The Bigger Story

I knew this guy in high school. Let’s call him “D.” I didn’t know him well, but he was cute and nice. He had dark hair and bright blue eyes, a combo I still love. I think he played trumpet in the band. At a couple of different parties our senior year we got drunk and made out.

D had an on again off again girlfriend, also in the band. She was sweet and well-liked, and I think I remember everyone thought she could do better. I guess she noticed the make out sessions because a month before prom she sent someone to find out if D was taking me to prom. He hadn’t asked her and she wanted to know who he was going with. It wasn’t me and I don’t remember who it was.

Truthfully, I probably wouldn’t remember D and his girlfriend, except that freshman year of college the girlfriend was killed by a drunk driver. I have always wondered if they were a couple when she died. Which would be worse, to lose your girlfriend or to lose the girl you kind of sort of thought you might date again one day.

I still know my own on again off again high school love. We see each other every once in a while and there are no romantic “what ifs.” Now, in our late 4os there’s just a genuine delight in the past we shared and a strange affection for each other. But I wonder if D ever got that slow, natural closure to the relationship. I think he’s divorced, maybe more than once, and I wonder if sometimes on a muggy spring night like the ones right before senior prom he hears an old song and thinks about her.

I also remember the high school drama because of Facebook, which keeps everyone from your life in front of your face at all times. D and I haven’t seen in each other in years, but we’re “friends” on Facebook. I don’t usually see his posts, but because so many people had commented on one the other day I saw it. He was posting from a children’s hospital. I don’t know D well enough to pry and ask for details, but I looked back through his posts to try and piece his story together. If I’m following the story correctly, his stepdaughter is seriously, possibly terminally, ill.

What I also noticed looking through his posts is that D is now a pro-Trump, transphobic, racist. I don’t remember this about him from high school. We went to the performing arts section of an inner-city high school. It would be hard to be an overt racist and have the kind of social life D had. I knew racists growing up, but they didn’t wear sheets or burn crosses. I know there were a few of those hidden around town, but I don’t think they went to our high school.

The phrase “Now look, I like a lot of ’em, but one thing I just don’t understand …” will sound familiar to anyone who grew up in Louisville, or a city like it. It’s possible D was one of those, someone who didn’t know he was racist. You can find him in our senior yearbook posing happily as “Most Spirited” next to an African-American cheerleader, a girl I remember as his friend. But maybe he was racist then and in his mind she was “a good one.”

Because now here he is, this boy I made out with, this boy I know had African American friends, here he is using the N word on his Facebook page. Here he is, this boy who went to school and probably shared a joint or two with boys who grew up to be women threatening to beat up any man who attempts to pee next to his daughter. Here he is promoting Trump, bragging about his guns, posting jokes about sexual assault and misspelling Guatemala in some unintelligible post about Trump’s promised wall.

In short, here he is, a complete asshole.

I would like to know what happens with his stepdaughter. I hope she recovers. But now that I’ve peaked in to the rest of his life, I don’t want to accidentally see it again. I don’t want to be angry with someone who until recently was a strange half-memory of a happy time in my life. I have “unfriended” him, because I don’t want to see it and because I think that will probably prevent him from seeing this. I do not want to cause him pain.

I wish there were another way because I see those bright blue eyes in his profile picture and I can’t help thinking that being a racist asshole isn’t his whole story. It’s not that I think the fact that he used to be a horn player with African American friends, or the fact that he suffered a tragic loss at a young age or is currently undergoing a tragic loss excuses or explains his racism. It’s that knowing those things about him reminds me that everyone, even those we least want to talk to, has a bigger story we should hear. Knowing little bits of the beauty in his life reminds me that we are all bigger and more complex than our faults.




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