Before social distancing became the in thing, I ran into an old friend I hadn’t seen in thirty years…jeez…more like forty. I was excited to see her…considering our history excited is not the best descriptor. Thrilled is a better word. I was thrilled to see her.
We had a short-term tryst back in the day…just scratching certain itches. Nothing heavy, a “friends with benefits” kind of thing before “friends with benefits” was a thing…it was the “free love” Seventies after all. As I think back, I realize there was nothing free about love or even its unreasonable facsimile, lust.
She didn’t recognize me, even when I tried to explain who I was. Despite the empty feeling in my stomach, I didn’t push it. She seemed anxious in a bad way. I think she’s had a stroke or is self-medicating…am I being narcissistic? Maybe it was my beard, the balding head? No, I believe there was something wrong.
She seemed frail and infirm. A woman who once strode through the world confidently was reduced to little shuffles reminiscent of a Chinese woman who had had her feet bound. The strong alto voice lacked volume and power. The tall, long-legged, pleasing body seemed to be collapsing in on itself. Always slender in a good way, she was much too thin. Maybe it was me looking back on memories through my rose-colored reading glasses.
We remained friends after we both moved on to other places and people…at least I thought we had. At some point, she seemed to disappear…but, not from memory. I’ve thought of her often over the years wondering what happened to her. Wondering if she was happy. Remembering how foolish I had been.
I wondered if she had moved to a distant part of the world. Whenever I asked friends, “Have you heard from….”, the answer was always in the negative.
In the mid-80s she decided she was gay and fell under the influence of a “stereotypical” lesbian woman. You may substitute whatever “stereotype” you wish. This woman is much more than a stereotype and stereotypes are such oversimplifications.
Still, the time was the Eighties and I was shocked and full of questions. I’ve often wondered if she crossed over because she was truly lesbian or was it because she had been wounded so many times by people of my gender…or was it I was such a bad lover and friend I drove her to it. Insecure much? Ah…yes!
She stumbled and fell over several relationships during those late Seventies and early Eighties. I wonder if I helped to trip her up as she attempted to recover. An unwanted splinter under the fingernail of life. You can tell she is an enigma, she always was.
Are my concerns more about me and my own guilt? Is it about my own narcissism? Is it my over-inflated self-importance? Questions I can’t answer. Maybe questions I fear to answer. My greatest question, “Are you happy?” I hope the answer is yes.
There are questions I can’t even ask. My friend has dropped off the face of the earth even though she lives exactly where she has always lived.
I think about the crowd we ran with during those thrilling days of yesteryear. Those days we were lucky to survive. Those of us still alive have remained in touch. More so as we have gotten older. It is as if she has cut all ties with those days and the people who inhabited them with her. Maybe she wanted to move forward while the rest of us are pulled toward the past. I know I once did the same thing when my own mistakes became too much of a burden. Memories too painful to remember…except you do.
Questions, more questions. Answers, no answers.
Don Miller’s author’s page can be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR0813oF-UzSxgl3eyxNYLytu5JhnD70NuizUBdFlbjT2LTyVAXjPEBJZZE