Thursday, August 3, 2023

What Could Have Been, Post #245

 Image Courtesy of Freepik:


Last week’s post about an AI-created story didn’t generate much in the way of comments. I’m not as panicked about it as my buddy Don Travis. I understand his post this week is an AI story written to his specifications.


This week, I went nostalgic. We all play the “what could have been” game on occasion. Let me know how you like this one. (AI had nothing to do with this one.)

* * * *


I’d known Jason Muldavid forever. Through all the stages of my life: from Johnny Boy to Johnny to John. One of my earliest recollections is the two of us digging in a sandbox with toy shovels at the little park only a block from our houses… which sat side by side on Elderberry Street. In fact, that’s what the neighbors called us, the Elderberry twins, even though Jason was dark-haired and dark-eyed while my hair was sandy, and my eyes an uncertain green… hazel, I think they call it.

I’m not sure that, as toddlers, we knew which was our own home, the red brick or the blonde brick. Just to be clear, the red brick was the Hogan household—mine. But neither of us bothered to knock when visiting the other. We just barged in and expected to be welcomed in those halcyon days when no one locked the front door.

Looking back, I believe we were in love in an innocent way. I fretted when Jason—or Jase as he became to me—wasn’t at my side. I’ve heard his mother complain he was a different kid when he wasn’t with Johnny. I never grew out of that stage. I thought of him the first thing in the morning and the last thing before bed. In my nightly prayers, he was the first person I asked the Lord to take care of.

We were likely eleven or twelve when things began to change. I distinctly recall the first time we played softball on opposite teams. We’d been waiting for someone to drop out of a sandlot game, and when one did, Johnny was called. When the next kid had to go home, I ended up on the other team. At the time, I couldn’t put a name to my internal rage when Jase kibbitzed with his team’s second baseman and razzed me when my turn at bat came. I got a double and managed to kick the second baseman in the ankle as I slid safely on base. After the game, as we walked home, he threw his arm around my shoulders and blathered on like nothing had happened, but it sure did feel like something had gone awry to me. At midnight, my eyes popped open, and I identified my anger for what it really was. Jealousy.

That was the beginning of my ordeal.

Simply put, over the next few years, Jase matured physically and emotionally. I only managed the physical part of it. Emotionally, I remained tethered to my childhood buddy. That wasn’t fatal, unless I tried to hang on too tightly… which I did a few times. Jase always pushed back, tactfully, at first, but when I refused to adjust to the inevitable changes, he got a little firmer about it.

And I don’t think he was the only one who saw things. Jason, as I said, became Jase, and was always referred to that way, while I was Hogan. I know, it’s a little thing… but it says a lot.

Middle school was rocky but not unbearable, but when high school rolled around, the changes were so profound, my base, my foundation seemed to be crumbling beneath me. And all the trouble came down to one thing… girls. Or that’s the way it was in my mind, at any rate.

When Jase discovered them, I was left at home hurting. It got a little better when he suggested we double date some, so I found a girl I could muster a little interest in and tagged along when I could. We both lost our virginity one night when he parked his Chevy convertible on a country lane. I still recall the absolute shock—despite prior clues—when I realized I’d rather be up in the front seat with him doing what he was doing to his date than being in the back doing what I was doing with mine.

But nothing was as shattering as his wedding night. I was, of course, his best man, and it took every ounce of self-control I could muster to keep from running out on him in tears. But I went numb and held on. Shaking his hand at the conclusion and kissing the new Mrs. Jase on the cheek—instead of biting her—and tossing rice with the rest of the well-wishers got me through that hell. But that night was even worse. It put an end to the fantasy that one day we’d put all this foolishness behind us and discover—really discover—one another.

The agony continued through college. We went to the same college and roomed together for a couple of semesters before he moved into the dorm reserved for jocks—he was a decent halfback for the team. We both remained in our hometown, although we moved from the adjoining red brick and blond bricks to different neighborhoods. Both of us pursued successful careers… me as the owner of the local deli, and Jase as a banker. In time, I became Uncle John to his son and his daughter. Their bachelor uncle because I never married. Eventually, I learned to accept what part I had in Jase’s life and let go of the dream of what could have been.

Contrary to romantic fiction, I never met another “Jase” or Jase’s successor in my dream fantasy. Unfortunately, I’m a guy who mates for life—even if we never got around to mating. But eventually, I put my obsession in the proper place and learned to live with it.

Until last week.

Last Friday, we met for lunch and were joined by a couple of other friends, one of whom was a coach at the local high school. Toward the end of the meal, the coach told us of a situation at the school—without revealing names—of a couple of guys on the basketball squad were found masturbating one another in the locker room after they thought everyone had gone. The coach laughed at the boys utter embarrassment and humiliation, apparently deeming those appropriate punishments. I quietly shriveled inside.

After lunch, we walked up the street together, me to my shop and him to his bank, when he turned serious.

“You know, I didn’t really appreciate it how Coach got a laugh out of catching those two boys. They’re just going through growing pains. Everybody does things like that when he’s growing up.”

Jase stopped and stared at me. “I often wondered why we didn’t do anything like that.”

I must have reacted in some way, because he grasped my arm.

“I don’t know about you, but I thought about it at times. Lots of times.”

I managed to speak through a dry throat. “Why didn’t you do anything?”

He released my arm and shrugged. “Kept waiting for you to do something. But you never showed any interest, not even when we were rooming together. If you’d given me a clue, who knows?” He grinned. “Might have ended up marrying you.”

I failed to laugh the way he expected me to. I just glared at him. “Jason Muldavid, sometimes you can be one stupid son-of-a-bitch.”

In some perverted way, it felt good to walk away imagining the glories that could have been while he stood there with eyes like quarters and his mouth hanging open. Couldn’t help wondering if he even got it now.

Probably not. He’d have to think outside the box for that, and Jase wasn’t very good at thinking outside of boxes.


I don’t know about you, but this resonates with me. I vividly remember the guy I fantasized about for years. Wonder how he’s doing these days.

 Until next week,

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Twitter: @markwildyr

Now my mantra: Keep on reading. Keep on writing. You have something to say, so say it!

See you later.



 New posts the first and third Thursday of the month at 6:00 a.m., US Mountain time.

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