“Why don’t you come with us Friday night — it’ll be fun, a bunch of us are going to a dance at the Fort!!”
I had transferred from the school that I had attended since kindergarten after completing seventh grade. The kids were nice in the new school, for the most part. Even so, I had this unconnected feeling with them. I had a history with the kids at my old school. This was a time when you went up through the grades with most of the same kids year after year. It was 1970 and I was a junior, attending a nearby vocational school in the morning and my regular high school in the afternoon.
I was taking an office practice course at the vocational school. For kids like me, coming from a family with no money, the courses gave you some skills that you could use after graduation from high school. It was pretty cool — our office practice teacher was all of 10 years older than I was and there were 3 or 4 kids from each of the surrounding centralized school districts, maybe 20 kids total. There were a few other courses available besides ours — cosmetology, retailing, mechanics, and electrical trades.
I was surprised and delighted to see that Will was taking the electrical trades course — he was one of the kids that I knew so well from my old school. There were a couple of other guys that I also knew taking the same course, but Will was by far my favorite. We kind of had a “thing” before I transferred, whatever that means when you’re 13 or so.
We were 16 and 17 then and I was curious if something more could develop between us. When Will invited me along, saying, “Why don’t you come with us Friday night — it’ll be fun, a bunch of us are going to a dance at the Fort!!”, oh gosh, I wanted to so badly. I knew these kids and they knew me and I wanted that feeling of belonging somewhere again. But I had something else that I had to do. Don’t remember now just what it was — it doesn’t matter. I said “no, can’t do it — but next weekend I’m free, okay?”
“Okay, but don’t make any other plans…..”
Monday morning I heard a couple of the teachers at the vocational school talking — Will and his other 4 friends had been hit head on by a drunk driver. Will was paralyzed from the chest down, 2 of the boys and one of the girls were killed, another in critical condition. The drunk walked away.
Thirty-eight years later, my heart still tries to pound it’s way out of my chest whenever I think about that invitation.
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