Barb strongly reminded me of someone I knew in school. Thirteen years. The moment I saw the character, literally, I said “That’s Della.” The Barb I knew even had red hair and dressed so similarly to Barb in Stranger Things that they could’ve traded wardrobes in some time machine incident and no one would’ve noticed.
We weren’t close friends, but she was always friendly to me and I the same to her. I’m glad to say that I never ostracized her, played social status games with her or treated her poorly. The minimum fucking standards of human decency, but most people fail to meet even those. Especially in school. More than a few times, I also defended her against my own friends.
Looking back, in school she obviously liked me as more than a friend but I was too dense to notice and she was too shy and awkward to express that.
Since there was nothing special about my school, I’m guessing there were Barbs everywhere during the 80s. Just odd that my Barb also had red hair and looked shockingly similar in other ways to TV Barb.
Years later — many years later — I saw Della somewhere in public.
One of the few times in my life I felt I got something really right, though it did burnish the old ego a bit, too.
“Mike,” she said. Because that’s my name. It’d’ve been weird if she’d said some other name. Anyway, she said, “Mike, I always liked you. You were nice to me no matter what else anyone did and said. You just didn’t care about any of that. I know I’ll probably never see you again because your world is a lot bigger than mine but it meant something. Thank you.”
She was right. I never saw her again.
All the crazy shit I’ve done, all the awards I’ve won, the certifications I’ve earned — all those achievements and accomplishments I’ve managed to collect over the years by chance, luck and some skill — none of them have meant or ever will mean as much to me as hearing Della say that to me in a Burger King in Lake City, FL.
I’m not as gruff in real life as I seem on here (I hope), so this might seem uncharacteristic for me to say, but really it’s amazing what some kindness can do and how long people remember it. I changed someone’s life and I didn’t even realize it. If you think you have no power in the world, that alone shows you’re probably wrong.