Friday Firesmith – Five Years

It was a pleasant Summer night, one where the asphalt hadn’t soaked up so much heat that it was still brutal two hours after sundown, but it didn’t matter. Tim and I were both laborers, men who were used to working in the sun all day, and we were both young. I worked at a wood yard and pulled a ten-hour shift every day; Tim was home for a while after working on an oil platform in the Gulf. We liked to smoke pot and then play tennis. We’d get off work, put on our shorts, meet at the courts, and play until they cut the lights off at ten.
Tim was better than I was for a while, but I was catching up with him, or the cigarettes were. He usually would win early and start fading. I learned to press hard, hit shots he had to chase and make the points last longer. Tim, on the other hand, tried to end games quickly. He relied heavily on his serve, but I was learning to counter it. Tim was five years older than I was, and it had been a fairly harsh five years in many cases.

A pickup drove by, the bed of it packed with young people, young men and women, and back in the day, no one cared if you rode around in the back of a pickup. They were yelling, screaming, holding up drinks, and having a great time. I realized they were celebrating High School graduation. “We’re seniors! 84! No more school!” They were yelling, and we yelled back.
“It’s been five years,” I told Tim.
“Ten here,” Tim gasped, looking for a break in the action. He lit another cigarette and I grinned. He played worse after smoking and it was a sign he was giving up on the idea of winning.
“Feels weird,” I said, and I watched the truck roll out of sight. Those people had been in the eighth grade when I graduated. They had been in the third grade when Tim walked across the stage.
“See Curt today?” Tim asked.
“Yeah, he’s going out with some chick he met at a grocery store,” I replied.
“Let’s burn one,” Tim suggested, and we walked out back of the tennis courts to a cornfield and smoked a joint. This was Tim’s way of trying to get some sort of advantage, but I smelled blood in the water.
We played until ten, and the lights went off automatically. We loaded our gear and drank a gallon of Gatorade, because that was what we did back then. Neither of us knew it, but in five years he and Curt would both be married and have kids, and I would be gone from our hometown forever.

Graduation was thirty-five years ago, this year. Tim has been dead for seven years, and Curt for five. A friend of mine’s youngest daughter is graduating this year. Her middle daughter graduated five years ago.
Those kids in the back of the truck graduated thirty years ago.

I hated every second of every day of High School. I would rather roller skate through hell for fifty years carrying fifty gallons of gasoline in glass containers while wearing rabid porcupines on my scrotum than go through four years of High School again. Mostly, it was a way of dividing the time, after graduation, than anything else.

I wonder at what point in time we stopped dividing time that way, and started dividing it by the deaths of the people we once loved?

Take Care,
Mike

Mike writes regularly at his site:  The Hickory Head Hermit. Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the management of this site.

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7 thoughts on “Friday Firesmith – Five Years”

  1. Not loved but for HS pals, not long, in ’62 half the guys were headed to Vietnam, and half of them didn’t come back.

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  2. I despised high school. Didn’t fit in, wasn’t in clubs or athletics, I was the new kid. We had just come back to the states from living in Germany. For some reason the high school I was going to didn’t seem to have many other Army brats in it. I wound up dropping out and obtaining my GED at 17. My scores on my tests were high, although I never did anything with that. The only person who seemed impressed was the lady administering the tests.
    I was married and divorced by 20 and had a child to support. That’s how I count my years. I would have graduated in ’87. My son was born in ’85. Yes, I was a child bride. I find it hard to believe I have a son who will be 34 years old this November. How the hell did that happen? Newsflash! Time flies whether you’re having fun or not.

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  3. There were 600 kids in my graduating class in 1972. The draft for Nam ended the year before, so I didn’t have to worry about being conscripted. I enjoyed my HS years, participating in wresting, track, and cross country; singing in choir, dabbling in acting in stage plays, and covering sports for my school newspaper and the local town newspaper. Moving away to go to college and never living in my home town again meant I lost touch with all of my classmates. Until Face Book. I somehow came across a Members of the class of 72 page about 2 years ago, and have reconnected with old classmates and friends. It’s amazing to me how many of those people never moved away, and still remain friends. One of the administrators has taken it upon himself to update the page when someone passes. Currently, there are 70 of those people who have left us, the first when we were still in school (a car accident), and the most recent last week.

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