I once knew a young man from Estonia. 1997. I was thirteen. He was seventeen or eighteen, perhaps. He may have been younger. At the time, he seemed so much more adult, but looking back I know he wasn’t. His name was Jan. I loved him, I think, as much as a thirteen year old girl can love a boy. He was once amazing at math and science, but when I knew him, he was in and out of juvenile detention/prison/whatever the equivalent. He loved his mother, had dropped out of school to care for her; I don’t think he knew his father. He had bad friends.

I had a printed photo of him hanging in my locker, next to a magazine cut-out of Hanson, next to a note from my father the first week of school.

I talked to him via a telnet talker dubbed “crossroads” on a now ancient computer my father still has in the upstairs of our house. He called himself “Torch.” I was “kloe” (hello, old friends). We would go for months without exchanging e-mails; he’d be without internet access,  probably without a home, I don’t know.

We spoke on the phone only once, with my mother’s permission and with my best friend and her mother on the line, in case he turned out to be creepy. He wasn’t. He was just a boy.

I wrote him letters from my Nana’s kitchen table. He was fascinated by my family. He helped me with math homework, and I helped him with English.

After ninth grade, I did not speak to him much, if at all. I sent him a message to let him know my mother had passed away. I don’t know or remember if he ever received it.

I hope he’s ok, somewhere. I think about him occasionally, and wonder.

I think about all the random people I’ve been talking to over the internet since I was twelve years old, and the relationships I’ve had with them. Some of them have lasted, some have not. Some have been ruined [bridges burned to the ground (I used to mail cookies to a boy in New York City)], others just neglected. I admittedly did some really stupid things. I also did things that I thought were stupid then, but I would do them a thousand times over given the choice. The connections I’ve made with people I’ve never even had a chance to meet have helped make me who I am.

My senior year of high school, I made a blue beaded bracelet for a boy I didn’t even know. I wore those bracelets to hide the scratches on my arms. Now, a decade later, that boy is my favourite hand-holder and the best friend I could hope for. The scratches are long gone.


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