My friend Mark liked Nebraska football. I remember that. He always wore this red Nebraska sweatshirt. It was hooded with white letters and a pocket in the front. I think it was a family connection or something like that, but I can’t be be sure.
My friend Mark had brown hair that he would often wear in this poofy bowl cut. I remember that, too. This was the mid 90s, of course, and most every boy at Nall Hills Elementary had a similar haircut, so I don’t think Mark would mind me bringing this up. This one year, he grew it really long, and buzzed the sides. I remember he called it an “undercut”, and I remember I wanted one, too.
I remember other things, too. I remember the way Mark would crack a smile and break into this cheesy fake laugh, just to draw a smile out of you. I remember how he would do this little funny gesture thing with his arms, like a little dance to make somebody else feel good. Mark was always laughing.
I remember the three on three basketball games on the playground, and the touch football games on this little patch of asphalt that had lines to represent the end zones. I remember conversations in the cafeteria about WCW wrestling and the merits of Goldberg vs. Diamond Dallas Page vs. the NWO’s Wolfpack. And I remember this one year, maybe the fourth grade, where our group of friends bizarrely became obsessed with doing “tricks” on the swing-sets at recess. In hindsight, it was the strangest thing. Nobody really even used the swings at recess, least of all a group of 10-year-old boys. But there we were, for a solid two-month stretch, gathering in front of this old metal set of swings and turning it into our own personal X-Games.
I thought about all this when I heard the news. I hadn’t seen Mark in maybe 10 years, and I can’t remember the last time we talked. We had lost touch over the years. It happens, I guess, like a lot of friendships that begin when you’re in kindergarten.
But there’s something about those childhood friendships, something pure and true and innocent. You are brought together by proximity, but the sheer randomness of your parents deciding to settle in the same neighborhood and send you to the same public school. But when you are 8 years old, none of that really matters. Those boys on the playground, playing football and talking about wrestling? Those friends are your whole world. You don’t forget them.
A week ago, in the days after I heard that Mark had died, I emailed an old classmate from our elementary school days. She hadn’t seen Mark in ages, either, but we shared a few thoughts, and I think she can probably put this better than I can:
“It’s like you knew them as they truly were,” she wrote.
Yes. That’s exactly it. And Mark Moore was a good one.