Every eight months or so I get a late night text from my mother regarding some long-lost friend or acquaintance that I’ve known. My mom does some bar tending on the side in the town that I grew up. She works in different locations and comes across all different types of crowds and people. On these occasions we usually have to play a guessing game. She’ll say somebody came up to her saying he/she knew my brother or me from such and such a thing. Rarely does she ever get a name for me to know who the person is. She always feels awkward when they recognize her but she can’t place them. Of course being a bar tender she ends up doing most of the listening as they do the talking. They always ask what the boys are up to and how they’ve been. We’ve both moved around quite a bit so they usually ask where we’re living, what we’re doing, and when was the last time we came home. They usually have some fond moment or memory they like to share with my mom.

A large majority of the time I can’t figure out who it is based on her clues. But she’ll tell me the stories that they’ve told her. It’s usually nothing major but it usually gives me a chuckle or a smile. It’s often something I did that I’ve forgotten about. The times that I do know who it is, or what was going on in that moment they are talking about, I give a larger picture of the story to my mom and she laughs about it afterwards now that she knows what really happened. I got one of these text messages this weekend. I won’t give the name, but “it was so and so’s younger sister. She said she knew you. She was really pretty. She told me that you helped her through a tough time in her life. That it actually helped her a lot as she was going through some deaths in the family and didn’t know how to handle it. She said her mom still talks about you for being such a sweet and caring person.”

This was one of the few times I actually did know who my mom had talked to. For this exercise we will call the girl Rose. Rose was three years younger than me. Back when I was in 8th grade I had my first real boy-girl thing for her older sister who was my age. Rose also had an older brother who was in the same class as my older brother. I was always nice to Rose. I knew eventually she was going to grow into a beautiful young lady. I also enjoyed her feistiness. She seemed confident for being so young. I remember things fizzled out with her older sister. We got to that weird stage where I needed to make a move and I never did. I didn’t really know what I was supposed to do. I just knew I was supposed to do something. It was also the same time period where my appendix burst and I spent the majority of the summer recuperating and trying to come back in time to pitch in the playoffs. Which spoiler alert I totally did. I guess you could say sports have always been first in line when it came to priorities over women. I stayed in touch with Rose every now and then online. I might randomly see her down at the ballparks and flirt with her for a moment. She was in that preteen stage of falling in love with boys. I knew she had a crush on me so I tried to leverage it into her being a good student and person. I don’t really know how much I really accomplished.

I remember making her a promise when she was in middle school that I’d date her when she got to high school if she was still a good person and hadn’t been messing around with all the boys. A promise that I totally expected her to forget years later. But I remember her mentioning it years later and felt like crap. It’s one promise I made knowing I wasn’t going to fulfill it. It still stings. But enough of the back story! Let’s get to what Rose was talking about when she was talking to my mom. I still wasn’t on great terms with Rose’s sister. But I chatted with Rose every now and again. She had told me some dark things about her life and how she had been feeling. She told me she had started cutting herself. I don’t really remember the reasoning. It doesn’t really matter. I was in high school and had a car so I told her I was going to come see her and cheer her up and we’d talk about it. She told me no. She didn’t want to see me. Well I drove over to her house and she was leaving with her mom to go somewhere. I told her mom I had come to pick up Rose and hangout with her. She turned the car around as Rose said she needed to get her purse.

I remember talking to Rose’s mom in the kitchen. She knew something was wrong and wanted to know what. I don’t remember exactly what I told her but that I was here to help and find out. Because the last person a teenage girl wants to tell her problems to is her mother. And if it ever got to the point where it was something I couldn’t handle I would let her know. I just remember taking her back to my house and laying on my futon. We talked and watched a movie. I was picking on her a lot. I’d tickle her feet or poke her face. I was just trying to do anything to make her smile. I remembered things she’d told me from years ago. I pointed out some of the flaws in her depressed bitter comments. I knew a lot of girls at that age that were insecure and would say how they were ugly and nobody liked them. When the truth was always the opposite. They just needed to have a pity party. Well I just wouldn’t let Rose do that. I would tell her I thought she was pretty and knew other guys who said the same thing. Her biggest issue always came back to how young she was.

I do remember getting her to smile a couple of times. But of course as soon as she realized it she would stop. I honestly couldn’t tell if she was serious about cutting herself or if she just needed someone to care or someone to be there. The whole time I hung out with her I did my own observatory and I didn’t see any signs of cuts or scraps. It was summer time so she had on those short jean shorts and a tank top. I didn’t bring any of it up until I drove her home. I actually did enjoy spending time with her and I told her that. I just wish it was under different circumstances. I told her I wanted to kiss her but it would feel wrong. It would be like rewarding someone who is doing something wrong. I called her out that I didn’t see any cuts and asked if she was just trying to play me for a fool. She said she had done it on her inner thigh. Which I of course had no way of checking out. I believe I asked her to stop. All I know is that she left my car angry and didn’t want to talk to me again.

There was many times in my high school and college days when a girl would get mad, whether reasonable or not, and tell me to fuck off or never talk to her again. I of course always obliged. I’m not  a guy that likes drama or playing games. I also know my worth. If all we’re doing is arguing over dumb stuff than I’m fine cutting ties and never talking again. There are always so many more interesting people out there in the world to meet. But when a girl says she cutting herself you can’t just forget about it. I gave it some thought and I had to tell her older sister what I knew. She of course gave me some more insider information about how she had been acting at home. Even that wasn’t enough. I scheduled a meeting with the school counselor so I had someone to talk to. I knew Rose was never going to ask for help and she didn’t want me to talk to her anymore so I told the counselor the situation and asked her for help. I hoped she’d be able to talk to her. The counselor actually told me I did everything right. She did question if I thought maybe she was just doing this to get my attention. Which I hadn’t until she mentioned it. Then when I thought about it I thought maybe she did. I just knew it wasn’t a risk I wanted to take. Our town had already gone through suicides and I knew depression in teenagers is more common than It should be.

Needless to say years went by and we never talked. I never really knew what happened to her. I knew she had kind of gone down that bad girl slutty phase. She had dated guys I knew weren’t going to be good for her self-worth and her happiness, but you have to let people live their lives and make their own choices. I do remember reconnecting with her one summer after graduating from college. She of course couldn’t recall why we’d ever stopped talking. I of course remembered but played dumb. I was having a lot of get together’s at my mom’s house. I had turned her garage into my little party area. I invited her to one of them and we chatted for a bit. She had brought some of her friends and I could just tell she was enjoying me being drunk and acting silly. I could tell she hadn’t been out of high school long as she still acted like she had to be cool around her friends. I don’t think her or her friends stayed very long. That was the last time I ever saw Rose.

I mention this story because she spoke highly about me to my mother. She said things like I told her under my wing and helped her through a tough period of her life. She said her family still talks about me. I did play softball with her brother the last time I was home. My mom of course said that she seemed very genuine and thankful. She’s of course is an adult now and has two kids. I was happy that I made a positive difference in her life.

I guess the real point of this entire story is a little bit selfish on my part. Because I never hear any nice words from people about how I’ve helped them or been there for them when no one else was. Although I feel as if I do it a lot. I do it sometimes even for strangers because I’m just there at that time and that moment. It feels like the only time I hear any of these nice comments about myself is when they tell my mom or dad or even brother. They don’t tell me. I’m not sure if that’s selfish on my end our theirs? I know when people help me out I always try to tell them thank you multiple times because it’s better to show appreciation then instead of years later. Although most people who are young do not realize the effort or time you put into helping them until years later. I guess that’s the real lesson to learn.