Several years ago, I met a guy named Flipper. That probably wasn't his real name, but it's the one he used when he introduced himself. It's what everyone called him. For the short time he and I hung out, he was one of the most memorable persons I have ever met.
Flipper was a big guy. He was six foot tall with a chunky build. And he was Chinese. But those two characteristics were not his most noticeable attributes. What made him stand out was his long multi-colored hair.
Aside from his nationality, his imposing height, and his unconventional hairstyle, Flipper found another way to be memorable. He possessed a personality that was bigger than his appearance. He was loud, but not obnoxious. He gave everyone the benefit of the doubt. He had a joke for almost any situation. Something about him was magnetic. Where his looks might have intimidated, his smile and laugh attracted people. He was also a hugger. He loved hugging people. It was his way of saying "hi."
There's no real reason that the two of us should have ever connected. Me, the scrawny white kid from a suburb to the rural north. Him, the six foot tall Chinese kid from Seattle proper. His family had money. My family was poor. His apartment had a view of the Kingdome. My house had a view of the four way stop at 51st and 80th. He could smell the Puget Sound from his high school. My high school smelled like cow pies. Yet, for some inexplicable reason - he and I became friends.
I had just turned 16 and was getting ready to start my junior year of high school. He was almost 18 and facing his senior year. Despite our differences, we both had the same taste in music. We also had the same taste in girls. We had a lot to talk about.
There were a few things I learned during our brief friendship. I learned that his boisterous and optimistic composure was really a mask to hide something more painful. While his smile was genuine, behind it laid a sadness that he was never willing to explain. The various colors in his hair was his interpretation of a clown.
We kept in touch for a few months and then lost contact. There are few individuals from my past that haunt my memories. Not often do I wonder what became of those friends I've lost. Flipper is one of those people. And today is one of those days where I thought about his fate.
I wonder because Flipper's opportunities were endless. He was likable and amiable. He was smart and a little daring. If Flipper was a character in a movie, he would be the goofy yet endearing type - the kind you hope receives a happy ending. Unfortunately, If fear the most tragic of possibilities were far more probable. I hope I'm wrong.
18 years. I have no idea where Flipper is today. I could not predict where his life brought him. But every now and then I wonder, and I hope it's the best.