Junior high and high school can be such an awkward time. If it wasn’t for my friends, I don’t know how I would have survived it all. This is a story about my best friend back then…
I’m not exactly sure when Joey showed up in my life. It’s one of those things that really didn’t seem very important. It was either in the 8th or 9th grade when we were attending Elizabeth City Jr. High that he and I started hanging out together. But in any case, from that time on we were inseparable.
It didn’t seem to really matter what either one of us had going on, the other one was always involved somehow. We both took French in the 9th grade and were selected by our teacher to go shopping downtown for some crafts supplies for a French dinner we were preparing. We were turning the cafeteria into a French Restaurant or something like that. But anyway, the Jr. High school is just 3 blocks from the main downtown shopping area so we were able to just walk off campus and head downtown. Needless to say, it took us almost all day to get the supplies. Heck, we almost forget to get them before we went back to the school.
And we were always there when each other had accidents too. I almost lost one of my eyes in a freak accident once. Joey helped me keep up with my assignments until I got back into school again. Once, he had a knee blow out on him playing basketball and ended up on crutches. I helped him get from class to class (the school was 3 stories and no elevators which was a real pain with crutches.
Once we got our drivers license we were always on the go. It was funny but Saturday night was always date night and Friday night the guys always hung out together. We were together every Friday night getting into some kind of mischief and every Saturday night we both always had a date. In any case, we would take our dates home around midnight and then get back together again for an hour or so just riding around town. I would bet that over a three year period we drove 20,000 miles and never ventured too far from Elizabeth City except for the trips to the beach and Friday night football on the road.
I believe I saw him every day I was in town from the 9th grade through our senior year of high school. I just knew we would be life long friends. Then there was our graduation.
I remember it like it was yesterday. We graduated on June 7, 1977. We were the first class to ever graduate on the football field at Northeastern High School. It was your typical graduation. People talking about something that I have no idea what they were saying now… and nobody really cared back then either. In any case, graduation ended and we had to actually go back by our home rooms to get our diplomas. I was taking my time, visiting with people and saying good bye to various teachers. I finally got my diploma and headed for the parking lot. It was pretty empty by the time I got there but Joey was sitting there on the hood of his car waiting on me.
We stood there and talked for about 10 minutes or so and then I told him I had to go meet my parents for dinner. I remember looking across the roof of my car at him as we were both getting into our cars and yelling at him that I’d see him around. But it felt so very different, like that very moment was an end of something.
I didn’t see Joey for the next two months. I was busy getting ready to go off to college and Joey had decided that he would just stay home, find a job and buy himself a new car. When we did run into each other again it was very different. We really didn’t have much in common since we both had chosen different paths. Conversation that had been so easy just months before were now awkward and strained.
I only saw him off and on briefly over the next couple of years and then we didn’t talk at all anymore… until 1984 when we ran into each other in an apartment complex parking lot in Wilmington… where we both just happened to be living… but that’s another story.
I still wouldn’t trade any of my time with Joey for anything else. He was the best kind of friend you could have going through Jr. high and high school… a guy who was always there… who always had your back no matter what… What more could I have wanted than that?