The teachers never liked you 'cuz you skipped your classes to go to everyone else's. The administrators never liked you 'cuz they thought you were way too smart and way too talented to be failing out of all your classes. They thought you cared too little about yourself and too much about everything else that was going on. Your parents never liked you 'cuz, through their eyes, they never saw you going anywhere.
I liked you 'cuz you took time out of your day to pursue you whole-hearted interest in the world around you and, most importantly, the people who lived in it. I liked you 'cuz you were way too smart and way too talented to allow yourself to be bound by one curriculum, one set path, one means of discovery. I liked you because I saw you going everywhere your unfailing heart and wayward spirit wanted you to go.
I liked you for all the reasons everybody else didn't.
I became your friend because on my first day at a new school you pulled me aside in the hallway, took out your guitar, and sang Tom Petty's "Free Falling" with me.
I thought you were cool because you'd come into school wearing a homemade T-shirt with "This Is Not a Fugazi Shirt" painted across the front and a pair grungy tattered ripped jeans with "These Are Not Fugazi Pants" scrawled up the right leg. And when you weren't wearing those pants, you wore a skirt. Not because you were a cross-dresser, which you weren't. Not because you were homosexual -- which you weren't. Just because it would make people question their stereotypes, their concepts of fashion and gender roles, and a person's place in society as a whole. Because you could.
I respected you because you were a half-Puerto Rican/half German rock star from the ghettos of Hartford, and you didn't have to be what everyone around you thought you should. You would be your own dog even though your own people would beat you up for it.
But I believed in you because one day you didn't show up for school. Instead, you left a bloody sweat stained tear-strewn note in my locker that read "I'm goin' down to Lebanon, Tennessee".
I never saw you or spoke to you again.
You've been out of my life for almost ten years now... which I guess makes you nothing more than a ghost to me.... Which makes me think of that old story fed to me in elementary school Social Studies classes... you know, about how the ancient Greeks and certain Native American tribes believed that when a truly great person leaves this world, they live on in the sky as a star or constellation of some sort -- remaining forever as a shiny beacon of hope and inspiration to the ones they left behind.
Wherever you are, I hope you're doing well. Whenever I question myself and wonder if I'm doing the right thing, I think about you and I think about goin' down to Lebanon, Tennessee.
In the great mix tape of life, you were but a song. But a song that I skip six tracks ahead to listen to and play on repeat whenever I need a little spark or a kick in the ass to point me in the right direction. You know, kinda like those old-time sailors did when they were lost and looked up to the North Star.