Nineteen Years

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quack...quack...quack...I can fly
December 12, 1984...
Senior year was difficult. I swallowed my pride and took study hall, and Cathy would come into the library to talk to me, ask for gum, and ask me to draw her. She found I could draw and liked it. She also read my journals and liked them too. Cathy, you still have one of those. Can I have it back?

I found myself thinking of her all the time. I became friends with her best friend, Lisa, to get closer to her. I could talk to Lisa and be comfortable on the phone and I thought maybe Lisa would tell Cathy about my other side. At one point Cathy, Lisa, Tom and I tried to go out together but it didn't work out. Still, I felt Cathy was trying to push Lisa on me. I didn't want Lisa. Then Cathy wrote me a letter saying she had a boyfriend and had no interest in me. It was painful.
After the letter, Lisa didn't seem to want to talk, so I talked to her baby sister, Tina. Tina always answered the phone when I called for Lisa, so one night I just talked to her. The bright spot of that year was, for lack of any friends, my grades shot up and I made the Cume-Laude honor roll for the first time since 1982. I'd always taken the hardest classes and my GPA suffered. I was fatalistic. The biggest reasons my grades weren't excellent were: I fell asleep doing homework, never asked questions, and studied alone.

The last day of high school I walked into the hallway and watched my classmates hug and jump up and down...I got no hugs...I didn't see Cathy. I looked around and realized I'd wasted four years and wasn't with these people. I was sad. Cathy and I were supposed to write and visit when she was in college but now we didn't even speak. I couldn't reach her on the phone. She never answered a letter.

Graduation day was the same...but Mom and Dad, against my pleading, invited relatives over. I was in a horrible mood. I couldn't smile and Mom and Dad didn't like it. I was too immature to know life is a rollercoaster and I'd bounce back. The future held many bad times, and the bouncing back made it worth while, but tell that to an 18 year-old with an insecurity complex! I was so pathetic! The next day I stayed in bed longer than usual and then thought I'd go out on my bicycle to find a job. Dad didn't believe me...he said,"You're going up to see Cathy, aren't you!" They thought all along that Cathy and I were seeing each other romantically when in reality, we had never been more than friends at school. Their constant misunderstanding of the situation kept re-opening the wounds. My family went off somewhere and I stayed in bed all day. That night, I tore our apple tree out of the ground with my bare hands (it had been weakened from a 1982 storm). Mom tried to stop me but it felt good.

I soon found work at a local grocery store, my confidence went up and I'd call Tina during my half-hour break at work. After about four weeks, on July 28, I was 'let go'. The night I was fired, after talking to Tina, I looked in the mirror. I thought,"I need a big change...I don't like me". What could I do to flip on the switch to me? Would I go my whole life hiding from the world? I was so embarrassed about being fired I walked most of the way home in the dark and then phoned my brother to pick me up. I sat in a recliner in my basement watching the Jacksons' video,"Can You Feel It?" I thought,"What am I going to do now?"
Next morning a revelation hit Army recruiter had called me the week before. I told my mother I'd been fired and she did her usual encouraging response,"Oh no...oh no...ohhhh..." Yep...she was uplifting. Then I said,"I'm joining the Army!". "No you're not...oh Mike". I'd already registered in the electronics program at a local college. Mom and Dad thought I was nuts but after a talk with my Dad I changed my mind...I would join the Air Force, just as I'd wanted to when I was a kid. I needed a big change and this would do it! I needed to work for someone who wanted me. I'd join for four years, get my education, and proceed as planned with a degree in electronics. My confidence shot up in anticipation. I'd have honor! I phoned Cathy and we had our first real conversation. She told me I wouldn't make it in the Air Force...I was a little combative with her though. I left home on December 12, my 19th birthday...The Horsey had Flown.