When I was in high school, I used to love staying at my friend Saylor’s house. I’d often show up on a Thursday, not to return home until Monday. Saylor lived in a big modern home on a golf course. Her father, who traveled for weeks on end, was never around and seeing his Ferrari in the driveway was a rare occurrence.

Saylor was an unusual girl. With a laid back demeanor and an ever-present cigarette and glass of wine, she was easily the worldliest person I knew. She fascinated me and I loved being around her, as if she might someday rub off on me.

Saylor had something else that attracted me to her house for days at a time. A regulation-size Asteroids game. I played once, twice and I was hooked. I could play for hours. Waking up early while the rest of the house slept. Staying up late when couples paired off and everyone else crashed. It was my favorite game and I quickly conquered it to have the highest score of all time, a score that withstood years of attempts by others to win.

I learned a lot that summer. It was the first time I was accepted by the older kids, courtesy of Saylor’s handsome older brother. I developed a crush on his best friend that lasted for years. It was a summer of firsts and it was an exciting time for me.

Saylor’s neighbor, Paul, went to school with us, but didn’t really go. He was a heroin addict and Saylor blithely told me she’d slept with him just out of boredom. For some reason, this didn’t shock me. I accepted it as easily as I accepted everything else that was happening around us.

Friends getting dope from their parents. Kids sent away to an archaic, gothic juvenile hall. The always-available drugs and the alcohol that flowed freely. I was an outsider, still, looking in on a life that I wanted for myself. Shooting spaceships with nimble fingers. Introspective, often quiet, an observer who was still learning.

The last time I saw Saylor she’d moved in with her mother. Her father had remarried and his young wife didn’t like all of the (even younger) girls hanging around the house. In addition, she tried to enforce rules, which were a joke, said Saylor. Things like curfews and doing dishes. Saylor’s mom was like one of the girls. A slob like Saylor, she didn’t have a maid like Saylor’s dad. She liked to smoke with us and hang out.

The last time I saw Saylor she was inhaling white-out from a plastic bag. Huffing lighter fluid. In addition to no longer living with her dad, his support payments often got lost in the mail and Saylor and her mom struggled. Sinking deeper into addiction.

I’ve tried to find Saylor on return visits home. Ask other friends from Eugene if they’ve seen her or talked with her. No one has. I heard that her mother passed away, much too young, but I don’t know what happened to Saylor.

I still think about her and I wonder, always, how she’s doing. Remembering that I still owe her.

For the last game and for the other things she taught me.


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