A foreign language is required to graduate from high school in Washington. I had taken Spanish in junior high, but was at the time (my sophomore year) infatuated with Asian culture and anime and stuff so I decided to take Japanese, the most insane language on earth.

My head was half-shaved, I was a total disheveled new wave punk, and I was completely committed to not giving a shit. So, in keeping with the "image," I was a dick to everybody I met. The Japanese teacher, Mrs. Raffety, had a habit of pairing people off arbitrarily, following no logic or reason. I often was paired with a freshman girl named Anna, and my notorious reticience around girls combined with my punk assholishness resulted in our failing a lot of group projects. Anyways, I sort of realized what an asshole I was, and on the last day of class gritted my teeth, squared my shoulders and apologized to her.

And that started one of the major unrealized catastrophes of my teenagerhood.

The next semester, she dropped Japanese for Spanish, while I soldiered on in the class, attempting to wise up and pass, which I did. However, she turned up in the Biology class that I was for easy Science credit. It was nice to see her.A few days into the class, she wrote me a note, in wide, girly handwriting, just basically saying how cool it was that I had apologized to her, and that not many guys would do that, which was I guess true.

So I wrote, or rather drew her a cartoon note back, just basically saying thanks.

She turned out to be pretty rad; open-minded, a little nuts, a good photographer. Notes went both ways.

We began exchanging notes daily; she would write hers during the day, in her classes, and give it to me in 5th period Biology; I would take it home, sit down at my drawing table and respond. The notes accumulated, along with photographs, tapes and other stuff, eventually filling a shoebox. She confessed, vented and rhapsodized to me, and I, in my usual half-veiled metaphorical pussy way, did the same.Now Iím a slow thinker, and an even slower courter, but it was seeping itís way into my head that hey, this girl might just like me. At this point I was a sour sixteen and had never been kissed, so I was understandably confused by what to do about it.

All this confusion was shot to shit when, in a note, she told me sheíd met a really cool guy.

"But heís a smoker," she wrote, "and Iíve heard kissing a smoker is like licking an ashtray."

Crestfallen, I wrote back, "I wouldnít know. Iíve never kissed anyone."

The guy didnít work out, I breathed an inaudible sigh of relief, until she, like girls uncountable both before and after, developed something of a crush on Jacob, my best friend. This distressed me more than the other guy; at my slow, glacial pace, I was really working into a bond with her. We had a lot in common. And now Jacob.

For as long as I had known him, Jacob exerted some kind of pull on girls; maybe it was his hip, parentless lifestyle. Maybe it was his moustache. I didn't know. All I knew isthat I liked Anna a lot, and I didn't want to see her endup like all the other girls he'd thrown over.

So I wrote, in my next note, just in passing, how Jacob had been doing cocaine since he was five, and smoked pot all the time, &c, &c. All true, of course, as lying was simply not an option, but calculated to produce a specific effect. She broke down crying, determined to find him, find out if it was true. I sat with her, on the steps by Alder street, Anna crying into her hands.

It broke our friendship forever.

The notes are lost now; whether Anna still has hers, I couldnít tell you. She took a photograph of me, half-bald, tucked up fetally in front of a wall, covered with graffiti.

I face away from the camera.