We went to high school together. She was a year behind me even though she was a year older, and one evening at an end-of-the-year picnic for the sophomore and junior classes, she got flirty with me. We ended up, later that night, kissing in the shadows of a recessed spot outside the school building. We went out a few times that summer, but now to be completely honest, I barely recall any of the details of our times together.
I remember driving her down to our farm in my father’s Oldsmobile Delmont 88 one evening. My parents and I had moved into town by then, but my father still farmed our land. The farm became the perfect secluded place to park with a girl, which is what I was doing on the night I remember. I hadn’t taken much notice of Pam before that night at the picnic when she grabbed onto my hand and claimed me. She was the older sister of a boy I ran around with from time to time. They lived east of town on Route 250. The few times I picked her up for our dates, she came out of the house before I had a chance to get out of the car and go to the door. That night at the farm, I remember sitting in the Olds while she smoked a cigarette. Then we kissed a little before we left. I drove up the lane and back to town, and I’m sad to say that’s really my most complete memory—watery as it is—of the summer we dated.
I’ve thought of her often the past few days because a mutual friend let my wife Cathy know that Pam was near death. Indeed, the next morning we’d find out she had passed. When I think of her now, a collage of images comes to me: her button nose, her thin arms and legs, her dimples, her friendly smile, her straight brown hair that fell to her shoulders, the low-cut canvas Keds she sometimes wore. I can’t say that I knew her, can’t even remember speaking to her after that summer. It was clear early on that we weren’t right for each other. A surge of hormones had brought us together that night at the picnic and then had waned over the course of the summer. I don’t remember how we agreed to end things. I imagine at some point I just stopped calling her and she probably stopped caring that I’d gone silent.
Ours was a passing affair of the heart—a dalliance I suppose we would have called it had we been older and more sophisticated, but we weren’t. We were just two small-town kids looking for someone who would make us feel special. A few years back at an all-class reunion, Cathy and I sat at the same table as Pam and five of her classmates, and I don’t recall the two of us saying a single word to each other. It was the only time I saw her after high school. Like all of us, she carried her age and whatever her life had done to her in a thicker body, a rounder face. She still wore her hair long, and she still had that button nose and those dimples and that smile.
I know no more of her now then I did when we were in high school, so what right do I even have to tell this story? Maybe to document the fact that one night, when we were in that awkward place between our teenage lives and the adult ones we would one day have, you reached for my hand, and, Pam, I let you take it. Through the veil between the living and the dead—and with hope these words might find you—I’ve come to tell you I still remember that.