The Boy from Nebraska Without a Dragon Tattoo

It’s too painful to perform the math.  But many years ago when I was seventeen I went on a school trip to participate in the CloseUp program in Washington DC.  For those of you who are unfamiliar, CloseUp is a program where high school kids go for a week and learn all about our nation’s government.  It was a totally over achiever nerd fest.  An amazing experience.  We got to meet our Senators, and I demanded to know what ours was doing about legislation for municipal recycling.  Yeah, nerd fest indeed.  We stayed at a hotel near Georgetown, and buses took us to the Capital, the Senate, here, there and everywhere.  There were kids from all over the country on my bus, in my hotel, seated next to me at meals, we were everywhere.

I palled around with a group of kids from Crete, Nebraska.  I never knew anyone from Nebraska, and they didn’t know anyone from Connecticut.  I didn’t know that the capital of Nebraska is Lincoln.  They rolled their eyes and laughed when I assumed it was Omaha.  Because everyone thinks it’s Omaha.  We joked around.  We saw sights together.  We hung out at the hotel.  The kids from Crete were cool.  They told me that when you move out of Crete, you get called an “excretion” which I thought was hilarious.  They totally knew the capital of Connecticut is Hartford.  But then, Connecticut is a small state. You could totally guess that by seeing a map.

It was the last night of the trip, and me and my Nebraskan friends were bummed to leave the next day.  There was a dance being held at the hotel on the last night.  We had a blast dancing, joking around, laughing.  There was one boy in the group, Chris, who I hung out with all week.  Nice enough boy, funny but a bit shy.  I pulled him onto the dance floor and we danced a slow one.  I think I cracked jokes the whole time, as I had zero game.  (As opposed to now when I do graceful things like fall down when trying to seduce my husband.)

The song ended, we went back to slinging our arms around the others in the group swaying and singing along to the music.  I think we might have danced another slow one, I can’t remember.  Like I said, painful math must be performed to get back that far.

We swapped addresses.  Back then there was no facebook or even email.  I wrote letters to a few of them.  Chris and I wrote a few times.  College happened.  His address eventually removed from my address book (which I wrote in pencil so I could erase.)  Life happened.  I moved to Rhode Island, went to grad school, published a novel, restored a sailboat… blah blah blah…

Then on Sunday an extraordinary thing happened.  I got a facebook message on my author page.  It went like this:

BJ Knapp the Author, Google clarifies you were once BJ Kruzel; I remember you as an eleventh grader from Somers, CT who met an eleventh grader named Chris ****** from Crete, NE while you both were in Washington DC for Close Up. Do you remember?

Did I remember?  Of course I remember!  I actually googled him once a few years ago but never found a solid lead on his name.  His life happened too.  He’s a minister, has a family of his own.  He found old letters from me when packing up to move his family to another state. 

We chatted on facebook into the night, getting caught up.  And it puts a big smile on my face to have someone remember me from so long ago, when we only spent a week together to begin with.  If he were sitting at my dinner table, I’d raise my glass to him and say my normal toast. 

"Here’s to old friends, new friends and everything in between.  Your presence in my life makes it awesome." 

But I am not sure if he’s an old friend or a new friend.  Maybe somewhere in between--for all I know he might actually have a dragon tattoo.

BJ Knapp is the author of Beside the Music, available for purchase here. Please sign up for the Backstage with BJ Knapp mailing list to get updates on events, signings, dog pictures and so much more.

added on 09.26.16

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