Last night a very old friend came to my counter. I last saw him at high school graduation 16 years ago.
High school was rough for me but not in the way American teen series depict it. I was bullied in primary and secondary schools but when I started high school, I felt I was finally safe.
In Finland we have compulsory education until we’re 16. After that kids go to either high school or a vocational school.
All of my friends from secondary school went to vocational school to become practical nurses. Each and every one of them. I was the only one who went to high school. There were four of them in the town: a Finnish one for people who wanted to do a double certificate (high school and vocational), a Finnish one that required higher grades from compulsory education, a Swedish one and an International Baccalaureate high school.
I went to the second mentioned. And I suddenly had all new friends. I mean, there were a few prior acquaintances and friends from confirmation school (which almost all Finns take at 15 during the summer) but they weren’t in my group.
I made friends immediately. Friends who loved music and reading and studying. Such friends as I’d never had before. I loved them with the fervour one loves as a teenager, thinking we’d be friends forever. We’d re-write lyrics, make up songs, write letters and enjoy literature together until we were old and grey. And they thought so too.
During the second year of high school everything changed again. These friends found their first boy/girlfriends and all but disappeared. I didn’t get it. And I felt abandoned. The girls who started dating bonded together and I was left out. The guys who started dating couldn’t hang out with me anymore (who knows why…). This was also a time when a lot of my friends took the exams for the music school graduation so even if they didn’t start dating, they weren’t there. And yet others started frequenting bars and night clubs after we were 18. Which I wasn’t really into.
I had read a lot up till then. But that year I slid into the world of books and escaped the hurt I felt. I borrowed a book from the town library after school or during lunch, I then read it during the afternoon classes and in the evening. And then I slept a while(4-6hrs) and finished the book in the morning or during forenoon classes. And then I did it again. And again.
I started from the crappy end of romance (sorry Harlequin and Barbara Cartland), proceeded to Jude Deveraux and Judith McNaught and such and then dove into Jane Austen and the Brontës. I reread Alcott and Montgomery and just about anything. And this was during work week. In the weekends I was living in Narnia and Earthsea and Osten Ard and just about anywhere else than the real world. I reread The Lord of the Rings.
The only person still sticking with me was this friend. The one I met again yesterday. I didn’t realise it at the time, nor did he, but he kept me somewhat tethered to reality. He called me out on my shit and I’d probably have failed all my classes had I not paid attention to them because he was there, pulling me out of whichever world I was in.
So I associate this person both with some of my favourite literature (I could rave about it to him endlessly and he didn’t mind) and being there when no one else was. No wonder I got emotional and nostalgic last night after I got off work. Never mind he was probably around because the girls he had crushes on never wanted to date him. He was there.
After graduation we went our separate ways. This was 16 years ago and he wasn’t into cell phones the last I saw him😂 I guess I always thought I’d meet him around town at some point. I never did. Our friendship never got the chance of dying a natural death in the way many others do. It was just cut.
During my deepest depression I went through past events and people of influence in my life and finally realised what a friend I’d had. And I decided I’d tell him and thank him the next we met. Which of course I couldn’t do at the shop counter.
So yeah. Some people are irreplaceable and you realise it only afterwards. I hope I’ll bump into him again sooner than in 16 years.