the things college is good for (aside from the whole getting-an-education thing) is meeting significant others. I think you can imagine where this is going. After a couple months of dating B, I met K, who would change the course of my life, and I knew that our orbits would synchronize from the first minute we met. K and I would be together on-again-off-again for the next five years, through both of my mullet haircuts. B joined the Navy and I’m sure is living a perfectly functional life somewhere. Last I heard, she got married and had a baby when she was around twenty years old. My mom really liked B, actually, and they kept a friendship going for about a year or so after that, and wrote long letters back and forth, much to my annoyance, because I felt it sent a terrible message to K, who I count among the great loves of my life.
I still find myself wondering about K occasionally. She moved to EmeraldCity at the exact same time I moved to Portland, and we went our separate ways and lost contact, somewhat surprisingly, after that. She’s not on any of the usual social networking sites, and doesn’t seem to have an online presence, despite the fact that she works as an artist for a well-known video game company.
I’m not feeling romantically nostalgic for her, even though it may seem like I am. I am curious, however, to see how her life has turned out, and every once in a while I’ll see something or someone that reminds me of her, and that will make me start to wonder. We’ve all known people who really made their way deeply into our hearts, and sometimes the echoes of their voices seem to reverberate back into the world again.
But I’m not a Pollyanna, and I’m not stupid. There were good reasons for us to split up, despite how much we loved each other, and I’ve never regretted our decision. Most important of all is the fact that if we had stayed together, I would never have met the myriad of great people I have in my life now (hello, myriad of great people!), or made the changes in myself that needed to be made. The people I’ve been with since then have affected me even more deeply, thanks in part to the experiences and expectations that I learned from my time with K, but also thanks to all those years of therapy, if we’re being completely honest here. Doesn’t mean that I can’t wonder about her sometimes, though, and that’s perfectly okay.
There’s a Decemberists song, one of my very favorites, called Red Right Ankle, which has a poignant final verse that sorta sums up this weird, non-nostalgic nostalgia that I’m feeling, and I’m going to use it in an attempt to tie up all of the loose ends of this entry into a neat, tidy little Scooby Doo ending.
This is the story of the boys who loved you, who love you now and loved you then
Some were sweet and some were cold and snuffed you, some just laid around in bed
Some had crumbled you straight to your knees, did it cruel, did it tenderly
Some had crawled their way into your heart, to rend your ventricles apart
This is the story of the boys who loved you
This is the story of your red right ankle.
What a strange feeling this is. What a strange entry this is. And not a bit of Scooby Doo in the ending after all. Sorry about that.