Sunday, August 31, 2014

Scars

I have three scars along the left side of my body: one on my shoulder, one on my elbow and one on my knee. They are the result of an unfortunate rollerblading accident about 18 years or so ago... My first time ever on rollerblades. No helmet. No knee pads. No elbow pads. And no wrist pads. Stupid, I know. But I was trying to impress a boy.

Jason was his name. And to this day, whenever I catch a glimpse of one of these three scars, I think about him.

Jason was a year ahead of me in high school. Mostly, I saw him around at weekend parties - one of the guys that could buy the rest of us minors our beer and coolers (yes... I drank coolers). But I really got to know him when my then-boyfriend's sister started dating him, and the four of us would hang out together.

I remember this one time, in the middle of winter, my parents went out of town, and the three of them convinced me to have a party at the house. I wasn't much of a rule-breaker (well, except for curfew... I always blew my curfew), but they wore me down. As far as parents-are-out-of-town-high-school-parties go, it was pretty tame. By 1:00 am, everyone was gone except for the four of us. But we weren't done partying. Over and over again, we blasted She Sells Sanctuary by the Cult on my Dad's state-of-the-art stereo system, dancing, singing, and playing air-guitar around the living room, using the coffee table as an ad hoc stage. Then we all stripped down to our underwear, filled the two-man jacuzzi hot-tub in my parents' bedroom, cranked open the window, squeezed ourselves in, and smoked cigarettes and drank beer until 4 in the morning. (Mom and Dad, if you read this blog, I guess I'm busted...).

By the time of the rollerblading accident, I had been away at university for two years. I was home for a couple of weeks visiting my family and friends. Jason and I bumped into each other at the bar one night. He asked if I wanted to go rollerblading with him sometime. I didn't even own rollerblades, but I said yes. Then I drove to the closest city an hour away to buy a pair at Canadian Tire. The next day, he came to pick me up and we drove down to the beach. He was a pro on those things - skating backwards, sprinting ahead of me, turning around on a dime... I, on the other hand, was a total knob. He very patiently taught me the basics, and off we went to blade around the lake.

Everything was going great until we came to a pretty steep hill, sloping downwards. "You going to be okay going downhill?" he asked me. "Of course!" I said, not wanting him to think that I couldn't handle myself.

And then the inevitable happened. I started to pick up more and more speed. I began to panic. Jason was screaming at me, "Use your brake!". I turned my head to see where he was, and somehow swerved onto the gravel shoulder. I fell forward, skidding a few feet and scraping the hell out of myself in the process. When I picked myself up, I had three nasty gashes along the left side of my body: one on my shoulder, one on my elbow, and one on my knee.

Jason was by my side within seconds, helping me up and making sure nothing was broken. Once we had determined that I would live, we both started laughing, and he screamed out, "That was AWESOME!" Then he led me back to his truck so that I could get home and clean up my wounds (which involved a considerable amount of painful gravel extraction).

That was the last time I ever saw Jason. The next day, I hopped on a plane back to Ottawa. A year later, my parents moved away. I came back to Manitoba less and less as I got more and more busy with school and work. And when I did go home, there wasn't really a reason to drive down to Killarney. And as happened with so many of my high school friends, we didn't really stay in touch. At least not until Facebook came along.

Today, I learned that Jason passed away. Turns out that he was battling cancer. I've been gone so long that I didn't even know that.

It's true that we didn't keep in touch. And I didn't know any of the details about his life for the past two decades. Still, the rollerblading and hot tub episodes are two of my favourite memories of life with the high school gang. I've recounted these stories often throughout the years. And I've thought of Jason often too. Like every time that I look down at one of my three scars.

You had too little time on this earth, Jason. And during what time you did have, we may not have been the closest of friends. But you left an indelible mark. On my left shoulder. On my left elbow. On my left knee.

And on my whole heart.

Rest in peace, my friend.

P.S. Fuck cancer.