How Bon Jovi Says Good-bye

Was a more perfect end-of-high-school song ever written? If so, I haven’t heard it. (And don’t throw that ‘Theme from Ice Castles’ bullshit this way…) This is ‘Never Say Good-bye’ by Bon Jovi. It was not my theme from high school graduation, as I was not quite graduating from elementary school when this song came out. Instead, it reminds me of someone else, and of a summer day when we were still too young to shine.

Remember when we used to talk about busting out
We’d break their hearts, together, forever
Never say goodbye, never say goodbye
You and me and my old friends, hoping it would never end
Never say goodbye, never say goodbye
Holdin’ on, we got to try, holdin’ on to never say goodbye

We were hanging out under the picnic table at a high school graduation party for a neighbor. We were young – only ten or eleven, maybe twelve, but old enough to comprehend what was going on. The graduate – God-like, blonde, golden boy – came out of the house looking forlorn. The kids watched him walk by, basking in the glory by proximity, in awe of his ease among adults, wanting only to be older ourselves. He was so cool. One of the other kids said he looked dejected because he was about to break up with his girlfriend.

But they had the whole summer ahead of them, I thought to myself. As if reading my mind, the kid said, “He wants to end it now so it’s easier.” I nodded, taking in this sage bit of wisdom, thinking we were somehow cool for getting it, for feeling it a little bit too.

I watched him put his arms around the girl, marveling at the easy way he did it. I also held the secret we knew inside, emboldened by knowing something that she didn’t quite know yet. Part of me wanted to be there when he told her, to see how something like that worked. Would she take it well? Would she understand? Would she cry? Would she walk away? The scenarios unfurled before my active imagination, and I found myself selfishly, insanely, wishing he would do it soon, while we were still there. It appealed to my soap-operatic love of drama, fed by the likes of ‘Santa Barbara’ and ‘Days of Our Lives’.

The white tablecloth fluttered above our heads as we sat beneath the picnic table. Kids can go unnoticed like that, seeing what goes on, taking it all in, and processing it in our childhood minds. It was another step to adulthood. One day I might have to be the strong one, the person who moved first to end a relationship that would never work out. (In truth, that would prove to be a lesson I would never learn; I could not be the first to end something, as later years would attest.) For now, it was exciting just to be in the atmosphere of someone to whom real things were happening, someone not on a daytime drama, someone we kind of knew and cared about. Someone whose life was just taking off. We had a few more years to go before taking such flight. And we didn’t know how lucky we were.

We never know.

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