High school. A place of judgement, cliques, and where the popular mix with the unpopular. All must all interact together though, living and dreaming in the same space. It is the stage set for the best and the worst experiences in life.
He was a jock, a football player and he wanted to be my boyfriend. He was cute, but I was sure that his only reason for wanting to date me was that someone made him a bet. You know the story, jock hits up the geeky girl and gets her in bed only to get kudos from his other jock friends. And he was relentless! Always hanging around, always trying to tell me how pretty I was. And it pissed me off! Why would this guy, who could have any girl in the school, want to have anything to do with me? I blew him off. He kept it up. Then, finally I told him we could be hang out. I was sure that he would get bored and move on, there were too many other girls that were much easier to get than me. And so, we dated, and he stuck around. After some months of dating, I was starting to feel like maybe he was for real, maybe he did like me, maybe this could be a thing.
One night me and a couple of my friends went out cruising the strip. This was the thing every high school kid in Las Vegas did on the weekends. We drove up one side of the road lined with casinos and fast food restaurants, made a U-turn and then drove back down the other side of the road lined with different casinos and fast food restaurants. We repeated this over and over again, occasionally stopping for food or to say hello to other people in cars in parking lots. The only point of this was to be seen in your car, waving at the people you knew in other cars and then go home.
Suddenly we were flagged down by a truck full of girls. Neither me or my friends knew who they were but decided to pull over anyway. As we pulled into a Wendy’s parking lot and a girl jumped out from the back of the truck before it even stopped and immediately stormed right towards, me looking like she was ready to fight. Her body hunched with purpose, fists balled up and long blonde hair swinging at her back to the momentum of her steps. I had been in fights before, it seemed to be my curse. Some girl doesn’t like me for whatever reason and the ONLY resolution, of course, is to try and beat me up. Well, I did not know this girl and had no idea what she wanted, so I braced myself for whatever crazy she was bringing with her. As she approached she was screaming something unintelligible. She raised her arms from her sides periodically and as she got closer to me in-between her strange rant I did catch her saying something about a fiancé? Which just deepened the mystery of the whole thing. Once she got close to me I asked her what the problem was and that I didn’t know her or her fiancé. Then she said his name. It was him! My boyfriend, this guy that told me I hung the moon, that spent all of his free time with me! The girl was from another high school and as I tried to wrap my head around this news, I could only guess that he thought the two of us would never meet or ever find out about each other. The girl finally calmed down when she realized I really had no idea he had been dating someone else. We talked it out and accepted that we were both being played. She told me that they had been dating for two years and had plans to marry after high school. I told her not to worry, the creep would never hang out with me again. As we talked she visibly went from a raging maniac with flailing arms and chest puffed out to a defeated young teenage girl, shoulders slumped, arms limp, heartbroken and crushed. We each said our peace and then went our separate ways.
That night I was staying at a friend’s house. We got to her house and changed into pajamas. Then sat together on her trundle bed. We had the lights in the room turned off but had candles burning on a dresser which reflected light off of the walls and ceiling giving the room a soft, calming glow. We talked about all that had happened. To show my age this was the era of En Vogue, a girl band that was really popular and always on the radio. They had a hit song called “My lovin’” (You’re never gonna get it). The chorus of that song has a line where they say “Ooooh, bop”, which to us sounded more like “Doo Wop” and was terribly similar to Mr. “I need a girlfriend from every school” ‘s last name. So, we played the song and happily sang it inserting his last name into the chorus laughing and giggling like teen girls do. I had moments of angry rants about being betrayed and I had moments of real sadness at losing my boyfriend.
As we were talking and singing and laughing, the phone rang. It was one of those clear plastic phones where the guts inside were covered in bright neon colors and lit up so when you had the phone on silent you still knew you had a phone call and your parents would never hear it. I think every teen girl had one during the 90’s. My friend answered the phone and low and behold, it was Mr. Doo Wop wanting to talk to me which, of course, I refused at first. After he pleaded a bit with my friend, I finally agreed to get on the phone thinking I knew what would happen. He would give a slick “I am sorry, it’s really only you, she means nothing to me speech followed with “we are good right?”. This is what I imagined. But it was nothing like that. He did say that he was sorry, but he needed me to understand his side, he sounded desperate and anxious. He told me that the other girl was controlling and wouldn’t let him break up with her, serious eye-roll here. Then he said that the girl had actually broken up with him that night and he needed to talk to somebody and he said that talking to me always made him feel better. I was feeling indignant and jaded that he had the gall to ask me to help him through his own sorrow of getting caught despite the fact that internally I wanted to help and talk him through this. My response to him was that he would get no sympathy from me and I promptly hung up the phone. He called a few more times begging to talk to me but refused and didn’t talk to him again.
I am an empath. I feel other people’s feels and he was in real pain. He was so distressed and clearly didn’t know how to handle it. At that moment though, I didn’t care. In that moment I knew that there would never be a relationship between us, I felt that in a few days he would go back to her and they would make-up and life would continue the same way it had before as if all of this had never happened. I was so very wrong.
It was the weekend, so my friend and I stayed up late that night going over all of things that had occurred. We did finally doze off planning to sleep all of the next day as teens do on the weekend. Instead, we awoke to the ringing of the brightly colored phone. My friend answered, and I stayed right where I was, pulling the covers tighter to my chin, nothing good could come from a phone call this early in the morning. I listened to the one side of the conversation that I could hear and before my friend hung up the phone I was already sitting up and knew that “Doo Wop” was dead. Not that I “knew knew” because no one had told me yet, but I knew because I heard the desperation in his voice the night before. The pleading, not that I would take him back, but that by talking to him I could somehow give him comfort. He had been found by his younger brother who was a toddler at the time. The child had gone to wake him up for breakfast and found him lifeless lying on his bed, he had shot himself in the head with a shotgun, an image no one should see, especially a toddler.
The day of the funeral my friends and I found our seats. “Doo Wop” had been cremated and his urn was tastefully displayed at the front of the chapel. I saw his mother and his other girlfriend “fiancé” sitting in the front row. As we waited for the funeral to start we heard gasps coming from behind us. I turned around and to mine and everyone else’s surprise, there he was! Walking down the aisle, whole and unharmed. In complete shock, me and most of the crowd watched this man walk to where his mother was sitting, he bent down, gave her a hug and then sat next to her on the pew. What was happening? Was this a joke? I turned my head in all directions to get a look at the crowd around me. Some were talking to each other in whispers, some looking around confused like me and some sitting quietly with no reaction at all. If this was a joke, it wasn’t funny. After talking with some of the people near us, my friends and I learned that the man who had just walked down the aisle was actually Doo Wop’s older brother. I was still stunned. That moment of thinking he wasn’t dead and that this whole thing was just a joke gave me a hell of an adrenaline rush. The crowd finally settled down and it was time to start the service. Several people got up to the pulpit and said such wonderful things about him. And he was wonderful and so young. He had a kind heart and loved his family. His death was a real tragedy and affected many students at the school. I can only imagine what his family was going through.
I don’t remember the funeral, I don’t remember what happened after the funeral. I will always remember the phone call. The plea for help. Not because he was upset over a girlfriend matter but that there was clearly something else going on. And I had ignored it. I don’t blame myself for not talking to him that night, there was no way I could have known what was going to happen. I do however hope that if I ever recognize that same desperation for help, that I will take a moment, follow my gut and listen.