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My close call in regards to my new best friend in high school
Even as my long-time friendship with Dana was disintegrating (more about that in Too close for comfort), I was spending more time with another old pal: Ben.
As with Dana, I'd known Ben since around second grade. But our friendship didn't truly take off until high school, when Dana and I were drifting apart.
Up to then, Ben had actually been best buddy to another fellow by the name of Louis, I think. Louis I believe had first shown up at our elementary school around fifth grade.
I think Louis was from a family of immigrants, only one or two generations removed. For they sure seemed out of place in my hometown.
The rest of us often had to make accommodations for Louis when he was around. He just seemed so incredibly naïve and incapable of responding appropriately to many situations.
This meant Louis often served as unwitting comedic relief for the rest of us.
I can't count the number of times we tried to help Louis become more adept to the local social norms. But we never succeeded. Years later, ultra-conservative and mild-mannered past-the-age-of-18 Louis would run off to California on a wild streak, and get into sufficient trouble that his father had to go rescue him. Some years after that, Louis would commit suicide. At least all that's the best recollection I have now of his fate. Ben was far closer to Louis than me.
Before we got our first cars, Ben and I often walked home from high school, and stopped in to see Leonard the jeweler at a local furniture shop, where we discussed coin collecting and other matters. We might also walk to Ben's home or mine, as I lived only 20-25 minutes from school on foot, and Ben just maybe 30-40. We also hiked and biked some on the local roads and through the woods. Mostly it would just be we two, but on occasion Louis would be with us too. Louis lived in suburbs near the city park, only maybe a mile or two (as the crow flies) from my previous childhood home in the woods. But that was at least as far from our high school as Ben's house (and in the opposite direction).
I had another buddy-- who lived nearer to me than Ben-- who also walked home with me from school at times. Jeremy. Jeremy was something of a geek like me, only overweight, and far less willing to stand up for himself in the face of bullying. For all I know, I was the only friend Jeremy had at that time.
But the most interesting fellow sometimes a part of my circle in those days was Jules.
Jules was the tallest of us, and smart as a whip. He was also trouble. Often getting into mischief of sometimes outrageous or even dangerous kinds.
I liked Jules. Enough that I could well have made him my new best friend, if circumstances had allowed.
Fortunately for me, they didn't. For almost immediately after I began regarding Jules as having new best friend potential, he disappeared from school.
I found out somewhere that he'd gotten into immense trouble, and been shipped off to a reform school of some kind. For at least a year.
Jules' mother managed to get a profitable real estate brokerage going after a while. Last I heard in recent decades since, Jules had taken on a role in that business.
I believe it was sometime after Jules disappeared that me and Steve became friends.
To my mind back then, Steve and Jules seemed to have a lot of characteristics in common. Maybe the biggest difference was Steve's wildest tendencies had been tempered somewhat by his fiery titan of a father all his young life, while Jules had possibly been without a father figure entirely (I think his parents got divorced early on).
So basically while Steve was likely every bit as wild as Jules, he was better at not getting caught at it.
I make a new (and amazing) best friend
It might have been only weeks after I fell into the metaphorical abyss regarding Sue Anne that Steve and I became fast friends. For he too had been badly smitten by a girl. A girl named Sue. No, not Sue Anne herself, but another girl with the same first name.
I'm not kidding. I know the odds against such a coincidence seem astronomical. But it really happened.
I believe Steve noticed me mentioning Sue Anne's name to Ben in a French language class we all attended-- and bingo! We suddenly had something in common.
It may be that Steve was fated to never get his Sue either (so far as I know he never did). But if that's true, she may have been one of very, very few girls he truly wanted who ever escaped his romantic efforts.
I'd actually met Steve years before the period described in this story. At least a couple different times. But wouldn't realize or remember it until maybe a year or more after the events described here (Steve would jog my memory as to those facts in later conversations).
Once had been in a summer 4-H camp. I'd attended the camp two years in a row. It was my second stint there that I met Steve. I may have made a bigger impression on him than he did me there. For during my second trip I'd brought one whole extra suitcase containing nothing but comic books to sell to the entertainment-starved kids at camp. I had ready-made 8.5 inch by 11 inch paper sheet signs I taped up in all the bathrooms of the barracks too, advertising my wares.
I sold out fast. Steve may have been one of my customers. I seem to remember speaking with him just a bit about comics, and him seeming to scrutinize me a little more than the average person then. But that was it.
I may have impressed Steve then with my fairly deep knowledge of the comic genre. From what I learned in the years following, Steve's own parents had likely not allowed him much opportunity to read funny books (as adults tended to call them back then).
The other time I met him, Steve and I were in some sort of 4-H competition which spiraled up from local to regional and maybe state levels (it's difficult to recall such details now). I don't know if we directly competed against one another or not. But at some point we did do presentations in the same room and before the same judge or judges.
My presentation was probably something to do with Entymology (the study of bugs), as that had been the most scientific-sounding field I could find amongst what studies 4-H offered at the time. So maybe I demonstrated how to construct a butterfly net or a killing jar.
I think Steve had constructed something out of ice cream sticks for his demonstration.
Yeah, I did some farm stuff too for 4-H, like judging chickens and eggs at various times. But not in the competitions. I gave a few speeches too, here and there. About what I cannot now recall.
So anyway, that was my prior history in regards to Steve before high school. And I'm not even sure of the order: which came first; the camp or the competition.
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