For some reason I found myself checking out Friends Reunited the other day. I guess I was hoping to find more of my old friends who had recently enrolled. I didn't have anybody specific in mind, it was more a question of feeling a little nostalgic, a little bit sad at the passing of the years.
In the event no-one new had joined since my last visit a couple of months back. Out of curiosity I started reading through one of the message boards. A rather unusual surname caught my eye. It turned out to be that of a young man whose mother had been a near contemporary of mine at school. I remembered her well.
She was a year older than me, extremely pretty and I had once gone out on a date with her. She had contacted me through her younger brother who was in the same year as me. To say I was flattered by her interest was an understatement. Young ladies at that time didn't go out with younger men.
We went to the cinema together. In the bleak little town where I lived there was no-where else to go. I don't remember what we saw or much about what happened afterwards. I do remember standing under a street lamp outside her home and bending towards her to kiss her goodnight. As I stared into her eyes a terrible thing happened. I saw her brother's face. It turned out they had exactly the same eyes. I hesitated, and then did the decent thing and carried on and kissed her, as briefly as I decently could. It was the first - and last - time I've ever kissed a man. I remember the look of disappointment, hurt even, on her face as I said goodbye without arranging another date. Actually, I was almost as upset as she was - she really was a sweet and beautiful woman. I felt as if I'd been cheated. If only she hadn't reminded me of her brother, how different things might have been.
Very, very different in fact. Reading her son's post on the message board I discovered that a few month's after our abortive date she had gone out with one of her classmates, fallen in love, and got married a couple of years later. She had two sons and apparently the marriage was idyllic. She was also a wonderful mother. When she died the church overflowed with mourners at her funeral. She seems to have been universally loved by everyone who knew her.
Her death was painful but quick. Lat summer she had complained of aching bones and was diagnosed with bone cancer. Within three months she was dead.
Naturally I was shocked and upset when I read the story. To me, in my memory, she will stay forever young, standing beneath that street lamp, looking up at me, smiling, unaware of the ludicrous thoughts that were going through my mind.
In hindsight I'm so glad she reminded me of her brother. Thankfully, our paths crossed only briefly, and she went on to find, and create, so much happiness in her tragically short life.