My bimonthly college alumni magazine arrived and, as usual, the first place I looked was "Class Notes." My graduating class of 1978 is getting further and further away; it's hard to believe that a whole passel of graduates will soon call themselves the Class of 2015. "Where does the time go?" have become the truest words.
Like many of the standard personal gloating posts on Facebook, news of my fellow alumni often leaves me unsettled. Two kinds of graduates write in: achievers and over-achievers. They aren't just doctors, they are Fellows at the National Institutes of Health. They aren't just lawyers, they are Supreme Court justices. Alas, I am none of those things and apparently, have let my alma mater down.
And then a name popped off the page—in the obituaries. Gregory M. The goofy, brilliant Greg ... dead?! We're not even 60! He couldn't be dead.
The first time I saw Greg—shirtless, hair glinting in the sun, playing Frisbee while others unpacked—was during freshman orientation. It's all a blur: a co-ed dormitory, new faces, my first time far from home. Over the four years of college, Greg and I weren't a steady thing, which made it all the more exciting and erotic. He found a room in the basement of our freshman dorm filled with extra mattresses and the blinking lights of telephone connections, which made for magical trysts. An assignation in his fraternity's sauna. Or just walking and talking after the library closed, trying to digest that day's overdose of knowledge.
"I think we should try dating," Greg said one day, when we were freshmen.
"Each other?!" I asked.
"His clothes are dirty but his hands are clean," Greg sang softly in his best crooning mumble channeling Dylan. "And you're the best thing that he's ever seen."
We managed one date. I can't remember where we went or what we did. I only remember that, as a couple, we were a spectacular failure. If we weren't boinking, we could never really connect. Luckily, we both accepted this, finding it hysterically funny. We were NSA fuck-buddies before the term was invented.
The last time I saw Greg—elated, dignified—was at his wedding many years ago. He'd finished law school and joined the state department, and I was secretly pleased to learn I was the only female from his undergraduate years whom he'd invited.
As often happens over time, we drifted apart. And now to read "suddenly, unexpectedly," "passed away," "after a brief illness." Well, it was just too much to bear. Fun, ardent Greg had experienced the young, nubile me, someone my husband never got to know.
When my marriage ended, and when I subsequently learned of Greg's divorce, I fantasized of trysting once more at a class reunion. Death ended that fantasy. I never knew the man Greg had become before he died, but I will never forget the boy/man who kissed me in the quad under a full moon.
I remember his athletic, hard body, a perfect complement to my decidedly non-athletic softness. His hair was a mass of cowlicks. There were times he was so excited, relating some arcane tidbit of Russian history, that he forgot to get excited about, well, me. But that's what we do when we are young.
When he died, Greg took his memories of my younger self with him, and I think that's the part I'm most struggling with today. In my mind, Greg is frozen in time, stuck in amber, forever young. And of course those of us he left behind are not.