A junior in high school. This was the best time of my school career. I had a set, a circle of friends I hung out with and went over to their house in the evening and on weekends. I drove a Volkswagen “Bug” that during the day looked red, but under street lamps at night appeared orange. I was always losing it in the mall parking lot. My friend Jane and I drove everywhere. We’d spent a summer at a Young Life youth camp in Pittsburgh and met other kids like us, only a year older. We’d drive up to Canton or Mount Vernon or wherever to visit them.
Youth group was a huge part of my life. One night a group of friends spontaneously baptized me in a culvert creek that dribbled behind the house. It was nothing for me to run miles or bike to another state—for fun.
Eleventh grade was uncomplicated. I wasn’t worried about college or thinking ahead to graduation. I was part of the Quill Club—quill, as in writing implement. We were a motley group. I remember a quiet kid who hung out in the smoking area reading aloud a science fiction story about fire ants. Linda leaned her head on my shoulder and listened as I read a story I’d written about a lonely waitress that worked at the Blue Star diner. It was full of sentimentality and tropes, somewhat Flannery O’Connor-esque, yet at the end Linda breathed out an “ahhh,” like the quiet hush after a symphony. I wanted to live forever in that feeling, that my words had evoked an emotion.