I imagine that, as with all things we imagine to be unique to ourselves and which turn out to be quite universal, actually, that we all have a connection with a certain name. A name we encounter over and over again throughout the course of our lives. For a long while, that name for me was Jason.
According to the hallowed hall of general knowledge that is Wikipedia, “Jason was a late ancient Greek mythological hero, famous as the leader of the Argonauts and their quest for the Golden Fleece…” There has also been a King Jason, a High Priest Jason, a philosopher Jason, a cat, a power ranger, a rocket, a government advisory group and perhaps most infamous, an ax murderer, all named Jason.
My first kiss was a boy named Daniel, my 2nd was a friend named Jason Cox, who lived around the corner from me. There was also Jason H., Jason Coffey, Jason R., Jason’s whose last names I have long forgotten and of course, Jaylin Jones, who I always counted as one of the Jason’s.
Jason R. was perhaps the one who meant the most to me and perhaps my first love. He was neither a greek hero, a king or a priest. He had short brown hair, sparkling deep brown eyes, like chocolate, a nose that I’d recognize even now and a smile that was so natural and bright enough to light up a room. I met him at a mall. I was a runaway, and had come to my favorite hangout to get away from my vicious siblings and indifferent parents. I was hungry, and needed a place to stay for the night. I was not the hiding and sleeping in the mall type, though I suppose I would have been up for it if someone else suggested it. Jason was sitting by himself in the food court, eating chinese. I brazenly walked up, sat in the chair across from him and asked if he would share his egg roll with me, which he did. Soon he introduced me to his friends who turned up at some point and these guys became my best friends, who I lied to and hurt repeatedly and for years.
Jason and I played leap frog along the canal as we walked from the mall to the apartments where a few of the guys lived. Three of them took me in, and it makes me very sad to realize that I don’t remember their names. They were from California, didn’t believe in microwaves and had an aquarium. I remember that I was supposed to make breakfast for them as my way of paying rent, but that was quickly forgotten around the first time I tried to make bacon on the stove top, after years of watching my dad cook it in the microwave… They had a black cat named el gato. We once all got very high together and figured out the secrets of the universe in one night, of course I have long forgotten those secrets, though aliens were definitely involved. They were really good guys and I hope they are having excellent lives somewhere.
Jason and I didn’t see each other very often, he was going to school and lived a little distance away, but when we did it was good, like we were drawn together and we fit together like puzzle pieces. The last time I saw him, it was outside the same mall I had met him, he saw me and shouted my name and grabbed me in an embrace that was like being home, the world calm and still and warm, all exactly as it should be. I had to wrench myself away and I might have cried if I had known the next time I saw him would be nearly 16 years later, on the Department of Corrections website, wearing the same orange jumpsuit that all prisoners wear and with the sparkle in his eyes long gone.
When I first saw that picture I felt a longing to reach out to him, write him a letter, tell him I was married, living in England with three children. All grown up, if you will. I suppose I thought it would be important to him, me reaching out from the past, perhaps even comforting. The girl with whom he had once sat in a closet for hours talking about his family, his fears and hopes and dreams, even reciting poetry. Of course he might also not remember me at all, the look in his eyes was one I associated with long time huffers, completely vacant. Though I wanted to write the letter, and did write one, I could see no point in sending it. This was not a person I wanted in my life, and had I sent the letter I probably would not have even included a return address. Perhaps I really had grown up, and grown out of needing these people, who I once adored.
I believe Jason has probably been released now, and I wish him well, though my heart aches that his life has not turned out the way he would’ve wanted.
Thanks for the egg roll, and the memories.