It is March 19, 2034. The anniversary of our graduation. It has been thirty years. That night, after our graduation party, we all swore to revisit "The Spot" every year to reminisce—about our friendship, the old days, teachers we loved, teachers we hated... There were seven of us, four guys and three girls. There was Rachel Karlsen, Michelle Garcia, Kirby McLaren (who insisted he be called "Kurt" because he hated the name "Kirby"), Adam LeBeau, MJ Ogden (he was Michael Ogden Jr., so he was called MJ for Michael Jr.), Brianna Salvador (who was a tall, half-Filipina beauty, half white, half Filipina), and then of course, there was me, the geeky, introverted Jewish kid everyone ignored (except for Jim Jones, Marcus deVille, and Jotham Leavenworth, school bullies who loved to torment me to no fucking end). My name is Jeremy Olzewski.
It was Adam, Michelle, and Kurt who discovered "The Spot."And that was exactly where I was going today. The Spot was our hangout. It was a clearing in the woods that no one ever noticed. We built a fire pit and put three couches around it. Then we set up a tent so we could either hangout inside the tent or outside around the fire pit. On one of the trees, we built a wooden platform like the ones you see on the masts of ships in pictures. We put a makeshift diving board on it so we could dive our asses off in a cold Washington river. Later, we added a second platform on another tree and connected the two with a rope for zip lining.
As I drive down the lonely, quiet road, I approach the old sign that says, "Welcome To Bridal Veil, Washington! Est. 1899" and I feel a sharp pang of nostalgia, making my eyes sting. I squeeze them shut quickly (and open them again lest some accident happen to me).
Our town was named Bridal Veil because some guy with a good imagination said that the falls looks like a bride's veil. So they named the falls Bridal Veil Falls, and the town was named after it. It was founded ten years after Washington joined the union in 1889.
As I continue driving, I pass by the old Starbucks where MJ used to work in the summer and memories charge at me like armies. This was where we would go after school. We would buy our Frappucinos then drive down to The Spot to hang out. Sometimes we'd stay there instead after buying our drinks for a change in scenery. Mr. Redmond, MJ's manager, always gave us discounts just because we were MJ's friends. Which was really cool (but raised the ire of some patrons).
Then I pass by Oakton's Trailer Park, where Michelle's family once lived. Now, of course, someone else owns their trailer. That was where I got bitten by a snake once. We were hanging out at Michelle's house and decided to go out to eat. No one noticed the snake under the house. I was the last to leave, and unfortunately, the victim the stupid snake decided to strike at. I fell to the ground from the searing pain. Luckily, Kurt, thinking on his feet, whipped out his phone to dial 911. The paramedics arrived and I was taken to the hospital. I survived my ordeal, and it was there, lying in a hospital bed in that hospital room, that I realized I was in love with one of the very best friends I've ever had. I was in love with Rachel Karlsen. But I doubted if she would reciprocate. So I just kept my mouth shut.
I pass by The Bear, our local cinema, where Adam and Brianna had their first kiss. So many memories there, too. Next was Bridal Veil High, our high school. Here, too, memories, good and bad, flood my soul. I remember the shock of finding out that Rachel had a boyfriend and the pain of watching them, happy together. I remember the anger I felt, the anger we all felt, the day Mr. Barks gave us F's in participation. We had presentations that day. I studied the whole night just for that thing, even falling asleep at our dining table where I was studying (my mom had to wake me up and tell me to stop already). I remember the ugly-ass cafeteria food we had. Some of it I wouldn't even eat because it wasn't kosher. Boy, those chefs sure were fond of pork! Seriously? Pork?
I remember the day Rachel broke up with her boyfriend Matt. I was the first to comfort her, feeling triumphant inside.
I remember Kurt breaking a test tube in Chemistry class (a week later, he broke a beaker). I remember the foul smell of one horrible experiment. Ground iron fillings, sulfur powder, Bunsen burner, and a test tube. We were to take the iron fillings, mix it with the powder, and crush it with a pestle, then put it in the test tube to heat over a Bunsen burner. The room stank for weeks!
I remember Adam burning his arm (he was staring at a certain beauty queen by the name of Brianna Salvador instead of concentrating on the damn experiment).
I remember the surge of electric excitement we all felt, the triumphant feeling, when Mr. Barks finally got fired. I remember seeing him at Panda Express in another town after that. And when my family and I vacationed in San Francisco, we saw him there too. He was a cab driver. We hailed him but he passed us by when he saw me.
I remember the shock we all felt when it was confirmed that Mr. Moran had, indeed, cheated on his wife with a former student. He was the best damn math teacher BVHS ever had and he just threw his career away.
I remember smiling, facing the mirror, as I fixed my tie, ready for graduation. I was humming Pomp & Circumstance. My parents were smiling proudly at me as they watched me dress.
I caught myself then. I would've gone on reminiscing but I was saving the best memories for last.
I finally get to the woods near Kurt's old house and I get out of the car. I feel like a teenager again, sneaking off to go to The Spot. I look for the secret trail we often used and found it, following it until it lead me to the clearing. The Spot. The couches and tent are gone, and so is the fire pit. But the platforms, zip line, and diving board are still there. The sign that Kurt made is also intact but old. It says, "The Spot." The group picture I pinned to the tree is still there but faded. I smile.
This place—so many memories. I remember the time when I accidentally caught Brianna and Adam having sex on one of the couches. Of course, they had their clothes on, but I could tell by Brianna's movements (she was on top of him)—and both their panting and her moaning—what they were doing (plus, she was wearing a skirt that day; easy, right? Just lift it and you're good to go).
This was where I pulled a prank on the guys when we were swimming! I dived, deep, swam underneath, came out on the opposite bank ran through the woods, and got out of there as fast as I could. They were searching for me for hours! Poor things, they thought I drowned.
It would've all worked out well if Garcia hadn't seen me. When she met the boys, they were in a panic, searching frantically for me. She told them that she'd seen me on my bike on the way here. And boy, were they mad. As revenge, they hid my glasses. I couldn't find them for weeks. I finally did find them when I accidentally stepped on them. I admit, that was a good one. They got me good. We were even.
One night, I remember, we were playing Uno inside the tent. Garcia's friend "Tom" came over to visit that week. I forgot about that. I kept picking on her, laying down cards such as skip, reverse, draw four, draw two, and wild, with abandon. Generously. Her cards kept piling up as a result and she couldn't win any rounds. She finally threw her cards in the air and stalked out of the tent. She wouldn't talk to me for days. When she did talk to me, it was with sarcasm or she would mumble.
This was where we would always gaze up at the stars looking for meteors and constellations. Some of us would be on the couches, some would be on the ground. I remember our last night in The Spot.
March 19, 2004...
The gang had just come from their graduation party. They snuck out and left early to hang out there. A fire was blazing on the fire pit and all seven were on their backs looking up at the stars.
"Make a wish," Rachel Karlsen whispered, "It's a shooting star."
"I wish we could stay here like this forever," Kurt said with a sigh.
"You're not supposed to say it out loud, you know?" Michelle said. "Or it won't come true."
"Just saying," Kurt said with a shrug.
"Kurt's right," Jeremy said, "I would've said it myself if he hadn't. I do wish we could stay here forever."
"Sadly, we all know that can't happen," Brianna said, "We'll all have to go our separate ways."
Jeremy swallowed, fighting back tears. He dreaded that day. The day they would all embark on their different journeys.
"What are you guys doing after this?" Rachel asked, to break the sudden silence that filled the company. "After you leave Bridal Veil behind?"
"I'm leaving for basic training in two weeks," MJ said, his voice seeming strained and raspy. It was clear he was fighting emotion. Michael Ogden Jr. was Bridal Veil Falls High School's star quarterback. He was a jock and every girl in school hung on his arms. He was a manly man. And in two weeks, he would be leaving for basic training. No military man cried. So why should he? He was proud. Didn't want to admit it. But try as he might to hide it, he just couldn't.
"You're leaving for basic training?" Adam said. "Dude! High five! Me too!"
"Yes sir, I'm joining the Marines."
"Boo!" Adam teased. "I'm joining the Army."
"Army!" MJ scoffed. "Forget the Army! We're the real men. Y'all are sissies."
"Well you're full of hot air," Adam countered. "All you are is bluster and bluff. At least soldiers aren't pretentious, not like jarheads like you."
Both stood up as if to fight, fists balled, eyes locked on each other.
"What the hell is wrong with you?" MJ said, indignant. "Bro?" He emphasized the word "bro".
"I should be asking you the same thing!" Adam shouted. "What the hell is wrong with you?"
"Hey, hey, hey, guys! Guys!" Brianna said, stepping between them. "Cool it down!"
MJ smiled. Then they both fell back down, laughing their asses off. Their laughter was infectious, and soon enough, they had the whole group laughing.
"Man... Good times, good times," Kurt said, nodding. "I'm gonna miss all this."
"Me too," Jeremy said, nodding.
"How 'bout you, Jerms?" Kurt asked. "Where are you going after this?"
"I'll be going to a Jewish college up in Florida," Jeremy said.
"Got a major yet?" Rachel asked.
"Nah," Jeremy said. "Still undecided. We'll have to see when I get there. How about you?"
"Me? I'm going to a modeling school," Rachel answered. "I've always wanted to be a model."
"I know you'll make it," Jeremy said with a smile and a twinkle in his eye. "I believe in you. You've got the height, you've got the looks, you've got it all."
"Well, thank you," Rachel said. She was thankful it was dark. She was blushing. "I'm flattered."
"I wasn't flattering you," Jeremy said. "I was telling the truth."
"Thank you all the same."
"How 'bout you, Bri?" Kurt asked. "Where you off to?"
"She just got accepted into Julliard," Adam said, all smiles and very proud of his girlfriend.
There was a collective gasp from the group.
"Julliard?" MJ said. "Dude. That's legit, man."
"Already?" Michelle said, surprised. "That was fast!"
"Apparently, they think I'm Julliard material," Brianna said.
"That's because you are," Kurt said.
"How 'bout you, Kurt?" MJ said. "Where you going?"
"I'm thinking UCLA. Business, with a minor in arts. I wanna do animation, you know? Make my own comic, maybe. Or what I could do is I'll draw my grandpa's character, Porgy the Pig."
"Won't you be charged with plagiarism?" Rachel said. "It sounds like Porky Pig."
"Well, Gramps created those stories in his head, and he thought Porgy up before he even saw a television. Besides, it's Porgy the Pig. There's a 'the' in there somewhere. Porky Pig doesn't. Also, pig is actually a misnomer. Gramps said he was a warthog, actually."
"I see. My bad," she said, sheepishly. "Well, we'll be looking forward to reading your comics."
"Also, he'll be kinda like Wishbone. A sentient, thinking, talking pig whole have grand adventures," Kurt added.
"What about you, Mitch?" Jeremy asked.
"My parents want me to go into the medical field," Michelle said. "Nursing, maybe."
"That's a good choice right there," Jeremy said. "Nurses are well-paid, plus they get to help others."
"Say, Jerms," Adam suddenly said. "What's the name of the school you're going to?"
"Solomon Wayne Institute of Higher Learning," Jeremy replied. "It used to be Jacksonville Institute of Rabbinical Studies."
"I've heard of that school before," Kurt said. "It's a good school."
"I know. That's what my dad said."
"You gonna be a rabbi?" Brianna asked.
"Nah," Jeremy said, shaking his head. "I don't think I can handle the responsibilities that come with being a rabbi. But I will be taking religious courses. They have secular majors and classes there, but every student is required to take religious studies before graduating. I can't just take secular courses. I have to take religious ones too."
"That's nice," Adam said, nodding.
"Yeah," Jeremy said, with a sniff.
Another silence enveloped the group. It was broken by Brianna this time.
"I do wish we'd stay like this forever, you know? Freeze time. Press 'Pause' and never press 'Play' ever again..." she said.
"I think we all wish that," Rachel said, wiping her tearstained cheeks.
Michelle stood up.
"I'll be right back, you guys," she said, disappearing behind the trees and bushes. When she came back, she held a box in her hands.
"What is that?" MJ asked.
"It's a time capsule," Michelle said, smiling. "We'll put our memories here then bury it."
"Hey, that's a good idea!" Rachel said with a laugh. "I like it."
"So," Michelle said, "You guys got anything you want to put in here?"
"I do," Kurt said, getting up. "It's in my truck."
Kurt came back with his yearbook in his arms. He put it in the box.
"I'm putting this in," MJ said, pulling something out of his pocket. A dreidel. "This was the dreidel Jeremy gave me one Hanukkah."
Like the Olzewskis, the Ogdens were also Jewish. But they were non-practicing. But MJ did love the festivals so it was no surprise that he kept the dreidel.
"I'm next," Adam said, stepping forward. He took an old, crumpled, used condom, stiff with disuse. "Yeah. We did it here. At The Spot. That was our first."
The girls gasped, Rachel giggled. MJ laughed, while Jeremy tried his best not to. Kurt raised an eyebrow. Brianna swatted Adam on the arm playfully.
"You would think of putting that in there!" Brianna said with a chuckle.
"I'll go next," Jeremy said, dropping a pair of broken glasses into the box. Kurt laughed.
"I forgot about that one! Aw, man!" he said, laughing.
"I never did," Jeremy said. "Remember? You guys hid my glasses somewhere around here and I couldn't find it for weeks?"
"You finally found it when you stepped on it," Adam said with a loud laugh.
"I guess I'll go next," Brianna said, taking a CD case out of her purse. "This was the mix-tape CD Adam made for me. He's a super sweet guy."
"Though horny at times," Adam added.
"You mean most of the time," Brianna said, correcting him. The group laughed.
"Alright, I'm next," Rachel said, opening her backpack. "Remember the exam we stole from Mr. Moran's office and Xeroxed for our illicit use?"
She dropped Mr. Moran's copy of the test—with its answers—inside the box.
"I wonder if anyone knows about it," Brianna thought aloud.
"Nope. Not a word," Kurt said. "Nobody knows we did it to this day. And that's the way it will always be."
"I guess I'm last," Michelle said, putting the box on the ground. Then she dropped a piece of paper with the words to Vitamin C's "Friends Forever (Graduation)" on it in the box. She sealed the capsule and requested MJ to get the shovels from her trunk. MJ and Kurt volunteered to dig. When they deemed it deep enough, they lowered the box into the hole and covered it up again.
"Well, that's it," Kurt said, with a shrug. "It's over."
"When we leave this year, we won't be coming back," Brianna said, quoting a line from Friends Forever. "No more hangin' out 'cause we're on a different track."
"No, it's not," Rachel countered. "It never is. It never will be. All those memories will stay with us and we'll all be in each other's hearts. Forever..."
Michelle grabbed her guitar, which was resting on one of the couches, and began strumming. And just like that, the group was singing. "As we go on, we'll remember all the times we had together. And as our lives change, come whatever, we will still be friends forever..."
They were swaying and holding their phones in their hand, just like one would do at a concert. MJ Ogden held his beer in his hand instead.
They sang the whole song. After it was over, all seven of them put their hands together like a sports team and said, "Forever!"
"Forever," MJ said, raising his bottle as if for a toast, then drank.
The group stayed in their hangout for several more hours before they went home to their waiting families to sleep. It was almost dawn when they did so.
Before leaving, Jeremy called out to Rachel. They were the last to leave. The others had already gone.
"Rache! Wait!" Jeremy shouted. "Wait up! I..."
"Yes?" Rachel said, turning around.
"I..." Jeremy said, suddenly tongue-tied.
"Spill it out," Rachel said.
"I have a...a confession to make," he finally managed, stammering a little.
"What is it?" Rachel asked.
"It's... I... It's just that..."
"What is it?"
"I've always been in love with you. But...I...I just couldn't tell you."
It was a shock to Rachel.
"Well, we're from two different worlds. You're taller than me. Girls don't want guys who are shorter than them, I know. I'm Jewish, you're not. I'm a geek, you're a cheerleader and homecoming queen. Every jock in school was after you and Brianna."
"Jeremy," Rachel said, with a sigh, "Do you think I care about that? I wish you told me this sooner! You might've been better than those stupid jocks who broke my heart. None of them were sincere, really."
"So... You don't mind dating a guy shorter than you?"
"No," Rachel said, lowering her lips to his. Jeremy was caught off guard, taken by surprise. He never expected that kiss. "So? When are we going out?"
"Just a kiss is enough for me," Jeremy said, head bowed, blushing. "At least I got to kiss you, finally."
"Hey," Rachel said, raising Jeremy's chin with her finger. "Look at me. Look at me. I love you."
Another kiss followed those words, not a soft kiss like the first. Passionate wouldn't even begin to describe it.
Rachel unzipped the door of the tent and led Jeremy in, then zipped it shut again.
Tears fill my eyes and threaten to fall as I remember that last memory. Rachel gave me something special that day. Something I never thought I'd have. She was my first. We dated for a couple of years in college after that, but the long distance thing just didn't work out for us. We eventually broke up. And then I met Kori. We fell in love, dated, got married, had kids, and then the light in my life was snuffed out again. She died in an accident. She was on her way home from the airport from a business trip in Italy. I told her I would pick her up but she insisted on driving home and said that she had parked her car at the airport. Park-N-Fly. I asked her if she was sure about it and she said she was. As soon as she exited the parking lot, her car was hit by an 18-wheeler truck. She never made it.
There were only two women that I ever loved in my life... Rachel and Kori. And as I stand here , thinking of them, I feel a sharp pain stab me. Memories were sweet, that was a good thing. But there was also bitter underlying the sweet.
I wipe my tears and look around for the spot where we buried the time capsule. If my memory serves me right, it's under the tree we built a platform and diving board on. I jog back to my car and get the shovel from the back seat and dig. It takes me a long time, but finally, I get to the box. I take it out of the hole it has been safely hidden it for thirty years, brush the dirt off the lid, and open in. The first thing I see is the piece of paper Garcia dropped into the box. The lyrics to Vitamin C's Friends Forever. I remember the song like it was just released yesterday. I start to hum. I laugh as I pick up the shriveled used condom, remembering how I caught Adam and Brianna on one of the couches. Then I smile as I remember the time Rachel and I had in the tent. That memory always makes me feel like seventeen again.
I see the mix-tape CD that Adam made for Brianna and I smile. He is a good man. I laugh as I gingerly pick up my broken glasses. I leaf through the five-page test paper we xeroxed and it brought back memories. I was so nervous I thought I saw Mr. Moran everywhere. I was like that poor insane guilty dude from Edgar Allan Poe's The Tell-Tale Heart. I see the dreidel I gave to MJ and tears flow once more. His death was a blow to us all. He was serving in Iraq when a roadside bomb exploded, killing him and his buddies. It was devastating. When I called Rachel, I couldn't talk. I could only sob in painful misery. She thought I called her because I wanted us to get back together. When I finally composed myself and told her why I had called, all she could say was, "No..."
Then she started crying.
After that, she stopped coming to The Spot every year. It was too painful for her. And then Garcia stopped coming too. The rest of us still came... Brianna, Adam, Kurt, and me. And then Kurt died. A heart attack. That's when Brianna stopped coming. Adam still tried to come every now and then, to move on with life, but he just couldn't. He stopped coming altogether.
Only I came every year.
There was another reason why Brianna stopped coming. Ever since she became a high-and-mighty cellist, she forgot about us. About her friends. About The Spot. She chose to forget. To never return. To never look back. She was like Susan who chose to turn her back on Narnia. She was turning her back on our Narnia.
Garcia, too, has died. Murdered in her own home by a demon of the Pit. I prosecuted the murderer in the case. And won.
In this moment I feel like Marius from Les Miserables and if my throat weren't hurting so bad, I would've been singing Empty Chairs At Empty Tables. I was all alone. I laugh at the irony of it all. This is how I started out. Friendless and alone. Now here I am again. Friendless and alone. Except now I'm forty-seven, not thirteen. And I'm now a Harvard law professor, not a high school student. And my hair is gray, not brown.
Suddenly, I feel a hand on my shoulder. I turn to see who it is. It's a surprise. I hadn't seen Adam in years.
"Adam!" I exclaim and hug him. We laugh. "I never thought I'd see any of you guys again!"
"Well, here I am," he says, giving me a slap to the shoulder and a Roman handshake.
"It's been so long," I say with a sigh.
"It has," he says. "I see you already opened the time capsule."
"Yeah," I say. "I had to."
"I had the urge to open it too."
A gust of wind blows the paper out of my hand and makes it sail through the air. Where it lands I can't say.
We hear some rustling, then a beautiful voice singing Vitamin C's song. It's Rachel. I smile. She puts her arm around my waist and I do the same. We sing, we laugh, we smile, we cry, we reminisce.
And as we reminisce, I can see the souls of our dearly departed. Garcia. Kurt. MJ. And I feel as though we are complete again, even though Brianna is not present. Perhaps she never will be. But the thought of them smiling at us makes me feel complete again. We are friends. Forever.