The Friend List
Steve Weber hadn’t stayed in touch with anyone from the little farm town he left as a teenager. The place was a static reminder of high school glory or failure, early marriage, too many children, divorce, dead-end jobs, and not much else. The same old story. Once he was gone, there was no looking back.
Then, thirty-eight years later, he was surfing Facebook and decided to visit some of his old high school acquaintances’ profiles to see what had happened. Most of them were nearly or wholly unrecognizable due to weight gain and the ravages of alcohol and drugs. Johnny Duncan, who had placed in State in wrestling at 155 pounds, now looked like an angry version of the Michelin tire man without the crenelations. In every picture, Johnny’s swollen face glared at the camera with bulging eyes and pursed lips. In one picture, he lay on a hospital bed with a swath of bandages over his chest and an IV attached to his arm. A young man in a military desert uniform stood next to him. Steve’s impression was that Johnny had either been shot or suffered a heart attack, but the comments under the picture hinted at the former.
Moving from one friend list to the next, Steve found Scott Wilton’s profile. Scott had been a shy, thoughtful teenager whose father coached the high school football team and ran the local Fellowship of Christian Athletes ministry. Scott never dated, shied away from sports, and associated with only a few close friends. Still, everyone liked and respected him. Now, he lived in a major city and had over five hundred Facebook friends, most of whom were slender, lightly whiskered men. Many of them were shirtless. Scott looked happy, and he too was lightly whiskered.
One of the few women on Scott’s friend list looked familiar to Steve. She was a pretty redhead with a slender, angular frame, bright green eyes, and firm, high cheekbones. Her name–Sharon Willard–didn’t ring a bell at first, but then it dawned on Steve that she had been Sharon Quinn in high school, a gangly, pale girl always bustling with energy and saying the wrong things because she was smart enough to perceive the truth but too naive to know when to withhold it. She had pursued Steve for a while, but he disliked her for being too intellectual and assertive. Now, she was living in a house on the Florida coast, and her profile picture featured her driving a speedboat.
Steve considered sending Sharon a friend request but thought better of it. Instead, he went through Sharon’s friend list and spotted Bill Warner. Steve and Bill had been on the same football and track teams, gone skiing every chance they got, double-dated, and partied at some of the best rock shows in the state. Bill was close with his family and especially loved his father Doug and brother Alan, who were both conspicuously missing from Bill’s friend list although the rest of the family’s profiles were there. Bill didn’t seem to be married, and his profile picture showed him standing alone and expressionless on some rocky beach on a cold, cloudy day. The years had worn deep creases into his face.
Steve stared at Bill’s picture for a few minutes, wondering where the time had gone. He thought about how little he had known anyone back in those days. He suspected that the same held true for those around him now although he couldn’t be sure. Reflecting on current relationships was much harder than meditating on the past, even though neither was especially easy. Leaving these worries for another day, he logged off his computer, changed into his workout clothes, and went out for a nice long run.