I’m going to tell something that I’ve probably never fully spoken out loud, not to anyone. The thought of getting it out honestly makes me feel like puking, but it’s something to say, and it’s something honest, and I always strive for that.
So, I went to a performing arts high school called Dekalb School of the Arts. Nothing all that fancy about it, truthfully, but there is one thing. There was a guy who went there, a guy in my same classes and same grade, a guy that edited the newspaper with me, a guy who did plays with me, a guy you may or may not know. His name’s Donald Glover.
I grew up with this kid. We started going to high school together in 8th grade. He wore striped shirts that were too big. We talked about South Park and Twilight Zone and how we both wanted to be comedy writers. We saw “Titanic” when it was in theaters while his mother saw a different movie. His mother terrified me. Every time his mother answered the phone, I immediately felt that I had done something bad – like that moment after you drop an egg, or the moment you slam the door with the keys inside, or when you call a house occupied by an authoritative and intimidating black lady and ask to speak to her son. Her son. You know.
As we got older, he became very popular. All the girls liked him – myself included. He was the funniest guy I knew. He made me feel funny, in turn. We were going to be comedy writers, we were going to go to New York, and we were going to do Saturday Night Live, and we were going to write things together and it was going to be awesome. It seemed like it could happen. And it did happen.
Just not for me.
He got accepted to NYU into the Dramatic Writing program, the same one I applied to. He got in and I didn’t, which was my fault. I hated school, I hated grades, I was smart but unmotivated, and fully expected to get in based on my writing samples. Samples, I thought, that were every bit as good as his. But that’s not how things happen. I got rejected. And our trajectories went differently – he went to NYU and I stayed in Atlanta. I got married when there were no other options for me. I started working at a pet store. I faded into a domestic obscurity that was comfortable, albeit not what I had planned, and I tried to make a life that didn’t involve my passions. I found other things to do.
And as time went on, he did the things I had imagined doing – he started doing improv and funny internet videos, he started a comedy troupe, he made mixtapes online and introduced me to Sufjan Stevens, and then he started writing for 30 Rock. And then he got famous. The other day I was looking at an article about the show “Girls” and saw a big picture of him on the Huffington Post. I felt an immense pride because, hey, that guy was my friend. Maybe he still is somewhere – but I haven’t seen him in a long time – and I don’t know how he is these days. Who knows if he even remembers me.
I saw his parents at the movies a while back and they remembered me. His mother was still terrifying, but his dad was always nice. They were wearing matching sports jerseys – a gesture I found adorable that I know Donald would cringe at.
But I always feel a sense of longing whenever I hear about him because I remember how we talked, and I know that he’s doing what he always wanted to do. It was a lot of what I wanted to do, too.
But I went on a different path and never got what I wanted. And while it’s brought me to where I am now, which really isn’t all that bad, there will always be that tinge of what if. The what could haves.
And, ultimately, I miss my friend. But I’m happy for him, in whatever way that matters now. Jealousy is a funny thing – it springs up in quiet places, in quiet moments, and grows up fast and darkens all the other things growing under it. But it always passes. It gets too big, can’t support itself, and it dies.
I try to tell myself that there’s still time for me to do what I talked about, just like he did. There must still be time. I started doing stand up but I don’t always feel funny. With him, I felt funny. I came up with ideas. He was somebody that boosted my ego – whether he intended to or not – and I always found that our minds went to similar places as far as comedy’s concerned. It helped. I wish I’d taken more advantage of it.
But it was a long time ago, and there’s a lot more ground to travel. And I’m getting there….I hope.