Monday, December 08, 2008

Chutes And Ladders

If I had a good idea where to start, I would, but Al Gore's Internet can be very useful up to a point. Then you just have to shrug your shoulders and move on. I would have liked that chance to apologize, but I don't know how to start, so here goes:
As I have mentioned on several occasions, when I was in junior high school, I was not part of any particular social strata. I lived on the cusp of seventh grade, feeling as though I had missed some important piece of training or conversation that would have enabled me to fully engage my peers. There was one kid who seemed just a little more lost than I was. His name was Ken Butts. That's the name I have googled off and on for several years, in hopes of discovering his whereabouts. What would I do if I found him? I would start by reminding him that we went to school together. After all, I have no reason to believe that he even remembers who I am.
I remember Ken because he was the kid that I used to make myself feel better. I may have been the round, uncoordinated kid in the corner getting whacked in the face during Dodgeball games, but Ken was the round, uncoordinated kid in the corner getting whacked in the face during Dodgeball games whose last name was Butts. He's the one who had to write his last name in big block letters inside of the big green rectangle in the middle of his Physical Education t-shirt. He's the one who played the clarinet, a woodwind nothing brass, in band. He's the one who showed up at Centennial Junior High with fewer friends than I did. He's the one I used to give myself social leverage.
Everyone could agree that I was a geek. But I was one notch less pathetic than Ken. Now comes the worst part: When Ken asked if I wouldn't like to come to his house some afternoon after school to hang out, I told him I was busy. He kept asking all the way through seventh grade. And I kept putting him off. Then in eighth grade, he stopped asking.
Ken wasn't in band in eighth grade. That's where I started finding my niche. Ken stayed on the shallow end of the pool, while the rest of us floundered and bobbed and learned to navigate as best we could. By ninth grade, I had lost track of Ken. He may have found his own crowd to be with. He may have lived a quiet happy life without me in it. All I know is that he appears in the index of my senior yearbook just once. The ultimate litmus test of high school connections and accomplishments, and there he is looking quite handsome in his suit and tie. But that's it. No clubs, no candid shots, no honors. Just Ken, without his glasses, staring off into the middle distance of some photographer's studio.
I'll probably keep looking. I want to tell Ken that I'm sorry that I wouldn't give him the time of day primarily because so many other people wouldn't do the same for me back then. I felt like that was the way to climb the ladder. I was wrong. I hope that he's happy, somewhere.


Anonymous said...

Could it be Dr. Ken Butts at

Anonymous said...

Didja try Facebook? There's half a dozen Ken Buttses on it...

I said Buttses.