Isn’t it great when you bump into old friends? You know, the kind of fellow human that in a distant place in time you considered special and over the years the relationship has gotten fuzzy, sprinkled by the sentimental golden fairy dust that time so liberally provides?
Well sometimes it is, other times, no.
When it hapens, it is weird. The way that first flash of recognition quickly shifts into a frozen nano second, where the next move is either into the upper gear of warm appreciation, or the dread flush of awkwardness, which can leave you shuffling through the Chicago CD’s and trying to pretend that you didn’t see each other. That subtle, high-frequency, silent communication of “lets move on and never speak of it again” leaves you both wishing for an solitary open space to transport you away from this unfortunate moment. Dog’s can hear those frequencies you know.
Worse, are the moments that you cannot, by quick thinking or design, control or avoid, when you literally bump into someone: there is no escape. The last time it happened to me an initial, and genuine, warm feeling shot through me, as I had not seen this girl for years. In another life, we got on very well and used to be friends, and she was (is) a musician of some critical acclaim and note. I, though also a musician, am now a web monkey as I have to pay the bills, and am happy with my choices in life. We had not seen each other for many years but I do have fond memories. Memories of late nights, walks by the canal at 2 in the morning, of too much coffee and games of chess and the other games of chance and discovery that litter your early twenties. The last time we met I was wearing a pixie hat and chanting “wacka wacka wacka” in the corner of a party somewhere deep in the darkest part of Galway. Howling at the moon. Would we now be able to share and remember those fond moments and what unspoken recognition would pass between us that we could silently share, and maybe take away from the encounter to use as some kind of benchmark for the changes that have gone on in our lives.
There was nothing.
A warm “hi, how are you?” chased by my best warmest smile, was greeted with what seemed a warm hello, which then, from her side, descended into solipsistic self-obsession quicker than you could say “egomania”. She was not alone and was obviously enjoying being popular as the fellow musician she was with commented on how difficult it was for her to get around town, without meeting people she knew. “Lucky girl!”. I cheerily ventured, “So have you been out of the county?”, “Oh no!” was the reply”, then came a brief private interaction between them, while the sense that I should maybe leave started to flood through me. But I stood my ground, I thought “She will at least ask me what I have been up to for the past, say fifteen years?” Then I could give her a brief synopsis and split, dignity intact?
She looked at/throughme and then started to diligently examine her phone, as if it was a new discovery, like a part of the monolith in 2001. My partner had also started to shift restlessly. I couldn’t believe it. In order to try and move things along I ventured, “So are you still playing music?”. This was really grasping at straws as there was a bloody big guitar bag strapped to her back. She laughed and did a cute shake of her shoulders. “Ok see ya!” she said ,and we both shuffled along our merry way. I couldn’t believe it.
It brought back all of the weird freaky insecurities of my early twenties, those horrible white knuckle rides that only you go through. God no, not all that again. I quickly shrugged it off and laughed with my partner about how rude she was. However, I couldn’t but help feel disappointed as I have fond memories of my “wild years” before life became so defined, as being “special” and I suppose that includes my memories of people. Friends do however, come and go, and life is all about change and transformation.
Some are lucky to have people with them throughout their life, for all of its ups and downs, but how do you distill the richness of the past fifteen years onto the back of a stamp and post it to an “old friend” who doesn’t care anymore? You don’t, I guess, you move on. I suppose the point is, those that are worth the effort, look after, and as to the rest, “Horsemen pass by”.
Will I sentimentalize old friends still , yup. The past is a great place. You can rearrange the furniture how you like, its only when the memory meets itself in the present does the flimsyness of the whole thing become apparent. But you’ve got to laugh, at the guy in the funny hat, and the dreams and hopes we had and how we have all grown and changed.