Remembering a middle school crush who’s no longer with us…
I turned 33-years-old today…and yet, I woke up thinking about her. One of life’s greatest tragedies, I think…is that we’re not able to tell others how much they meant to us.
We can, but depending on the person, they might get creeped out, or its just straight up inappropriate if they’re married or moved on with their lives to the point that they’d rather never see you again.
But with Patricia…lol, it’s such a cliché thing to say at funerals, that someone’s “touched all of our lives,” when you know damn well that they didn’t. I’ve scoured the internet in search of a photo of her, but I can’t find one. And yet, I remember her plain as day, as if I just saw her yesterday.
Before 8th grade, I never knew Patricia Kay Griffin existed. We called her Patty. Olive tone, her hair appeared crimped, brown with highlights of gold. Wide expressive eyes with thick brows. I remember she always wore these shirts that were apparently too small, because every time she’d raise her hand or lean over, it’d show her midriff.
Hahahaha! I’ll never forget the day my science teacher said, “Patricia, your stomach is showing.”
I whipped around so fast to see her…hahaha!
And when I looked back to the front of the class, my teacher, Mrs. Cassel was just staring at me with this look like, “typical guy.”
I laughed so much. Before that day, I never knew how transparent I was. Sounds embarrassing, I know. But it’s the truth.
I definitely had a crush on Patty in 8th grade, Hephzibah Middle School. I’d flirt with her. We’d make fun of each other all the time and we had this chemistry where we wanted to be around each other…but she was never “officially” my girlfriend. (story of my life) And I’m not entirely sure if she ever felt the same way about me. For all I knew, I could have just been a buddy and nothing more.
I think deep down, it didn’t make practical sense to have a girlfriend. In middle school, you heard of boys and girls “going out” all the time…but what did that mean? What did they do? Just kiss and make out? None of us had cars. We all lived with parents. I don’t think I was about all that, at that age. Very practical, I simply just enjoyed her company. Not to mention, as with most middle schoolers, I was very insecure.
The problem is, you’d never know how insecure I was from the way I acted. I had this arrogant flair about me, as if I knew I was all that like the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, but it was just an act I performed to make people laugh and feel comfortable around me.
In 8th grade, I had just come out of a turbulent year where I was getting into all kinds of fights, skipping school, starting trouble, and I barely moved on. I was taller and bigger than all the other kids so I felt out of place, like a giant among human beings.
In homeroom, I suspect most knew about my reputation and one kid even befriended me for some kind of clout. I’m not kidding. Racial tensions were high, even though this was the 1999-2000 school year. I was black, Patricia was white. In fact, all four kids who sat at my table in homeroom were white.
They were Nick, Bethany, myself, and Patricia. And I enjoyed these friends. I think it was the first time in years where I could simply be myself without trying to prove or disprove anything to fit in or get the other kids to not challenge me.
Patricia, in particular…I saw as innocent. She was so beautiful, but it’s like she had no idea. She was always smiling and I loved to make her laugh. She seemed ditsy at times, clueless, and oblivious toward the other kids and their perception of her. And there was a perception of her. Like I said, she used to wear some revealing clothes and the other girls had no qualms about making assumptions.
But I knew. Patricia wasn’t a slut, or “a heffer” as they used to say back then. She was just oblivious. And I didn’t think that was a bad thing. Even I was oblivious when it came to a lot of horrible influences that permeated the youth back then. I was black, but I was never into hip hop. So while my peers would toss around slang, or dress or act a certain way…I was that one odd guy out, wearing his Green Bay Packers jacket to hide his body image issues. The only thing that spared me from the same ridicule was the fact that I was giant and by 8th grade, even the wanna be gangsters weren’t stupid enough to try anything.
By the time we got to high school, we had went our separate ways. I’d pass her in the hallway every now and then, but our relationship never got as close as we were in middle school. However, every time I saw her in high school, there would be a pause in me.
It’s like…whatever I was thinking about before I caught a glimpse of her didn’t matter. She’d pass through my world as rare as a limo passing you on the road but it’d give you pause to wonder about it. I wondered how she was doing. Was she alright?
There were times where I’d see her with other guys and laughing as if she was content. But then, there would be times where she’d walk to class in a hurry with this grave look of concern. It could have just been those eyebrows and expressive eyes that amplified her default expression of complacency. I’ll never know.
I think by my sophomore year, I started seeing her in an ROTC uniform. She was impressive. She seemed to be all about purpose and took it seriously. She walked like a soldier, stood upright, and kept that uniform in pristine order. I was proud of her. I never told her, but I was. Perhaps, at that age, I never even realize how much respect I had for her.
In my sophomore year, I was 16, full of rage and frustration and stupid…and all I did was act a clown in my Chemistry and German class. But there Patricia was, so full of purpose. Surpassed and exceeded me in every way.
I saw that she started hanging out with this kid named Bo, who I didn’t particularly like from our freshmen year, but they were both in ROTC. She seemed cool with him. So I was cool with him. Again, none of these thoughts made it to her ears. But I always cared. Every time she entered my world, I’d pause and take note.
By my senior year, I was driving. I remember driving one of my friends home one day…hahaha! Alright, so heads up, this is going to be shameful and embarrassing on my part.
But one day, I was driving one of my friend’s home and we were in this neighborhood…and we came upon a girl in black slacks and a tucked in white collared shirt, Patricia Griffin in her ROTC uniform. She was walking on the side of the road in this residential neighborhood. I assumed she was going home and lived nearby.
When I passed her, I slowed down just a little to wave…but she either didn’t notice me or was probably so used to being harassed as she walked home that she trained herself to ignore any and everyone. Again, I remember her face as clear as it was yesterday. Thick brows, wide expressive eyes. She seemed determined, on her purpose.
As I continued on down the road, I told the friend I was with, “Yo, so straight up. I used to have a crush on her.”
“On Patty?!” my friend said.
And that’s when my friend started laughing. “Oh my god!? Why? Why would you have a crush on Patty?”
And no lie…we were just a couple of houses away from my friend’s house, but I stopped on the side of the road and kicked my friend out of my car. She thought I was playing around because I was smiling…but nonetheless, I reached over, opened the passenger side door, unbuckled her seatbelt and nudged her out of my car before driving off. We laughed about it later. But it was just interesting that I reacted like that.
I think that was the last time I saw Patricia. I may have bumped into her around graduation and said a few words, but nothing significant. And every time I saw her, she was in her ROTC uniform. Then we graduated in May of 2005 and I went off to Tampa for college.
Fast-forward years later…I’d graduate college. I’ve been through my ups and downs and was on my way to becoming the man I am today. My older brother would tell you two things about me. 1) if I say I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it or go so far only to learn that my goal was impossible to begin with. And 2)…my memory is impeccable.
All a person need do is say, “hey, remember when____”
And I’ll remember. There’s a reason why I’m a writer. My imagination is so powerful that I can mentally place myself back in the past and see what happened all over again. Of course, this is a curse when it comes to things I’d rather forget, but can’t.
Over the years…I’d never forget Patricia Griffin. Even when I was in college, every time I’d drive down that road to pick up my good friend, I’d think of her. Every time I passed by our high school, I’d think of her. It doesn’t make sense. She was never my girlfriend. I never even told her I loved her and our closest year as friends was contained to our 8th grade year. So why? Why does she linger in my thoughts so much?
With the advent of Facebook, came the advent of Facebook stalking. And I confess, I’m not above such practices. As we all know, the indulgence can spare you of unnecessary heartache. By doing a quick search, you can find out if your crush is taken or not. By doing a quick search, you can satisfy your curiosity about an old rival to see if you’re doing better.
For me…I’m just an idiot for caring as much as I do. There are people in my life who have helped me, who I can credit with making me the man I am today. Regardless of their intentions or whether or not they did it for my sake, I feel honor bound to keep them in my memories, to use them as motivation to never give up. Like Michael Stevens. Chris Buck. Melinda, Jeff McKew and their mother during the Christmas of 2004. Madison Davenport. Javon Johnson from 7th grade. I can go on and on.
No lie, I found out the hard way that sometimes people do things for you, in which it’s so groundbreakingly significant to you…but to the person it was so trivial that they had forgotten about it. I remember writing to my drama teacher, thanking her for her help and she wrote back as if it was no big deal. I imagine she must have helped hundreds of students and I was one of many. Which kind of sucks, because it’s nice to feel special.
I think it was around 2012-2013 when I began to search for my old crush, Patricia Griffin. I couldn’t find her Facebook page. Which made me smirk. Patricia would be cool enough to stay off Facebook.
And then…I did a Google search.
An obituary came up from the Augusta Chronicle. I can still feel the chill that rushed over my arms. I was like… “Nah. That can’t be her. Patty’s my age.” Patricia was an old-fashioned name after all. I’m sure there were other senior citizens who had died with that name.
AUGUSTA, Ga. – Patricia Kay Griffin, an Augusta resident, died on Sunday, March 2, 2008. She was 21 years old. She graduated from Cross Creek High School in 2005, where she was very involved in the J.R.O.T.C. program. She attended The Academy of Somatic Healing Arts where she enjoyed learning about massage therapy. Patricia enjoyed music and black & white photography.
I remember staring at the screen for the better part of an hour. She died in 2008, so many years ago and I never knew. What have I been doing this whole time? More importantly…what the FUCK happened!
I reached out to some friends back home and scoured the internet for as much information as I could pull. From what I learned…and forgive me if I’m wrong…She was killed by a drunk driver while she was stopped at a red light. The driver swerved into her lane and killed her head on. That’s what I know to be true. If I am wrong, please correct me.
And dude…even now, my eyes swell with tears. From what I’ve known of Patricia, she lived her life always doing what she’s supposed to do. Responsible. Duty-bound. A good person. Meanwhile…
No…I won’t go there. Give me a second to breathe the fire from my lungs. It’s August the 18th 2019 right now. So it’s not like any of this is new to me. But the effect never changes. Every time I think of her and how she passed, it’s like adding coal to the furnace with me. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in the boxing gym, exhausted and depleted from drills and running, and for some reason, I’d think of her and how she passed and just like that…Super Saiyan.
“It’s not fair. She should still be alive,” is the lingering sentiment. If you’re a friend or family member reading this, forgive me, but I had to share. It’s been so many years, but I haven’t forgotten her. I’ll never forget about her. That isn’t a promise, it’s just the way I am. I couldn’t even if I wanted to and with Patricia…I want to remember.
I turn 33-years-old today. It’s my birthday right now as I type this and I’m alone in a dark conference room, thinking of her, honoring her, cherishing my memory of her. Not because I’m sad and depressed but because I loved her. I am a man who enjoys burning down bridges to the past. I build a bridge, get over it, and burn the bridge down so as to never come back to what I’ve been through. But with Patty, her bridge remains intact.
If you’re a friend or family member, I want you to know that someone else out there knew about Patricia Kay Griffin. And even though her tenure in my world was ephemeral, it made a lasting impact. She is an arsenal of motivation and inspiration that will never lose her potency.
Over the years, I’ve had many people die. To date, she’s the only one…the only funeral I would have willingly showed up for because I genuinely wanted to be there. She was a good person. I wish I was there.
(Updated 08/20/2019 – Just took a photo from our 2002-2003 year book – sophomore year)
UPDATE — Just wanted to give an update…I wrote this six months ago, and to my amazement, Patricia’s family discovered it and reached out to me. Their reaction was awe-inspiring and incredibly uplifting. You can read about it, here. And here are some pics they were kind enough to share.
Some of the details I wrote about surrounding Patricia’s death, were inaccurate. I’m not going to change the original text above because it’ll take away from the authenticity of the moment I wrote it and what I originally believed all these years, but sad to say, the truth about what happened to her was worse than I thought.
This Link will take you to a webpage about it. But according to Patricia’s cousin: “Patti had come home from school for the weekend. She had celebrated her 21st birthday with her mom and family before returning to school with a friend that Sunday evening, Patti was driving. She was traveling down a dark 2 lane road in Barrow county when she was hit head on by a young man who was in fact drunk and traveling in excess of 120 MPH as he ran from cops in a car he had stolen. Reports were that she died on impact (dash cam shows differently).”