I can recall my friendship with Randy (not his real name) like it was the day after yesterday; I was 19, or 20, or somewhere in that delightful AGE OF REASON called college. Can't recall exactly where we met, but it seems like we both had lousy dates at a place called 'The Warehouse' in Oxford.
He was from upper New York. I was from here, there and everywhere... son of a governmental employee, but somehow still a son of the South. I claim the South. Even though I was not bourne here. I was bourne in free state country.... that was the three categories they had back in 3rd grade. Rebel, Yankee, and free stater. I was a free stater. Never actually seen where I was born, either. They tell me it is beautiful out there.
Randy was a man with a mission-- he wanted a physics degree from Ole Miss, and his upper New York background and upbringing made him have a unique take on these southern debutant private school educated rich girls that haunt these Faulknerian streets. "They don't know ya until a campus wide election is going on; then they come around and pretend to talk to us GDI guys."
But back in New York, Randy had been a frat pledge, and the story he told me one late night in May 1984 left me with a memory of him that I can't erase; you folks here and now are the first people I've ever told. I've waited 23 plus years to tell it, and dang it... it is TIME. Both of us fools were on the top of the Union. Heck, we were drunk and had sneaked up on top of the building. He told me that night that he'd been at a party back in New York on a college campus where a frat and a sorority had gotten together at a lodge that was near campus. But this one lodge had a legend.... of a girl who had fallen down the stairs.
Near the end of the night, he met a girl named Elizabeth (her real name) and that both of them hit it off. They decided to take [pretty much steal them] the 'left over' six packs of soda that were in a back room of the place, and loaded them up into her car. She drove them both back to his dorm, where he playfully told her he'd take all the stuff upstairs. For whatever reason, she didn't understand him, and in the ensuing argument she ripped his new white Polo shirt. In disgust, he told her to take all the stuff and go straight to hell. He walked back up to his 10th floor dorm room as she peeled rubber off into the night.
He never saw her again. But when he was home for Thanksgiving break, he was watching the news and saw the END.... of HER story. It seems Elizabeth had gone home to some small New York town, and the local guy who had dated her in high school managed to get her to go out with him again. She did, and they didn't get along. In a heated argument, this local guy stabbed her on a bridge, and threw her over the railing into the icy water. The cops quickly located him, and it was a sad deal because his FATHER was a NY state trooper. The found her body in the river months later.
Standing there on top of that building, I saw him for one moment as a man who had made too much of it all. He never did anything to her. The fault was with the other guy, and so why was he so haunted by it all now? I tried to explain to him in drunken macho logic [that only we guys know about and you girls will never really understand anyway] why it was not his fault that Elizabeth died.
But he stood there swaying in his drunkeness, and behind him a full moon rose over Oxford, Mississippi in May 1984. He said it straight out. "I don't think she ever really knew what it was like to be loved." For one moment both of us knew it might be true. The one thing that so many women want to know so badly, and will do so much to experience... was never in the destiny of Elizabeth to experience.
We went back down the stairs to the beer and into the night, but I'll never forget how he said it all. It was the first time I realised that it might be possible.... to live out a life and never really find what you are looking for, and having looked at the photo of her that he showed me (a clipping photo from a newspaper that he'd kept in his wallet) I figured out real quick that
even a 20 something year old know_it_all like me....
sometimes didn't have the answers.
The moon rose higher and higher on that night in 1984, and I said a prayer to a god that years later I no longer believe in; I knew that life held realities;-- that the lake you swim in back in Youth can easily be one day your very own Golden Pond. That... as it once was? So again... it shall be. You get to live your OWN REALITY.
In the years since I can still see him handing me the photo, and the look in his eyes. He had the chance to change her life, and show her a man she could trust... but that was never her DESTINY.