What do you do when your friend, one of your best friends, tells you a secret so deep and disturbing that even his parents don't know?
It happened when I was in 10th grade. I had gone to the high school football game one Friday night, with plans to go home and spend the night with my friend Archie afterward.
At halftime, I watched Archie march in the band. In his flamboyant bright red uniform and hat complete with festive plume, he seemed to almost be smiling at me. Maybe that should have been my first clue.
After the game, we were on our way over to the band room so that Archie could change. That's when it happened. Archie pulled me aside in the rahter dimly lit parking lot and said he had to tell me something. And he made me vow that I would never tell anyone, emphasizing it with the fact that even his parents didn't know.
My mind began to race. What could it be? How well did I know this guy? We'd really only been friends for a year or two. Not to mention, this was the same guy who had been involved in the John Stamos autograph incident.
I wasn't sure I felt comfortable with any soul-baring confessions at this stage of my life. But what could I do? He was standing there, his band hat under one arm and his heart on his sleeve.
So I promised not to tell, knowing whatever he was about to reveal could very well change our entire relationship forever.
And it did.
To this day, everytime I think of Archie, my mind immediately goes to what he told me that fateful October night:
He wasn't really playing his trombone.
The band director let him march because he had learned the steps so well, but made him promise he'd only pretend to play. Because as it turns out, after two years in band, Archie couldn't play a lick.
I wish I could say Archie's story had a happy ending. But it doesn't. He quit band the next year. I always wondered if the burden of carrying around his secret eventually became too much. Or perhaps someone outed him and he was ostracized by the brass and woodwind sections.
"That's not the beginning of the end. That's the return to yourself. The return to innocence..."