Storytime: A Thousand Words Worth A Picture

Memories have a funny way of creeping up on you when you least expect them to. Once upon a time, I would spend many of my nights lying in bed with depressing songs playing on repeat in the background. Hours would go by as I stared up at the darkness-cloaked ceiling conjuring up the saddest, most disturbing memories I could. It was one of my favorite hobbies for years, but now I’m starting to wonder just how healthy it was for a young person to enjoy the constant analysis of unpleasant life events. I know. Very emo. I had the strangest melancholy inclinations as a child/teenager/young adult. However, if you had ever asked me about it, I would have probably looked at you like you were crazy (and to me, you probably would have been), rolled my eyes and said, “I’m not morbid. I’m an artist. I’m just deep like that.” Point taken.

I don’t find myself reminiscing all that often these days. Perhaps I am finally sick and tired of the past and am now honest enough to admit that I wish half of it had never happened. Or maybe I am simply too busy preparing for the future and tinkering with the present to be bothered with anything I can’t do a damn thing about. Whichever the case, I find that I am often prompted to remember the past while doing things that are random and completely unrelated to the memory itself.

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Take today, for instance. I had just woken up from a nap and was preparing to tackle another rowing session when I started thinking about a girl I went to high school with. I have spent the last few hours trying to remember what prompted me to think about her, but I honestly haven’t the faintest clue. More specifically, I had been trying to recall what her ethnic background was. Even back in school, I used to want to say she was Persian, but she wasn’t. Well, for some reason, I wanted to remind myself of what her true background was. I simply couldn’t move on with my day until I found out.

I got on Google in an attempt to find an article detailing the ethnic origin of her surname, but what I found was an old picture of her on her now abandoned Myspace page. First of all, I was shocked to see that Myspace still exists—I mean, seriously. Next, I was surprised to see her face. I hadn’t meant to look her up at all. I had simply wanted to remember some unnecessary tidbit of information so I could soothe my curious (and often persistent) mind. However, I clicked on the picture and was brought to a collection of her old photos. Just like that, I was sucked back into the early 2000s…back when things were very, very different.

It is hard to remember exactly how I met the girl. Hmm. Come to think of it, let’s call her “Chrissy”.  Simply saying, “the girl” sounds horribly dismissive. Anyway, I know that one of my best friends knew her first, so I’m assuming she introduced me. It’s really weird though because I don’t remember us being formally introduced. It feels as though one day I didn’t know her and then I suddenly did— almost as though she was always there, but I had only just noticed. We weren’t the best of friends by any stretch of the imagination, but I remember spending plenty of time with her. I actually adored her. I still do. It’s so weird that I can’t remember meeting her. Perhaps I am forgetting the ease of adolescent sociability. Back then, it was so easy to befriend people on a whim. You’d meet them for a split second during your second period AP Psych class and BAM…instant friends. It was like this with “Chrissy”.

Seeing her face again felt so strange. I hadn’t seen her since 2003/2004, but she was still so familiar…so her. That was the best thing about “Chrissy”. She was ridiculously likable. Gregarious and outgoing, “Chrissy” had one of the most unique auras I have ever encountered. She often came off as aloof and borderline ditzy, but you’d have been foolish to believe it. Despite being serene and kind-hearted, she had a fiercely rebellious streak that teetered on the edge of complete recklessness. Her parents couldn’t force her into submission, but believe me, they tried. They tried hard. There was an overly mature quality to her as well, but she still had the silly youthfulness you would have expected from a girl her age. I can remember her laugh and mannerisms like it was literally yesterday. I sat on the edge of my bed staring at her face for several minutes as her voice echoed in my mind. I could see and hear everything. It all came flooding back.

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I recall driving through town in my little white Mazda, blaring NOFX or Rancid all the way to her house. My best friend went over there after school quite often, so once I became friendly with “Chrissy” I often joined them. I always parked along the sidewalk right behind my best friend’s car (music still blasting). The two of them would be on the doorstep to greet me when I arrived. Sometimes we would stand around in her kitchen talking about the older man she had a crush on. He was a manager at the store she worked at and was actually married with children. My best friend and I never liked the guy (for obvious reasons), so when they actually started dating, we were even more skeptical of him…and her taste in men. More often than not, we would all congregate in her bedroom. That room will probably be etched in my mind forever. It was in that room that I first saw someone use their own picture as their computer desktop background. My best friend and I would sit on her bed or mill about looking at her things while “Chrissy” fussed over and fed Tyson, her cobalt blue Betta fish. She loved that thing.

We often went out together too. You know, doing normal teenage girl stuff. Shopping at the mall, aimlessly driving around town and going to Red Robin for french fries and laughter. One memory I will never forget is when all three of us were on our way somewhere in my best friend’s Chevy Prizm when Petey Pablo’s song “Freek-A-Leek” came on. Ugh. Just typing that makes me cringe a bit. LOL. Don’t judge. I know half of you all probably listened to some pretty strange/embarrassing/inappropriate songs back in the day too. Heck, half you probably still do. Back when we were in school, this song was extremely popular and we just so happened to listen to it all. the. time. This particular time, it came on the radio. When Petey Pablo (What a name!) got to the part of the song where he starts listing a bunch of girl’s names, “Chrissy” chirped from the back seat, “What about me? He needs to say “Chrissy” too!” I remember shaking my head at her from the passenger seat as I thought, “This girl is just too much!” That she was.

Another memory that I will probably have forever is the time that “Chrissy” wanted my best friend and I to take her to Orange County so she could meet up with some of her cousins. They were on vacation from Chicago, so she thought it would be fun for all of us to hang out. I remember my best friend and I getting drinks and snacks for the drive before picking “Chrissy” up at her house. We chit chatted and sang along to the radio the entire drive down to La Habra. When we got there, her cousins were so funny and nice. I would have totally been friends with them if they had lived closer. We were making plans to head over to the beach when my best friend started to feel sick. As much as the rest of us wanted to continue hanging out, we decided it was best that we started to head home. It had already been relatively late when we left our city to come down, so it wasn’t wise to stick around if any of us felt the least bit ill. I could tell that “Chrissy” was disappointed to leave so early, but we left nonetheless.

The drive home was tortuous. I remember everyone being rather grouchy and ready to get home. One of us felt like garbage, another was exhausted and still another was mad that we hadn’t stayed longer. We would barely speak to each other, so I’m guessing we’d gotten into a small tiff after leaving La Habra. The freeway was a blur of lights as we struggled to stay awake during the hour long trek back to our side of the world. At one point, we started to run out of gas. The fuel light popped up a pretty orange hue, alerting us to wake the heck up and figure out what we were going to do. We didn’t want to have the car crap out on us so close to home, so we had to pull off at the nearest gas station…in the middle of nowhere. Okay, it wasn’t nowhere, but it was a scantily populated section of our county. The gas station was the only light source for miles out in the middle of the canyon, but we had no other choice.

When we pulled up next to a gas pump we were absolutely mortified by what we saw. There, flying all around the gas station, were hundreds of huge white moths. Don’t quote me on the “hundreds”, but I kid you not…those things were everywhere. They were attracted to the gas station lighting, which was most unfortunate because someone was going to have to get out into that mess. I remember us sitting there in the stopped car, silently trying to figure out a plan. Driving away was a great thought, but hardly viable. We couldn’t make the remaining 17.5 mile drive home on fumes alone, but no one wanted to brave the swarm of moths. That’s when my best friend and I “suggested” (aka forced) “Chrissy” to get out of the car. As we saw it, we had done her the favor of driving to her family’s house. It was only proper that she get out and pump gas among the furiously flapping creatures.

My bestie and I still laugh till this day about “Chrissy” screaming as she pumped the gas. She kept flailing her arms to avoid the moths, but they were basically attacking her with little to no respect for her personal space. I can only imagine what a sight we must have been. Three teenage girls being attacked by an infestation of moths at midnight. Making her get out sounds so mean now that I’m sharing it with you guys, but I promise you—it was hilarious. “Chrissy” honestly wasn’t mad about being thrust outside either. I mean, she was at first, but she quickly got over it. I have to give it to her. She was a real trooper and took one for the team that night. Besides, everyone was in much better spirits after the moth ordeal. We had resumed our talking and laughing by the time we merged back onto the freeway on our way to town. That’s just how “Chrissy” was. Nothing bothered her. She was perfectly carefree and never held a grudge. If only everyone could be like that.

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Fast forward back to present day. These are just some of the few happy memories I have of “Chrissy” and that particular time of my life. As a whole, my time in high school was a tremendous downer for me. Despite my school being a calamitous thorn in my side, memories of “Chrissy” are a few good things I took away from an otherwise miserable high school experience. I smiled as I browsed away from her Myspace page. Then something in my spirit urged me to return to Google and search her name. Even though I really didn’t want to, I couldn’t argue with the nagging feeling that I should. And so I did.

The first search result you get when searching “Chrissy’s” full, actual name on Google is not her Instagram or Facebook account. It is a photo of her headstone from a site that serves as an online grave directory. “Chrissy” suddenly passed away ten years ago. She was only 22 years old. I heard the news through the grapevine…after the funeral had taken place. I remember wishing that my best friend and I had at least been able to pay our respects, but I suppose fate did not arrange it that way. But even till this day, I still cannot understand how someone I have so many fond memories of could truly be gone. She went the way she came—appearing and leaving suddenly. However, it sometimes feels as though she never came or went at all. She just was. She just is.

At least my best friend and I now know where “Chrissy” was buried. No one ever bothered to tell us. No one cared to, I suppose. Maybe that is why I felt the urge to look her name up. I had already known that she was dead and gone, but I still had felt as though there was something important left to find. Perhaps this can be our chance to properly say goodbye to “Chrissy”. If I ever make it back to California, I’ll bring her some flowers.

…and thank her for getting out with the moths.

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People often say that a picture is worth a thousand words. In this case, I hope these (few) thousand words were worth the girl whose pictures I rediscovered today. Life goes by so quickly. Whether you live 90 years or only 22 years, it is really important to be mindful of the impressions you leave on those around you. You just never know how the brief time you spend with someone might impact the rest of their lives. I’m sure “Chrissy” would never have guessed that I’d be sitting here over a decade later still treasuring the fun times I had with her.

Nothing is guaranteed in life. Make the very most of what time you have and who you have to spend it with. Stay golden, guys and dolls!

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