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She Doesn’t Live There Anymore

meganI wasn’t much of the outgoing type when I was younger, as you generally aren’t when you’re five years old with a bowl cut hairdo and plaid pants. However, I seemed to easily be able to make friends with the little blonde girl down the street, Megan. Megan and I both grew up in our town of Gloucester together for the next 11 years. And we were inseparable.

With all the nautical, small-town charm Gloucester had to offer, despite the constant smell of raw fish and low tide, we were able to make the best of it together. From kindergarten until sophomore year of high school, Megan was my best friend in the world. She lived just a street away from me and in younger years we’d walk to our elementary school together just down the road, Veteran’s Memorial. We’d sit next to each other in class, sharing crayons and magic markers. She always had the scented ones that smelled like various fruits and root beer, which I’ve always loved, so I didn’t mind being one of the first boys in my class to be friends with a girl. I wasn’t afraid of cooties. In fact, I embraced cooties. Most of my friends throughout my life had been rumored to have “cooties” and I loved them all just the same. I’ve always been a big hugger, and once when Megan saved my life by helping me escape a far too intense game of flag football during recess, I of course owed her my life, and a hug. Therefore, I was branded by playground bullies to have “cooties for life.”

Anyways, Megan and I spent almost every day together growing up. We’d spend nights swinging with our friends on the rusted swing set in the playground down my street, sharing secrets and playing cards before engaging in rushed games of hide and seek in the near twilight, as we all knew we had to run home before the streetlights came on. Megan was my confidant, my soul sister, my best friend. I went through this weird phase once where I was straight, and of course Megan was my first crush, besides Melissa Joan Hart, of course. Megan was always the prettiest and most tolerable girl in class. I spent a lot of time chasing away from the girls who had crushes on me in pursuit of Megan, who always had crushes on all boys other than me. I once sent her a Valentine Day’s card from a “secret admirer” and she immediately knew it was from me, due to my scribbled handwriting. We had a good laugh and moved on with our lives. Most elementary school crushes don’t last that long anyways.

The years went on and we started to play much different games and sharing much different stories. Soon it was all about boyfriends and middle school dances, what music we were listening to and who we sat with at lunch. Megan became obsessed, as most preteen girls are, with her reputation and her looks. I spent many a morning waiting for her to get ready for school, sitting atop her tropical fish decaled toilet seat as she spent hours straightening her hair and applying eye-liner, which she both always did too much of. I’d tell her hair would fall out one day and she’d tell me I was just jealous I wasn’t blonde. We’d laugh, then gossip some more about who got caught for drinking at the high school football game last weekend. Her mom would drop us off at school every morning in her big red minivan, since most times we’d always miss the school bus, as we experienced the most miserable years of my life: middle school. Those weird three years definitely changed things between Megan and I.

I watched her cry as her and her many boyfriends broke up over the years, comforted her and watched scary movies with her, which she knew I hated to watch, but she also knew I would do anything for her, if it made her stop crying. I’ve always hated crying. I find it a waste of water.

Soon, I became heavily involved in theatre, as Megan became more heavily involved in boys, parties, and always looking her best. We drifted a little, but still remained close friends. We had been together for so long, I was sure that nothing would separate us.

One day, during my sophomore year of high school, Megan didn’t answer my call asking if she needed a ride. No one was home when I went to knock on the door. My mother dropped me off at school, and as I attended my first classes, by lunch period, it was clear Megan hadn’t come to school that day. I was very busy at the time and we weren’t as close as we had been, so I didn’t really think much of it. A week went by without her in school and people were beginning to talk. She wasn’t replying to any phone calls, Facebook messages, or anything of the sort. I tried contacting her as well, but thought that something serious in her family must have happened. I knew if it was important enough, Megan would tell me. Megan did have knacks in the past for feeling “sick” or rather, not feeling up to going to school that day, so that could be a possibility as well. I just didn’t try to worry, I didn’t have time to worry, I was in high school, doing shows, worrying about exams, I thought, “Oh, this is just Megan being lazy again.” People would ask me where she was, what was going on. I’d give a casual “I don’t know, I think she’s sick. She’ll be back soon.”

Then weeks went by and rumors started flying. Some people were saying her parents were getting divorced and she just “lost it”. Some said she had been admitted to a hospital. Then there was the story that she was raped. As soon as I heard that, I couldn’t handle it any more, I needed to find out what happened. I drove by the house every day after that, as did many of my friends, but no cars were there, no one was there. Her Facebook had been deleted, her numbers disconnected. Where was she? What happened?

I remember the last time I saw her, if my memory serves correctly. It was at lunch one day in the fall, she was debating whether or not to go to an upcoming dance. I said she could go with all of us, that it’d be fun. She said she didn’t want to, that she didn’t feel like it. I tried persuading her, cracking a few jokes and she just smiled and rolled her eyes, her typical response. We had a pep rally, which she skipped out on, I think I remember seeing her leave the building, but I can’t be sure. The details get fuzzy after that. Maybe I saw her after, but I can’t remember. I never saw Megan again after that. No one did.

Megan missed out on college applications, our prom, our graduation, everything. She just disappeared from my life altogether, but not a day goes by where I don’t think of her. When I was packing to move to college in Boston, I came across a picture of us from before she disappeared. We were about 13, sticking our tongues out in the same park we played in as kids. I was going through a difficult phase at the time and wanted to start a new life in college. I didn’t want to be reminded of the past. I don’t know where that picture is now. I wish I still had it.

One day in the summer before I left, I saw that the front door on Megan’s bright blue painted house had been painted completely black. It looked so strange, like it didn’t fit in. It looked wrong, menacing even. There was a new car in the driveway and a new family moving in. I couldn’t look. But I had to remember, she doesn’t live there anymore.

I guess that’s just a part of life. You’re there one minute, gone the next. We all take residence in someone’s lives. Some forever, others not. We can not live in a lot of places.

The hole is still there. Painted over with black.

A lot has happened since Megan disappeared. Last fall, I directed a show I wrote as part of my Theatre Department’s “Fall Showcase”, titled Daydream. There’s a character in it, named Rose, based slightly off of Megan. Her character disappeared as well years earlier and has returned to comfort her old friend, whose father has just died. The old friend is looking for answers to Rose’s disappearance, and why she even bothered to return after so many years. I tried to get some info on her disappearance from some old friends in preparation for the production, with not much luck. My friend Rebecca, who I believe to be one of the best actresses in the Theatre Department, played Rose in the premiere of my show. She did an amazing job and truly brought the character to life. It helped me get a bit of closure with Megan, but not enough.

There’s still something out there, I’m sure of it. Even if it’s nothing big or surprising, she left for a reason, and she’s hurt. She tried to erase her past. I still want to know. Not knowing is what hurts the most. The unanswered always leaves me wanting more.

I never got to say goodbye, and I don’t like when stories don’t have endings.

However, even If I’m unsuccessful in finding whatever happened to Megan, I’ll still cherish the friendship she gave me and the lessons she taught me.

She’s given me stories to tell and memories to cherish, which I think, is all you can ask from a true friend.

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