Today, I Wrote Nothing - These Are The Times

These Are The Times

I don’t tell this story much anymore, but in the past, when I have told it, the detail people find the strangest, and there are a number of details one can consider to be strange, is that all of the girls had bags over their heads.

From what I remember, the bags were your basic, brown paper grocery bag—some of them may have been decorated, others may have been left plain. In an effort to disguise themselves even further, the girls were also draped in either a sheet or a blanket, hiding the shape of their body, with their hands tucked under folds of the fabric in order not to give away even the most minor detail of their identities.

They were either sitting cross-legged, or kneeling, all arranged in a line—not a perfectly straight line, but one that, depending on how many girls there were, might have curved in at the ends slightly, creating a lazy semi-circle.

Taken out of context, this sounds weird and bad—like, really bad. Like some kind of sacrificial ceremony for a religious cult, or possibly a hostage situation for a terrorist group filming a video to upload onto the internet, letting an opposing government know they are not to be trifled with.  

Placed back into the proper context, it isn’t as bad as you think—but it’s still weird. It isn’t a hostage situation—not really, though—well, maybe it is, in a way. And one could make an argument that it is a sacrificial ceremony, of sorts, for a religious cult.

This is the annual ‘Prom Drawing’ at a small Catholic high school in rural Illinois.


In the fall of 1993, when I was beginning fifth grade, my parents had made the decision to take me out of the public school system in Freeport, Illinois, and enrolled me in the town’s small Catholic school—attending St. Joseph’s Elementary School (now simply named Aquin Elementary) for both fifth and sixth grade, then going to Aquin Junior-Senior High (often called Aquin Central Catholic) for seventh grade until my final year of high school.

What I’m not sure of now, as a faithless adult, is why faith—specifically Catholic faith, was important to my parents during this time of their lives. It may have been how they were raised, or it may have been that, in the 1970s and into the 1980s, when I was born, people in their 20s and 30s didn’t stray as quickly from religious institutions as they perhaps may be inclined to do now.  

When my parents moved to Freeport, in the late 1980s, I was roughly four or five years old, and I have a very vague memory that one of the earliest things we did after relocating was to become members of one of the Catholic churches in town—St. Thomas. I can remember going to mass on Sunday mornings, or, sometimes, Saturday evenings. I can remember my mother teaching Sunday school classes to a room full of squirrelly, mischievous young boys. I can remember, when I was around seven years old, going through the arduous processes for both first confession and first communion.

From Kindergarten until fourth grade, I attended the elementary school only a few blocks away from my childhood home—Lincoln-Douglas Elementary. There were a number of other public elementary schools in Freeport, scattered throughout the town’s various neighborhoods and subdivisions. However, after fourth grade, no matter what part of town you lived in, everyone was then funneled into the public middle school—Carl Sandburg—housing fifth and sixth grade classes only, before you were shuffled off to the junior high, then the high school.

What I’m not sure of now is why, between fourth and fifth grade, this decision was made to take me out of the public school system, placing me elsewhere. I don’t recall if I had much, if any, say in this sudden change—or if it even really bothered me at all. This impending change may have not even really mattered to me, or maybe somehow, deep down within my 10-year-old psyche, perhaps I knew it was for the best.

I remember there was a day in fourth grade when we, as a field trip or something, toured the facilities at Carl Sandburg so we, as students, knew what we were getting ourselves into for the coming year. I remember the building seeming like an enormous, unending labyrinth; I remember the classrooms seemed almost too full of kids—many of them much larger than me; much more imposing.  

The class that I sat in on—I don’t recall the subject being taught—I just remember the room having a very, very low ceiling, and it seemed impossibly small and cramped with that many students packed into it.

I remember having this awful, sick, nervous feeling in my stomach that I used to get all of the time as a kid—the feeling I’d get when I was overcome with anxiety.

Maybe my parents knew it wasn’t going to work out for me in the public middle school, and were taking preemptive measures. Maybe they knew what I’ve only been able to truly recognized within recent years about myself as a child—just how terribly anxious I was almost all of the time—and that the stress of being the ‘new kid’ someplace else, with smaller class sizes in what was a relatively controlled environment, was the more desirable alternative to becoming just another face in the crowd, and, more than likely, being eaten alive.


Aquin High School opened in the fall of 1923 with 30 students from four Catholic parishes in Freeport—the first class graduated in 1927. During the inaugural year, it was known as Freeport Catholic Community High School, before changing its name in 1924.

The school originally took up a single floor of St. Mary’s Grammar School, but with each subsequent year, enrollment grew enough that Aquin began to expand—moving into an additional level of the grammar school after two years.

In 1926, on a six-acre plot of land, across the street from St. Vincent’s Orphanage, under the eye of Fr. Charles Conley, who was both the pastor at St. Mary’s and the superintendent of the school, a new building for the high school was constructed—with an addition of a new library, gymnasium, and cafeteria, in 1961.

In 1976, additional classrooms for a junior high were added—this was, to my knowledge, the most recent update to the building.

Located on the east end of Freeport, as the dynamic of the town changed over time, even by the mid-1990s, both St. Joseph’s Elementary and Aquin fell in what was implied to be the ‘bad’ part of town—the older neighborhoods, built just outside of the downtown area, far enough away from the sprawl that continued pushing toward the west. The neighborhoods full of older houses that were not very well kept, packed closely together, lining very, very narrow streets—streets that were implied to be dangerous—brimming with crime.

During the six years I was in the Aquin High School building for both junior high and high school, the place always seemed incredibly run down, if not on the verge of falling apart—especially the original building from the 1920s: a cavernous and seldom used auditorium sat in the center of the older portion of the campus—the floorboards worn and scuffed, the acoustics dreadful, the lighting almost nonexistent; and there was the men’s room, where in a line of two or three toilets, separated by concrete dividers that went all the way to the floor, there were simply no doors on the stalls.

Of all the things that I remember about my time at Aquin, this minor detail is one of a handful that regularly come to mind—the embarrassment you felt when either you were attempting to use the restroom, and someone else came in, catching you on the toilet, pants crumpled around your ankles; or, perhaps even worse, you walking in on one of the few male faculty members in a similar position.

The sheer ludicrousness that nobody ever thought to hang doors in an effort to give students some privacy is astounding and incredibly cruel. And I wonder, so many decades later after I last roamed the halls of that building, if anyone ever thought to resolve this issue.


The Aquin High School website1 states that students vote on whether or not they want to continue the school’s nearly life-long legacy of the now infamous Prom Drawing—“Each year, they unanimously vote to continue the tradition,” the site proclaims.

The conceit of the drawing itself stems from the simple idea of ‘inclusion,’ which is strange, coming from a school that is steeped in a faith that is not exactly the most inclusive out there. The tradition of drawing your prom date goes all the way back to Aquin’s beginnings—when the school “wanted to make sure that many of the orphans who attended the school would have the opportunity to go to the dance.”

Now—and I mean, like, now as in this present day, but also now as in, like, when I was a prom-going high school student almost 20 years ago—the easiest way to describe the idea of the Prom Drawing is that ‘nobody gets left behind.’

There’s no terribly shy, awkward boy, unable to find the right words to ask the girl he’s pined for if she would go with him to the dance; there is no emotionally wrought teenage girl grappling with not being asked to prom—she’s going to be asked, through a rather elaborate production, by somebody.

Whether that somebody is someone she actually wants to go with or not is neither here nor there.

If you wanted to go, you were going. Nobody gets left behind.

In the 1920s, when the school was founded it had 30 students enrolled—that’s one thing that hasn’t really changed in the nearly 100 years the institution has existed. It’s a small school, with a very, very small student body. The school’s website lists the current enrollment at 358 students; to put things into perspective, in May of 2001, I graduated in a class of 23.

The Friday of Prom—always the first Friday in May—it is nearly an all day activity, and save for breaking up into smaller groups to fit into whatever method of transportation you’ve contributed to financially to get from one Prom related scheduled activity to another (usually via a party bus), you are always with everyone else who is going to Prom.

All of you gather together in the same backyard for parent photo opportunities.

All of you go to the same restaurant for dinner prior to the dance.

Nobody gets left behind.


Being plucked out of the public school system, in an effort to save me from, among other things, becoming just another face in a crowd was fine for a while. In fifth and sixth grade, I knew little, if anything, about how comforting the idea of anonymity was—the comfort for that idea would come once I entered junior high, and during the first two, if not into my third year, in high school.

It’s tough to remain anonymous, or at the very least, keep to yourself as much as possible, when you are part of a class that, by the time you make it to graduation, has slightly over 20 students in it.

The idea of ‘bullying,’ or just the simple notion of school age children—mostly pre-teen, or teenagers—being awful towards one another is not a recent development; no, it’s simply just attracted a lot more attention to itself within the last few years. It’s always been a problem, and it will, more than likely, always be a problem.

When I was in high school, Aquin lived and died by its athletic programs—specifically its football program. I am certain that this is still the case, as it was certainly the case prior to my enrollment. With the school being as small as it was, and still is, and with class sizes being as small as they are, nearly every boy in attendance was almost contractually obligated to don a helmet and shoulder pads, taking their places on the football field every Friday night in the fall.

I was one of a fraction of a fraction of boys that did not participate in the school’s football program—or any athletics, for that matter. And this, unfortunately, was something that brought me a lot of attention I otherwise would have had liked to avoid all together.

There are archetypal high school students—the jocks, stoners, et. al. In a larger high school setting, the Venn Diagram of these archetypes would show only the smallest, if any, intersection; however, with Aquin being the size it was, the lines that separated these caricatures was blurred to the point of being nearly unrecognizable. There were jocks, or the more athletically minded who were, thankfully, not as cruel—just a little arrogant because of the popularity they had among the small student body thanks to their athletic prowess.

Then, there were the stoners—stoners who played football; stoners who, by playing against type, were incredibly angry and spiteful.

The idea of ‘bullying,’ or just the simple notion of school age children—mostly pre-teen, or teenagers—being awful towards one another is not a recent development; and the fact that this regularly happened to me does not make my experience in high school unique, or special, in any sense of the words.

No, I know that is not the case.

Much like the men’s bathroom toilets without doors on their stalls, one of the things that I remember very clearly—maybe clearer than I should—is the unrelenting and unwarranted torment, day in and day out, I was on the receiving end of from these angry, athletic stoners.

And what I hadn’t fully realized until recently is just how utterly despondent and withdrawn that must have made me during this time in my development.


If I'm remembering this correctly, Prom Drawing is a minor frenzy—for the school itself, as an entity, parents and community members, and especially for the students involved. It may even be more than a ‘minor’ frenzy—it might be major. It’s received media coverage outside of the Illinois region—most notably featured in a 2017 segment on “The Today Show,” presented by correspondent Carson Daly, as well as an additional segment on the “NBC Nightly News,” complete with student interviews.

The day of the drawing is, at the very least, a month before the Prom itself, and those attending Prom are excused from nearly all of their afternoon classes in order to prepare. The underclassmen not attending are locked down into specific classrooms throughout the drawing process, more or less of an extended study hall, and a lot of secrecy and sequestration is involved—with the junior and senior boys all shuffled into the library, and the girls carted off into the cafeteria2.

I went to Prom twice—my junior and senior years. There’s a part of me that feels like, at first, I had said I didn’t want to go during my junior year, though now, I’m not sure if that’s true; this certainly seems like something I would say, but I am uncertain as to what would have changed my mind and convinced me to go.

In the school’s small library, first, the boys draw numbers to determine the order with which they will then draw the names of their dates; after the order has been established, each boy nervously approaches the desk at the head of the library and reaches his hand into one of those flimsy raffle ticket barrels that you can rotate with a handle that’s on one of the sides, carefully drawing out the slip of paper with the name of the girl he will have to ask to Prom, hoping that fate, luck, whatever—maybe the god that the student body was forced to feign belief in—was going to smile upon them.

The girls, gathered in the cafeteria, where they don the blankets or bed sheets, and mask themselves with paper grocery sacks. Parents, and other community members, gather in the cafeteria as well to watch the ceremony unfold throughout the afternoon.

Though it is not mandatory, the boys are encouraged to prepare some kind of grand entrance, or a skit to perform in front of the audience that has gathered while the girls sit in waiting. Once you arrive in the cafeteria, after your grand entrance, you literally have to find your date by going down the line, one by one, and ripping the bag off of each head until you locate the girl who matches the name you drew out of a raffle ticket barrel, and you spit out the breathless words, “Will you go to prom with me?”

That first year, near the end of junior year in high school, in the spring of 2000, I was still entirely too anxious to do any kind of performance, or make some kind of grand entrance. I had an idea—one that I was practically on the cusp of doing, but with knots in my stomach, backed out of at the last second before I made my way through the crowd in the cafeteria and began the unbagging process.

In high school, especially in the first three years, I was incredibly out of shape and overweight—‘husky,’ I guess, would be a rather polite way to put my physique. I wore glasses, but they were your quintessential late 1990s wire frames—this was shortly before I made the change and slipped on my first pair of real black plastic frames. I did, however, have a novelty pair of black plastic framed glasses—‘nerd glasses,’ if you will, with clear plastic lenses.

In my early teenage years, I was a fan of Drew Carey—I watched his sitcom regularly, and had come to love the American version of “Whose Line is It Anyway?” that he was the host of. The plan I had backed out on, the moment I walked through the cafeteria doors, involved me wearing those black plastic framed glasses—without my prescription lenses, everything was a little fuzzy—and cracking some kind of joke that amounted to: “Hello everyone and welcome to ‘Whose Prom Date is It Anyway?’ The show where every date is made up and the dates don’t matter.”

Instead of this, I awkwardly walked in, awkwardly unbagged a few heads before I found the girl I was supposed to ask, got down on my knees, and asked her to prom.

That year, I went with a girl from my class named Meghan. Tall—almost all legs, if I recall her disproportionate body accurately—she had golden colored hair and a round face. When she smiled, you could see the top row of her bright white teeth. She was one of the smarter kids in my class—an overachiever.

She studied accounting at a state school in Illinois, and now, like so many other people that I went to high school with, lives in Chicago. She, more or less, looks the same now—her hair is a little longer, but still golden blonde, and she is a little heavier than she was nearly 20 years ago; nobody keeps their frail teenage frame forever.

She wore a navy blue dress the year I took her to Prom—I rented a black suit and wore a shiny silver and blue shirt. I can remember that she and I danced, awkwardly I’m sure, to “Time of My Life,” that song from Dirty Dancing, a movie that I have never seen.

The theme that year, a detail that I had misremembered, was “These Are The Times,” taken from a Dru Hill song.

In a high school that size, with class sizes as small as ours was, you wind up knowing everybody, but that doesn’t mean you are friends or even acquaintances with everybody. Meghan and I weren’t close and I am confident that I have not talked to her since graduation, in the spring of 2001.


I can tell you the exact moment I stopped believing in god—the moment that I realized all of my whispered, desperate pleas for help from some kind of all powerful being floating around ‘up there’ somewhere were absolutely pointless. Throughout my life, I had been pulling these distress signals out of the box I kept them in, only resorting to them when something had gone terribly wrong—the words leaving my mouth, floating into the air, and going nowhere.

Nobody was listening.

Catholicism is, at least in my experience, the kind of religion so steeped in fear and guilt that, even after someone has walked away from faith of any kind, and doesn’t believe there is any kind of god at all—those feelings of fear and guilt are still inside you. They’re a part of you, whether you want them to be or not.

I don’t know if, as a child raised in the Catholic faith, I ever gave the idea of god a second thought—going to church on the weekend was just what we did. Ridiculous nightly prayers, kneeling at the side of my childhood bed, thanking god for ‘letting me have a good day’ if I had, in fact, had a good day, and apologizing profusely if I had ‘a bad day’ instead—these prayers were just what I said, out loud, my hands clasped tightly, while my mother sat by watching vigilantly, instructing me what to say.

Catholicism, aside from the fear and guilt, is built around a lot of repetition—I suppose most Sunday services from any denomination need some kind of structure, but during a Catholic mass, there’s an awful lot of standing, then sitting, then kneeling, then standing again, and then kneeling again during a service; there’s an awful lot of everybody speaking in unsettling unison, all rattling off various prayers together in one, loud voice that is surprisingly void of emotion.

It becomes something like muscle memory—just the thing that you do, and you don’t stop to think for yourself about why you’re saying what you are saying, or why you are doing what you are doing.

Faith was never all that important to me—in high school, I was going through the motions—literally and figuratively; by the time I went to college, faith was even less important. Although I went to a liberal arts college that had an association with the Catholic Church, something like attending mass was not a requirement the way it had been in high school, and save for the religious studies classes I needed for my general education requirements, it was almost too easy to drift further and further away from the idea of organized religion.

For a while, after college, and well into my 20s, when the topic of religion came up, there were times when I recall saying I was ‘agnostic’—meaning that I didn’t agree with organized religion or a specific denomination, but I believed that there was probably, like, a higher power.

I am uncertain what I was so afraid of then—why I wasn’t ready to simply admit that I did not believe, at all.


I graduated from high school in a time before social networks; in fact, the year I graduated from college, in 2005, Facebook was still in its infancy, and Clarke College (now Clarke University) was not yet included on the site’s list of supported colleges or universities.

Clarke was added to the fledgling social network within a few weeks after I had graduated and left Dubuque behind, moving back home to my mother’s townhome for the summer until I was able to figure things out. Among the earliest people that I connected with on Facebook were, aside from friends from college, people I had gone to high school with—names of people that I hadn’t really thought about in years.

A number of us were home that summer—all newly minted college graduates, the ink on our degrees barely dry; many of my former classmates were in a similar situation to the one that I found myself in—living off of little money and having even less of an idea of what to do next.

That summer, through June and into July, I reconnected with a handful of high school friends—there were dinners, or lunches, or nights spent hanging out in the basement of my friend Peter’s parents’ house. I can remember it feeling a little strange, rekindling relationships with these people who I had known for over a decade, and were all now in their early 20s; it was also surprisingly comforting—I can remember feeling some kind of fleeting youthful fun surrounding myself with the faces of those I had fallen out of touch with.

This reunion, or whatever you want to call it, was short lived. In August, I moved back to Dubuque, living there for roughly another year—moving into an apartment I should have second-guessed, and taking a job that had been a huge mistake; from there, I left for Minnesota, rarely looking back, and rarely maintaining any means of actual communication with almost anyone from high school.

The thing about social media is that it has redefined what it means to ‘keep in touch,’ because you no longer have to put forth a lot of effort—I mean, if you actually want to know what is going on with someone, and not just the façade they display with status updates or photos, you have to put forth some effort, but it’s become too easy to have a vague idea of what people are doing—like if someone has relocated, started a new job, or who married their high school sweetheart, has had like four or five children, and looks absolutely tired and miserable in every photo.  

I do an absolutely horrible job of remaining in touch with people—it’s something I’ve realized about myself as I have gotten older, and slid further into depression and anxiety. They are diseases3 that make you, or at least me, more insular, and the idea of meeting up with someone, speaking with someone on the phone4, or even trying to have some kind of regular correspondence via text message or email, becomes less and less appealing.


I think the theme of my Senior Prom, in early May of 2001, mere weeks before I graduated from high school, was “Back at One,” named after the popular Brian McKnight ballad that had been released less than two years prior.

That year, the name I drew from the raffle ticket barrel was Ana, a short girl with dark black hair, gigantic blue eyes, and a bright white smile. She wore a black dress, and I wore a very, very baggy black suit, black shirt, and a red tie.

A year below me, she was, at the time, romantically involved with a boy in her class named Brad5; given this fact, I knew that she would dance her one or two obligatory dances with me, and spend a bulk of her evening with her boyfriend—and that was fine.

Much to my surprise, I hadn’t exactly ‘come into my own’ at this point, but I had become slightly less of a sullen wallflower, and for a few months near the end of high school, had a girlfriend. Her name was Ashley, and she went to the public high school—meaning that the day after my own Senior Prom, I was getting additional mileage out of my rented suit, and going with her to the Freeport High School Prom.

In becoming slightly less of a sullen wallflower, it also meant that, after drawing Ana’s name out of the raffle ticket barrel, I had found enough confidence to make some kind of spectacle out of myself with my entrance into the cafeteria, in order to find her amongst the huddled masses with bags covering their heads, and ask her to the dance.

To my knowledge, there is no photographic or video evidence of my entrance into the cafeteria—my mother was not among the parents huddled around watching the elaborate ceremony unfold. Perhaps some other parent present recorded it, or snapped a few photos—but I’ve never seen them. As a student who was not involved with any extra curricular activities, I’m not sure how known I was among the Aquin parents—perhaps they saw me strut in, and thought, ‘Oh, here comes that one.’

My outfit, if I am remembering this correctly, involved a red, inexplicably shiny button down shirt with what could only be described as a waffle pattern printed onto it. And, for some reason that I don’t quite understand, on my feet were a pair of old black shoes that I had completely covered in an orange and yellow fabric—the texture of which could only be described as ‘Muppet fur.’

At this point in my life, an album that was in regular rotation in my CD player at home was Play, by Moby; more or less a fan of the album from beginning to end, I was particular to its sprawling list of singles, including the seventh song to be released off of it as a single, “Southside.”

The satirical “Southside” video, set to an alternate mix of the song featuring No Doubt vocalist Gwen Stefani, received heavy airplay on MTV and VH-1, and there’s a moment in the video—it goes by so quickly you almost miss it—3:34 into a 3:48 clip; it’s Moby, partially on the ground, supporting the weight of his body on one hand, the other pointed out to the air as the thrusts himself upward.

This dance move was, and I am uncertain as to why, the conceit of my entrance.

With “Southside” playing on a cassette I had provided, through a small boombox at the front of the cafeteria, I think I danced my way through the throngs of parents, then began gyrating my way through the line of girls, pulling the paper grocery bags of their heads, looking for my Prom date—quickly shifting my focus into the center of the room when the song hit its refrain, dropping down partially, striking my best interpretation of Moby’s dance move.


There came a point when, after I began thinking about my own upbringing around religion and about how far I’ve distanced myself from it now, about high school, and about the Aquin Prom Drawing, when I wondered what my former classmates thought about it.

When you’re a teenager—you’re in it—or at least I was, and the whole experience hasn’t been something I’ve reflected a lot on until just recently. And I became curious as to how others might reflect on it now that we are all in our mid-30s. 

Much like nearly everyone I went to high school with—both in my graduating class, as well as in years ahead or behind me, I haven’t seen, or actually spoken with, Brianne in 18 years. We had a close, albeit tumultuous at times, friendship—and she is the first6 of my former classmates that I reach out to regarding Aquin’s Prom Drawing.

Brianne still lives in Freeport—this was something that, thanks to social media, I was aware of, but was not aware of why. She went to Northern Illinois University in DeKalb for two years, majoring in Sociology and minoring in Psychology, but said she struggled with finding the attention span to make it through her upper level classes, so she withdrew from NIU and returned to Freeport.

Eventually she got an Associates of Applied Science in Medical Assisting, and spent roughly six years working in the medical field. She tells me she left it behind in 2013, and since then, has done a number of things—right now, she works for a company that packages pharmaceuticals. Ethically she has a hard time for it, but tells me she continues to do the work for the people who need the medication.

“I genuinely enjoyed Prom Draw,” she tells me. “It was exciting waiting to find out who your date was going to be—not to mention the preparation of it all. Watching all of you [the boys] put on your little performances was legendary.”

“It was also a night where all the guys looked so good in their tuxes, and all the ladies in their beautiful dresses, with their hair and make up all done. I know I spent that evening feeling like royalty,” she continued. “I really hated high school to be honest, but Prom is one of the rare memories I'm willing to look back on and think ‘damn that was fun.’ Especially as insignificant as high school turned out to be, compared to real life.”

Brianne was one of the few students who attended Aquin who was not Catholic; Aquin wasn’t exclusive—but the students who were of another denomination were discouraged from lining up to receive communion. Instead, they were asked to either stay in their row, awkwardly shuffling around within the pew to let other students in and out, or to get in line, cross their arms across their chest, and ask to receive a blessing from the priest instead.

She, herself, is not very religious—explaining to me that, after I asked in a follow up message, she considers herself to be somewhat spiritual, and that there are aspects of a number of different believes that she likes.

Like me, Brianne has not kept in touch with almost anyone from high school. Even after being a bridesmaid in a classmate’s first wedding, (the girl in question subsequently divorced, then remarried a few years later), she said her contact with our graduating class—even those who are also in Freeport—is sporadic.

At the beginning of our conversation, I ask her about what I had read on the Aquin website—about how each year, the students vote if they should continue on with the tradition of Prom Draw, and how each year, ‘the students unanimously vote yes.’

She tells me she doesn’t remember voting on anything.

Neither do I.


My wife and I were married in a church.

A very small, extraordinarily liberal and inclusive Presbyterian church, located in the Minneapolis neighborhood she spent her formative years in—but a church nevertheless, and this is a detail that comes as a surprise to some, especially now, given my complete disbelief in god, and how vehemently opposed I am to the idea of religion in general.

There comes a point when you’re planning a wedding when you eventually begin to lose yourself—when you’re relying, in part, on members of your family for financial support, you have to make concessions. The decision to have the ceremony at this church was not an example of us, as a couple, ‘losing ourselves’ in the planning, per se—but it was a concession, or a compromise—a decision was made, in part, to appease the feelings of others.

My wife, Wendy, has, to my knowledge, never been a very religious or spiritual person, but growing up, being raised during her teenage years by her aunt and uncle in Minneapolis, she grew to appreciate the sense of community the families in the congregation provided.

We tried to keep as much of ourselves in the ceremony as we could—sliding the church’s pianist the sheet music for the very, very difficult arrangements to two Radiohead songs; songs that we were also told needed to be approved by the pastor—with titles like “Let Down” and “Black Star,” we knew we’d run into an issue, so we gave her a white label CD-R with the Christopher O’Riley piano arrangements7 of both songs burned onto it, wrote ‘music for meditation’ on the disc, and provided no other information.

We went to a pre-ceremony meeting with the pastor a number of months before the wedding so that she could get to know us better as a ‘couple,’ from what I can recall, and learn a little bit more about my own family’s background. She suggested we read a book, together, about budgeting our money as a couple—For Richer, Not Poorer, it was called. We read it, but then promptly disregarded anything it may have taught us because we bought a house three months after our wedding, and the idea of budgeting was, more or less, thrown out the window.

We tried to pick readings for the ceremony that contained as little ‘god’ in them as we were able—readings that still made sense to include in a wedding ceremony.

We tried, but you make concessions and you compromise, and in reflecting now, a decade later, there may have been a little more ‘god’ in the ceremony than I would have liked—but at the time, when you are trying to take into consideration the feelings of everyone else and still keep a part of yourself in there somewhere too, I didn’t think that I could speak up.


She went by Mandy when I knew her in high school but she goes by Amanda now—that was, more than likely, always her name. Married, with two relatively young, very photogenic children, she and her family live in California, and she tells me for a long time, that was the only goal she had in life.

“I remember deciding in 2005, that I was going to move to San Diego,” she told me. “At that time, I was in a serious relationship, and I made it known that if he wanted to be with me, he needed to understand three things—I wasn’t getting married, I wasn’t having kids, and I was going to live in San Diego.”

She laughed—or at least typed out ‘Ha ha ha,’ in the Facebook message we were exchanging, and simply said, “Life,” before adding that the relationship in question ended shortly before she finished nursing school in 2008, and she worked incredibly hard to find a nursing job in California, leaving for the West Coast in 2012.

“Overall, I have good memories of Prom,” Amanda recalled. “The thing I most remember about it, is that everyone was able to go.” Because of her family—her daughter recently celebrated her first birthday—she wasn’t able to go back into this as much as she wanted, but sent a list of pros and cons for the idea of the Prom Drawing.

“Everyone gets to go to Prom,” the list of pros began. “There was no ‘popularity contest, and the process of choosing the name and your date was fun,” though she confessed she didn’t remember exactly how that all unfolded.

She continued that the concept of drawing your Prom date potentially brought you closer to someone you might have not otherwise been able to know.

“I enjoyed Prom being more of a group party because of this process,” Amanda said. “Versus going out to a lame dinner with one person, and feeling awkward and isolated in small groups or with one person.”

However, she was quick to include her cons—“You kind of feel forced to go to Prom because everyone goes, and you don’t get to share the Prom experience with your ‘crush,’ or a friend or whatever.”

She also brought up some points that, I am presuming, Aquin had not considered in the late 1990s and early 2000s—and more than likely has not considered now.

“I don’t recall there being a rotation of girls picking guys—it was only the guys picking the girls, yes?” she asked. “Even though it’s random, it doesn’t rotate.”
“And what about people who would choose to go to Prom with someone of the same sex?”

Amanda said she was not raised Catholic, but both of her parents were, and that she wound up attending Aquin for high school was because her mother and recently been divorced, and the two of them relocated to Freeport—and she chose Aquin over the public high school simply because the only other person she knew from Freeport, or ‘the ‘port’ as she said, was her friend Vicki8, who was also going to Aquin for high school as well.

She said she doesn’t get back to Freeport all that often—every two years or so, she estimates. “My dad is there,” she said. “But he comes out here a couple of times a year.”

Amanda tells me she is ‘spiritual’ in the sense that she believes in energy and the universe, and her family does not attend church. She’s used social media to stay in touch with our former classmates. “I’ve also become closer to a few people on Facebook that I grew up with,” she explains. “Closer meaning we weren’t close then, but share things now.”

In one of my messages to Amanda, explaining what I was looking for as far as memories about our time in high school and the process of Prom Drawing, I had told her I was also curious if she remember our class voting on if we wanted to continue with the tradition of the Prom Drawing for our respective Prom.

After she had listed her pros and cons, she ended that portion of the message with, ‘”I am positive we did not have an opportunity to vote on this.”


My wife and I went roughly seven years without getting back to Freeport.

Not returning to my hometown for seven years wasn’t intentional on our part—when I first relocated to Minnesota in 2006, we’d try to get back twice a year, once in the spring around Mother’s Day and my mom’s birthday, and then around Christmas time. It became more difficult to comfortably manage the traveling with changes in employment that sometimes frowned upon taking even a day or two off, but it especially became difficult to manage once we had adopted companion rabbits—it was a challenge to continually be able to find trustworthy sitters who were available during the time we planned to be away.

So for seven years, my mother would make the trip from Freeport to Northfield, Minnesota, twice a year.

The thing I realize now about Freeport is that, it probably wasn’t always this way, but for the last decade—maybe even longer—it is a city stuck in what can only be called a ‘depressed economy.’

I say this because I can see the similarities between it, and Faribault, Minnesota—a community not all that far from where we live, that has struggled immensely in the last decade plus with economic shifts, and most importantly, economic depression.

Both have similar size populations, both are the seats for their respective counties—with a large government building housed in the downtown district. Both cities were, and maybe still are to some extent, incredibly blue collar—a hold over from the manufacturing jobs that continue to dry up; and both have struggled to find their identities in the face of change, and shifting demographics from the arrival of different cultures.

Once home to what I would stop short of calling a ‘thriving’ downtown area, the streets of downtown Freeport were, at least in my childhood, not row after row of shuttered businesses, or buildings that were home to things that regularly change hands. Outside of the downtown district, there are a number of large buildings—the paltry Lincoln Mall, or once prosperous Meadows shopping center—that are almost entirely empty.

There are buildings in Freeport that have been empty for almost 20 years.

There is an immense disparity across Freeport—there are pockets of great wealth throughout the city, and that is starkly contrasted with deep, deep poverty. Even with more recent developments of chain stores and strip malls on the very southern tip of the city limits, it is still a community that is always dangerously at risk of collapsing in on itself.

We went nearly seven years without getting back to Freeport, but it is more or less the same as I remember from being a teenager, or even when I was living there sporadically on holiday breaks from college, before I moved away completely shortly after turning 22.

The streets are still the same—they just seem smaller, or narrower, or not as expansive, as the city seemed when I was 16 or 17, or even younger. Minor details change—the Osco Drugstore I worked at when I was in high school became a CVS; the Taco Bell on the West end of town closed, and whatever is in the space now painted the stucco exterior of the building a dark red, seemingly applied in uneven coats; the Wendy’s Hamburgers at the top of the hill—the illegal sledding hill that closed down when I was eight because someone seriously injured themselves—is now a combination K.F.C. and Long John Silver.

Even when we were able to get back to Freeport—and even on these last two trips my wife and I took after seven years—I haven’t set foot in or driven past Aquin High School. I guess I really have no reason to, other than a morbid curiosity for how, if at all, the exterior of the building may have changed since I graduated.

I’d only been back twice inside Aquin since graduating in 2001—both times were in the late spring of 2005, shortly after I was finished with college.

The first time, if I can remember correctly, was to visit my old English teacher—Mrs. Schirmer—though now, I can’t recall why. Maybe it was to thank her for what she tried to do, or to tell her that I had become a better and more critical reader, and wanted to be a writer.

I think I had wanted it to be like a Grosse Pointe Blank experience for me—some kind of catharsis; but it wasn’t.

It had only been four years, but the building already seemed smaller to me—the hallways and lockers9 not nearly as sprawling as they seemed when I was a teenager.

I can remember that when checking in at the main office to sign in as a guest, and while waiting around until afternoon classes wrapped up at 2:20 p.m., a couple of the faculty members asked me who I was, and what I was doing in the building. I told them my name, and that I had graduated in 2001, and had just finished college.

None of them remembered me at all.

The second time was to shop for home and kitchen goods at a large-scale rummage sale with my mother. All I can remember about this was seeing a girl from my graduating class, Bridget, doing some minor custodial work10 in the building—she, too, had just graduated from college and was home for the summer with no plans on what to do next.

I haven’t really talked to Bridget since that summer—she was one of the handful of classmates I reconnected with before I left Freeport behind. She’s married now—has two kids. She and her family live in Canada, and she looks, more or less, the same that she did 20 years ago.

I had the biggest crush on her in eighth grade, and during our senior year, in the superlatives for the yearbook, she and I were voted ‘least likely to get married.’

We were never really certain if that meant in general, or to each other.


For two years, I wrote for the local newspaper in Northfield. I never considered myself to be a ‘journalist,’ and I was hired, originally, to cover arts and entertainment in the area—the other areas of coverage I wound up writing about were, more or less, handed to me whether I wanted them or not.

About six months into the job, I was pitched an arts and entertainment story about a singer and songwriter from Chicago who, outside of the pop music he had made under the name Paper Arrows, toured across the country, playing shows for college and university classics departments—using his own classics background, Joe Goodkin wrote a song cycle based around The Odyssey.

Goodkin was heading to Northfield to perform his Odyssey set for the colleges in Northfield11, and I ‘interviewed’ him via email.

Even in the early days of my time at the newspaper, I was incessantly receiving pitches or story ideas from all kinds of people—but what directed my attention to Goodkin was, on his YouTube page, the covers he had recorded and shared of songs by The National and Jason Molina.

During our email exchange, I mentioned to him that outside of the work I did for the paper, I wrote album reviews for what was then my still fledgling music blog—and that if he was ever working on something new, to send it my way.

Goodkin issued a series of three EPs—one in 2015, the other two in 2017, and then collected them all as a double vinyl release—each one respectively ruminating on something specific: life, loss, and love. On the first release, Record of Life, at the halfway point, there’s a song called “My Friends.” As sprawling as it is unabashedly honest and reflective, it finds Goodkin recalling his two best friends from when he was in high school, and the very different paths their lives took into adulthood.  

There’s a line that comes early in the song that resonated with me the very first time I heard it—and still resonates now.

My friends—have we changed?

It doesn’t happen all that often, but when it has come up in conversation in the past, people are surprised at the fact that somebody I spent eight years around—from fifth grade until our last year in high school, in rural Illinois—now lives relatively close by, in Minnesota.

Peter, like his father, and older brother before him, and his younger sister, and younger brother after him, all went to St. Mary’s in Winona, Minnesota. He has a B.A. in graphic design—but much like my own background and degree in theatre, he’s not using his either. He went back to school, after he moved to the state, and is now a pediatric nurse.

I don’t see Peter as often as I should, or could—considering how we have known each other for over 25 years, and as transplants from the same hometown, now live so close to one another.

I usually blame myself for that—that I could have tried harder to keep that conversation going.

It’s not just him, though—I blame myself for not trying harder with every other friendship that I haven’t held up my end of.

I asked Goodkin about the two friends he mentions in the song, “My Friends.” He is still, even with great geographical distances between them all, close to both of them, and that through the advent of texting, it’s easier to keep in touch about what he calls ‘surface level’ things light catching up, family news, and ‘bullshitting’ as he put it.

What I asked him was if these were difficult relationships to maintain—and on a more emotional level, he told me they were.

My friends—have we changed?

Goodkin said while he and these two friends were inseparable in high school, their adult lives look different. “They both have kids, I don’t,” he told me. “I’ve been divorced, and they haven’t.” One of his friends is a state senator—a republican—and Goodkin said even though his friend is more moderate on certain issues, those are not his personal politics.

“I think the most important thing is that if and when any of us need anything I firmly believe the others will be there, emotionally and otherwise, without judgment,” he continued. “That's what's really defined our friendship from the first time we hung out together (when I was 14). That looks different as a 40-something than it did as a teenager from a practical standpoint—because ‘grown up’ issues are different than high school issues—but in some ways it's the same.”

The song “My Friends” ends with the line “Call me when you can.”

Goodkin told me he hadn’t thought about until our exchange over email, but he said when he was writing the song, he was trying to ‘capture a feeling.’

“I think in writing it, I sort of found my way to some kind of conclusion or resolution,” he said. “The ‘call me when you can’ can be taken, I suppose, as sort of sinister, or passive/aggressive—like one’s parents might say—but really, it's the realization that calling someone, keeping in touch, isn't actually the substance of the friendship.”

He said the substance of the friendship is the history, and those connections—however long ago they may have been made—and the knowledge that if he needed something, or if they needed something, that friend would be there.

“The calling, keeping in touch—that’s nice, but it’s okay if it happens ‘when it can,’” he concluded. “That doesn’t devalue or negate the friendship. Because life is messy like that.”

My friends—have we changed?

There’s this anecdote my mother will occasionally tell about Peter—about when we were kids, and I had just started going to private school in the fifth grade, and he and I were becoming friends.

She said that early on in the school year, after our teacher, Mr. Musser—who was also the principal for the elementary school—noticed Peter and I hanging out, talking about comic books, drawing together—whatever 10 year old boys do when they are first getting to know one another—and he, Mr. Musser, called my mother to tell her that Peter was a troublemaker, and that she should carefully watch how good of friends he and I were becoming.

I think about this story—not a lot, but enough—enough to realize how simply audacious it is. I thought about it at Peter’s wedding, where his older brother John officiated over the ceremony. I thought about it while Peter and his wife Anne took turns holding, distracting, and bouncing their infant son so that he wouldn’t cry at the table we had in a mediocre Indian restaurant, so one of them could eat while the other had their hands full with a relatively newborn child.

My friend—have we changed?

I think about this story in relation to a writing assignment I had in college, where we were encouraged to write a short, poetic piece based on an old photograph. We had been assigned it shortly before a short break away from campus, with the intent that we’d all be going back to our parent’s homes, and have access to old family photographs.

The photograph I chose, and I don’t remember why, was one of me, and Peter, posed outside of the school, during our eighth grade year—this would have been the fall of 1996. Being a private school, the students had to adhere to a dress code, but this must have been during Homecoming week, or when we had some kind of ‘casual Friday’—where in exchange for money (but where was the money going?) or a canned good to give to the food shelf, you could wear casual clothing.

We both look ridiculous in the photograph—I’m wearing a ‘Cat in The Hat’ style hat, and a baggy, black t-shirt for the short lived industrial band Gravity Kills.

We’re still relatively young in the photo—this was before Peter got contact lenses and got rid of the part down the center of his hair. He’s wearing enormous, mid-1990s style glasses, and has, more or less, a bowl cut.

I don’t remember much about the poem now. I think I titled it ‘Aquin Central Catholic, Fall 1996.’ One of the lines, though, was about the mischievous glimmer in Peter’s eyes—you could see it behind the lenses of his glasses.

My friend—have we changed?

I send Peter a text message, asking him if he’d be willing to answer a few questions about what he remembers from Prom Drawing, among other things, relating to our time in high school.

A few hours after I send the message, I hear my phone ring, and I see his name on the screen. I have one of those moments—one of those depressive, insular moments that occur whenever I receive phone call from somebody I know—it’s a shock to the system, and my first thought is about how easy it would be to decline the call.

Peter tells me that he’s a ‘talker,’ and that he would ‘love to sit down and talk to me’ about Prom Drawing, and catch up in general, over coffee—in person—rather than correspond through texts.

We eventually coordinate our schedules, and plan a day to meet up—but he forgets completely. It’s a terrible, anxious feeling that I still get—even now, pushing 40—when you are left to wait for someone and that person is either running late, or, as the minutes tick by on the clock, the suspicion that they’ve forgotten continues to grow and grow. From my seat, near the back of the coffee shop, every car I see passing down the street could be his; every silhouette I see lumbering through the entry way is him.

Every car and every silhouette are him, until they aren’t.


Two of the things I remember Mr. Musser—the same teacher who was so worried about my budding friendship with another student that he called my mother to snitch—taught us was that you couldn’t say something ‘ruled,’ like a band, or a movie, or a comic book character. You could say it ‘rocked,’ but only ‘God ruled,’ he explained to us.

He also taught us about B.C. and A.D.

B.C. meant, and still means to some, ‘Before Christ,’ and Mr. Musser told us that ‘A.D.’ stood for ‘After Death,’ as in, after the death (and resurrection) of Jesus Christ.

I have a difficult time trying to remember, or even wrap my head around how certain subjects—science and history, specifically—were even taught within a religiously affiliated school, and how many mistruths12 were instilled in young minds.

In college, during my year spent in Western Civilization—taught to us by a woman with a raspy smoker’s voice who attempted to make history ‘fun’ by providing enough tawdry details in her lecturing that at times, the past seemed like one long soap opera—I learned very quickly that B.C. was now referred to as B.C.E., or ‘Before the Common Era,’ and that A.D. had been replaced with C.E.—the ‘Common Era.’

A.D never meant ‘After Death.’ In Latin, it means Anno Domini; in English, it means ‘in the year of our Lord.’

The change in all of this—using B.C.E and C.E, stems from circles of academia, and it comes from an interest in ‘religious neutrality.’ Even though this terminology was introduced in the 1980s, it is still, a confusing issue to some; more importantly, and as expected, since it involves religion, it is an incredibly contentious issue.


For Peter, and for everyone else that I spoke with, as well as myself, Prom Drawing is not something that any of us regularly think about now. The same could be said for our time at Aquin High School—the years we spent amongst one another before venturing out as best as we could, trying to leave that part of our lives behind.

We drift further and further apart, becoming characters in stories that rarely, if ever, are told.

Peter said his wife Anne didn’t even know about Prom Drawing until it, and the name Aquin High School, were featured on a large news outlet—maybe one of the two short, though nationally broadcast segments dedicated to it on NBC in 2017.

When I asked him about all of this, after we were finally able to meet for lunch, he considered the dance itself to be a low-pressure situation, simply because of how your date had been selected, and because it was a small group of people—an inclusive environment.

Also, and this was something I didn’t know about him, he just really likes to dance, and both during our junior and senior year, had drawn the name of someone he was at least good friends with, and he would have a fun time alongside.

His problem with the whole conceit of the Prom was with the drawing itself—specifically the pressure to perform in a skit before finding your date among the huddled, bag headed masses, and asking them to the dance. He couldn’t remember what he did during our junior year, but for our senior year, he distinctly remembers some kind of elaborate performance involving two other people and duck costumes-like Donald Duck—that had been rented from a theatrical costume rental place somewhere outside of Freeport.

He said the three of them strolled in, dressed in these costumes, then got into some kind of fight over asking somebody to Prom.

Peter talks to one of the guys he dressed up as a duck with—Jory13—nearly every week, either through texting, actually taking on the phone, or over the headsets people wear when they are connected online, playing video games.

The other guy involved in the duck costume Prom skit? His name is Andy—and Peter said they haven’t talked in a very, very long time.

Peter14 said he was fairly certain there was some kind of pool—for both the girls, and the guys—for whomever wound up with most undesirable date to the dance. I was never aware of such a pool, and he’s very quick to say he never gave money towards the guy’s portion of the collection. The whole idea of this—of someone receiving a paltry amount of wadded up cash simply because they drew a name deemed ‘unfortunate’ from the raffle ticket barrel, or because a boy deemed to be problematic in some way is the one who lifts of the bag off of the head of some entitled young girl, and asks her to Prom—seems very cruel.

It leaves a lot of questions—like who organizes this sort of wagering, and who makes the final call, on either side, of who the ‘winner’ of the money is. He makes a passing comment to the effect of hoping that he wasn’t the one deemed a worse enough date to warrant a girl receiving a small amount of money to ease the discomfort.

I have the same thought about myself.

We agree that walking into a room full of teenage girls, all draped in blankets, with paper bags over their heads, is not ‘traumatic’ in anyway, but it is an incredibly strange sight—but because, at the time, we had no outside perspective on it, we never gave it a second thought.

Peter tells me despite his upbringing, he’s not religious now—though he says he has ‘spiritual inklings’ just so that he doesn’t write it off completely. His family’s Polish heritage meant Catholicism was extremely important to his grandparents, and to some extent, his parents, who still live in Freeport, and still attend mass. Like a lot of young people, myself included, who are brought up within a religious environment, since you’re ‘in it,’ it takes time for you to begin thinking for yourself, and really determining what you believe in—if anything.

Toward the end of our conversation I ask him if he remembers voting on whether or not to continue the Prom Drawing.

“Nobody else does,” I explain.

He is unsure, at first, what I mean by this question—did I mean that our class representative (a class of 23 still needs a president) vote on it on behalf of everyone? Or did we, as individuals, cast a ballot?

I tell him that the school’s website states, as best as it is able, the students vote whether or not to keep the tradition going, and ‘every year, they unanimously vote in favor of it.’

He, like Brianne and Amanda, and like myself, do not recall the opportunity to vote on this. Though Peter adds, “The whole thing of Prom Drawing is so benign, really. Would you really want to be the asshole class that puts a stop to a tradition like that?”


For the longest time, I had this image of ‘God’ in my mind from when I was a kid—like, one of the first memories, or fragments, from my childhood that involve religion, even before I was old enough for my first confession or first communion.

It was the backdrop behind the alter at St. Thomas Church—the parish my family belonged to after we first moved to Freeport. The church was renovated in the mid 1990s—expanded to accommodate a larger congregation, and an enormous crucifix, complete with a sculpture of a hulking and Caucasian Jesus affixed to it, would replace the backdrop in the center of the wall above where the priest—Father McDonald—sat.

I’m sure this large backdrop, or curtain, was made of some kind of cloth, of fabric. It may not even be as big as I am remembering it—I was very young at this time, so it could be much smaller than I am picturing it now. But as a kid, I wasn’t sure it was made of some type of fabric—I thought it looked like plastic film. Like the kind of plastic film that trash bags are manufactured out of.

I am fairly certain the backdrop was designed to look like ‘God’—or at least somebody’s idea of God. An old, white man with a mess of gray hair on top of his all knowing head, and a great beard extending down from his face.

His arms outstretched to the side—palms open. In fact, unless I am completely exaggerating this, the arms and palms may have been secondary backdrop curtains, hung on the sides of the main one—the one of the old, white man portraying ‘God.’

I thought these looked like plastic film. Like the kind of plastic film that trash bags are manufactured out of.

The phrase ‘trash bag God’ has gone through my head so many times throughout my life—well into adulthood.


My friend—have we changed?

I have known Peter for over 25 years but there have been recent times where I feel like our wives our better friends with one another than he and I are. My wife Wendy and his wife Anne have been in at least one stage production together, and spent roughly two years, on and off, developing and collaborating on a web series15.

He uses sites like Facebook and Instagram infrequently, so outside of Jory, Peter hasn’t stayed in actual contact with too many people from our high school. He said it wasn’t intentional to distance himself so much, but perhaps a subconscious effort to get away from the small town mentality. He refers to who he was in high school, at one point in our conversation, in a very surprisingly self-deprecating way, and implies that another reason he has left Aquin High School so far in the past is because there were people who made his life hell.

I tell him that I always thought he was way cooler and more accepted than I could have ever hoped for; he laughs at this.

I think about my own tormentors from high school, and if, after they spent years hurling homophobic insults, they ever encountered someone who was actually gay, or different from them in any way at all, and if they ever had to reconcile with how they behaved as teenagers, or if that small town mentality does really stay with some people—and they never grow out of it.

I think about the very loose 15 year reunion that was organized a few years ago that, for a number of reasons, I was not able to attend—but if this was a missed opportunity for meaningful reconnection.

I think about the weird, bittersweet pang of something—some kind of emotion—that I feel whenever I see a photo appear on social media of my former classmates, hanging out as adults.

I think about the inclusive nature of the Aquin High School Prom Drawing—and how nobody got left behind. But how once you leave school, and once you leave the town you grew up in, that isn’t the case.

Almost everybody, really, leaves one another behind, in some way.

Everybody, eventually, becomes a character in a story that is rarely told.

A ghost that haunts a memory you try your hardest not to think about.

I more or less apologize to Peter for not being a better friend, or doing a better job of staying in touch, because even though friendship is commonly referred to as a ‘two way street, I often blame myself for the lack of upkeep when it comes to most friendships I’ve made throughout my life.

The kind of maintenance required, at times, doesn’t seem unfathomable, just simply difficult, especially when you are, more often than not, living in an insular, depressive, and anxious state, and the idea of meeting up with someone, speaking someone on the phone, or even trying to have some kind of regular correspondence via text message or email, becomes less and less appealing.

There are people from not just high school, but from college, and even life after college, when making friends becomes even more challenging, that I will, more than likely, never see again.

The calling, keeping in touch—that’s nice, but it’s okay if it happens ‘when it can.’ That doesn’t devalue of negate the friendship.

Because life is messy like that.

1- For what it’s worth, and this is really just an aside, or whatever—nothing really worth shoehorning into the essay itself, but the copy on the Aquin High School website is written very, very poorly. It’s kind of sad, actually, just how clunky and rudimentary it is. I presume, for school that was always drastically underfunded, that a parent volunteer offered time to put together a bulk of the copy, which is why it reads the way it does.

2- It would appear that in recent years, perhaps due to the sheer demand of people who want to watch this spectacle unfold, that the climax of the Prom Drawing is held in the school’s gymnasium, rather than the cafeteria. But for all practically purposes, and to remain accurate to the years I went to Prom, it remains in the cafeteria.

3- Sometimes I forget that both depression and anxiety are technically ‘diseases,’ because I rarely think of them in that way; it was my wife who, within recent memory, referred to them as such.

4- An aside: I have a hard enough time actually pushing myself to both use the phone to call a friend of mine, as well as answer the phone (and not just reject the call as my instinct tells me) when a friend is calling me. For some reason, my wife’s sister, and her family, always insist on speaking with her via Skype, or some other form of video communication, which she does, though I’ll never understand it. I mean, I barely want to speak to another person—why on Earth would I want to see that person through some kind of crude means of video communication, and have to talk to them, on top of that.

5- Of course his name was Brad.

6- In all honesty, with selecting former classmates to reach out to, I mostly went by folks who I have the best or most active social media rapport with—e.g. people who will ‘like’ or ‘react’ to photos I share of myself and, say, cats that I work with at the humane society.

7- Christopher O’Riley was, for a long time, the host of Public Radio’s “From The Top.” In 2003 and 2005, he was able to make a little more of a mainstream name for himself by releasing two collections of Radiohead songs, reimagined and rearranged for the piano. He’s also done albums of specifically Elliott Smith and Nick Drake songs, as well as two albums of contemporary popular music in general. As anticipated, the Radiohead arrangements are very, very difficult, and O’Riley makes them look absolutely effortless.

8- Quick point of clarification that was going to be too difficult to fit into the essay: Vicki is someone I’ve known since I was probably five or six years old. We went to grade school together, and lost track of one another when I went into the private school system, and she went to Carl Sandburg in fifth grade. We reconnected when she started going to Aquin her first year of high school, and through college, and even into maybe the first or second year after college, she was one of the few people from Freeport I made a real effort to stay in touch with. She got married recently, but I don’t really remember the last time she and I had any kind of exchange.

9- I often, even in my late 30s, still have reoccurring nightmares about forgetting the combination to my locker in high school.

10- Quick point of clarification that was too minor to toss into the essay: Bridget’s aunt was the superintendent of the school, which was, more than likely, how she got hooked up with a brief, summer stint cleaning the building.

11- For as good of a rapport as Joe Goodkin and I have with one another via email, we have actually, as of yet, met in person. I was in the middle of a personal crisis around the time he was performing at the colleges in Northfield, and when he toured in the Twin Cities in support of one of his solo EPs, I believe I hadn’t quit the paper yet, and had to cover some kind of local government meeting. Or, I may have simply been too anxious to go.

12- The ‘abstinence only’ sexual education we received is the first one of these that comes to mind.

13- A couple of things about Jory. I’ve known him since we were both six years old; we were in the same first grade class. As a kid, he had a sick rattail, and he was, at the time, an incredibly skilled martial artist. I reconnected very, very briefly with Jory that summer everyone was back in Freeport, in 2005. The last time I saw him was at Peter’s wedding, in 2012. He didn’t really recognize me at first—but he had also had too much to drink already that day. He has lived in Cleveland for quite a while now—in 2009, he was involved in some kind of incident outside of a bar where he wound up taking a bullet to the head, and managed to survive. At Peter’s wedding, when he was giving a speech at the reception, as he began speaking into the microphone, I thought to myself, “Jory, don’t tell the story about how you got shot in the head.” He then proceeded to tell the story of how he got shot in the head.

14- Just an honest aside—I had recorded my conversation with Peter with the hopes of transcribing it and using actual quotes, or whatever, like I had done with the people I spoke with via Facebook messenger. However, in a total classic Kevin move, I did something wrong, and the 30 minute audio recording on my phone did not save. I realized this as I was walking home from our lunch meeting, and quickly sat down at the computer once I got back home in order to type out important bits I could remember.

15- A bit of shameless self-promotion—my wife’s web series is called “Lady Parts.” Please don’t Google that; but you can click here.