In 7th grade, I moved to Detroit from my little town of Greenville, OH to live with my biological father. My Mother was going through a rough patch with her current marriage and thought that sending me to live with me Father would be the best solution for everyone involved. However, I never received the memo or got to readily voice my opinion in the matter. For the record, I had a full schedule that required all my attention. Mornings were occupied with being bullied by two guys (I am positive they are raging queers today — they knew a little too much about Judy Garland to be straight farm boys). My lunches were booked with hiding in the teacher’s lounge from said bullies and discussing the finer points of Falcon Crest with the floating substitutes. As for my afternoons, I had my chance to shine as the stage manager for the Greenville Junior High production of Music Man which consisted of mainly hiding from the bullies backstage as I cataloged costumes. As you can see, the Fall of 1987 was a banner year for me and the world was my oyster in Greenville, OH…..
Flash forward to February 1988, I found myself in a strange new environment called Detroit. First and foremost, I was surrounded by black people. Just like the ones we studied in Greenville from our History books under Chapter 13, The Civil Rights Movement. Well not quite like the ones I had read about…….these black people were not peace-loving “We Shall Overcome” folks…these were straight up peeps that I had seen in the movie Colors. I mention all of this because Greenville was a population of 28,000 with approximately three black families and the last one didn’t count because they were just Italians with a dark tan. My former town was not the hotbed of racial diversity, but my Mother fell in love, got married and dragged my little dark tail to what could have been the whitest enclave in Ohio. So I basically spent much of my formative years learning how to grow and tease my bangs (no easy task when you have an afro), going to 4H meetings and developing an appreciation for Hee Haw. Effectively, I was the whitest person of African-American descent you could know……I WAS Carlton from The Fresh Prince. No joke.
God bless my Father for realizing that his painfully thin, slightly effeminate, racially confused son would not cut it in public schools. So off I went to Catholic middle school. Mind you, I am not Catholic….no one in my family is Catholic. But off I went to Christ the King Catholic School down the road from my house. There I learned many things including that history books continued after 1965, the South did NOT win the Civil War, Broadway productions were not appropriate lunch conversation….ever and most importantly, Black men should never wear bangs if they didn’t want to get their butts kicked. So in many ways, Detroit soon felt like Greenville, which made me feel at home.
I soon fell into a familiar cycle of dodging bullies albeit they were now large girls with glandular problems and an over-abundance of upper lip hair, hanging out with the nuns at lunch which they too had an over-abundance of facial hair and finding an after-school activity that would allow me to go home well after the school yard had cleared. Sadly, Christ the King was not known for its drama department….in fact the drama department consisted of our music teacher fulfilling her dream of writing a musical. The musical from what I could remember was a Christmas musical based on the score of Jesus Christ Superstar. Hey, if it kept me after school and away from the “Ladies Who Punch” I was down for it.
Fortunately, in all this chaos, I found a friend. I actually found my first girl crush who would eventually morph into my best friend. Katie S. was beautiful (and still is) in my eyes….she was like a young Julia Roberts. I mostly loved Katie because she had red hair and could sing. But I loved that she liked musicals. Her whole family did. They owned a piano. Her Mom sewed and cooked. This was the family I wanted. Short of adoption, I spent every waking moment with Katie and her family during those first few months in Detroit. They made the transition smoother and a lot less lonely. For their kindness and hospitality, I am eternally grateful and thankful. The S. Family was my extended family — they were my familiar in a sea of strange.
I say all of this because I was posed with question “Who is your best friend?” When I replied, another name other than Katie’s came from my mouth. It wasn’t that big of a shock to my system, but it did make have this strong sense of loss. See as many childhood friends do, Katie and I lost track of each other after college. She went to Boston and I went to Palo Alto. Opposite sides of the country. Freshman year was full of cards and calls, telling the other about new crushes and adventures. However, as time passed, our conversations became less frequent and for a reason I don’t know, they just stopped. She left school. I moved. And moved. And moved. Our parents moved from our childhood homes and finally silence. As with any void, the tendency is to fill it and we both did. She found a set of wonderful people as I did. But that still doesn’t mean that I don’t miss her and reminiscence about the randomness of our teen years.
Thanks to Facebook, I have reconnected with Katie, had the opportunity to see her again in person as well as meet her fiancé. However, part of me wonders what it would have been like to have Katie in my life consistently. She knew me better than anyone. How could (or would it have) shaped or informed the decisions I made? I don’t know but I am grateful to have her once again. So I don’t want to dwell on what could have been as opposed to what I have…….. which is her email address, Facebook account, cell phone, and mailing address. I also took down her fiance’s cell phone, email and Facebook account. In other words, this chick is stuck hearing from me for life now. And that is exactly the way I think we both want it….