This past weekend, Fabulous Publisher Babe™ and I went out to lunch with a woman who had been her best friend since Junior High School. (We’ll just quantify that as “a while ago.”) Babe and I got to talking beforehand about those sorts of things and I came to realize that the guy who had been my best friend in Junior High and High School is someone I have not talked to in more than eighteen years.
And I won’t even take the blame for that one.
His birthday falls about two weeks after mine, and we used to split the difference and celebrate on the fourth of July every summer. When we were fourteen, the plan had been to celebrate our 30th together in Washington, D.C., and our 40th in London.
Never did get the story, but about six months before that 30th, he announced he wasn’t interested, wasn’t going, and kinda sorta walked away from even knowing me. This was the era before rampant social media and electronics, so it was still a long distance call to ring someone up on the phone, and email was about the only way to really stay in touch with someone who lived 1500 miles away.
It really was possible to lose touch with someone, especially if he stopped answering emails. And he did.
So she and I did a quick catalog. “Folks I have spoken with in the last few years.”
My best friend (J***) in 4th-6th grade, before he went to a different Jr. High. Found him through another long-time friend (and ex-girlfriend I’m still on good terms with.) Still communicate a bit via social media.
Said ex-girlfriend whom I’ve known for over thirty years. Saw her in the flesh four years ago when I went to visit in Colorado.
And then, nothing. Really big chronological gap.
Another girl. I knew her vaguely in High School, but we didn’t start to date until I was in college, and I never got that serious because she didn’t seem that interested. (Turns out she was that shy, but I’ve never claimed to be telepathic.) After 1987(?) talked her again next in about 2007. Still exchange messages, occasionally, but haven’t seen her in those thirty years.
In college, met Conan the Librarian and Pike. Went to school with neither. Met Conan when I was a volunteer with emergency rescue, like him. Met Pike through Conan. Lost both of them in the early and then mid-90’s and found them again in the last 3-4 years.
The first girl I ever really fell in love with. Again in college. That was thirty years ago. Haven’t seen her in twenty. Still exchange messages via social media on occasion.
Met Snake in college. He was my roommate for about five years. He died extremely young, about fifteen years ago.
Met J**2 through Snake. Haven’t seen him in 25 years. Still chat via social media on occasion.
Same goes for M**2. Met him through Snake. Found him on social media in the last year, through J***2.
Met Swamp Rat in LA when I was out there in the early 90’s. Haven’t seen him in about twenty years. We chat on occasion.
Met Coop in the LA days. Haven’t seen him since I passed through central Cali about five years ago driving back from a friend’s wedding in Vegas. Might go years between emailing him.
Met Dusty in the LA days. Lost him in ’94. Found him again in 2011. He’s up here in Seattle, but it’s probably been a year since I’ve seen him, and only email on occasion.
Met J9 through Charlie, and she (Charlie) died nearly twenty years ago now. Last saw J9 in about 2008.
So I got to thinking. I moved to Seattle in ’97. Will celebrate 20 years here in about six weeks, as a matter of fact.
I’ve just listed all of the people I can think of, off the top of my head, that I knew before 1997 (family not included), that I could easily reach out and talk to, if I had a question.
It is not a particularly long list. And many of them are folks in the third or fourth circle of friendship these days. Modern technology allows that. In the old days, the kind of folks you would just hear gossip about from your mother, talking to their cousin, or something.
The baby in my Tuesday Gaming Group I’ve been playing with for probably twelve years now. The oldest of that group I met in about ’98, so he and I are coming up on twenty years soon. The other two fall in the middle. There are a couple of others that come and go depending on time and commitments, both of them new in the last ten years.
I grew up in a different age. And did different things.
It was possible to just completely fall off the face of the earth, without actively deleting old friends to get them off you social media page, or walking away from your account, or abandoning your phone number (although I did that twice, for personal reasons).
And imagine explaining to the next generation the prohibitive cost of calling someone in a different state, and why you had to wait until after 7pm or the weekend, when the rates went down.
But, in the long term, it was a good idea for me to leave everything behind.
I was extremely angry at the world.
I had my reasons, and I’ll defend them fiercely. Five of my closest friends from along that road are no longer around to share with me how much better things have gotten for my life over the last few years.
On the one hand, I don’t miss the person I was three years ago, or ten, to say nothing of twenty or thirty. (I’m pretty sure me just being alive at this point will cause a number of people to have to pay off bets against. Their loss, for assuming…)
How about you?
How many of your friends are you still in touch with, from when you were bright-eyed, obnoxious kids together, dreaming of taking over the world?
I always wonder, whatever happened to some of those people I used to know. Did their lives turn out mundane or crazy? Did they go all white-picket-fence, like M**2 did?
I keep getting more bohemian as I get older. And that’s okay. I’m having fun. True fun. The kind where you wake up in the morning excited about the possibilities, as opposed to dragging out of bed angry, and going and putting in your time at a job you despise as you work for a weekend of mind-numbingness and hoping that death comes and relieves you of you misery soon.
Do me a favor? Send a note to that best friend. Or your oldest friend. Check in. Say hi. See what’s going on in their life and what you’ve missed. Not for me, but for you.
Do that with several other people. Just ’cause.
For me, if you know anybody that might remember me from the olden days, send them this note and ask them to reach out to me. Seriously. Good Lord only knows what they’ve been up to. And my craziness is kinda off the scale, even today. Would be interesting to hear about their adventures.
I graduated high school when I was sixteen in ’86. Finished college in ’89. Left and did grad school in SoCal, and then stayed around until ’95. Was back in Wichita for eighteen months. Been in Seattle-ish since. Will base camp here one of these days, but will travel again.
I can tell you when something happened, based on what city I lived in at the time, since I moved 17 times between summer of ’90 and fall of ’01.
But I’m also in a very small group. Most people statistically are born, raised, live, and die in about a fifty-mile circle. Sad, but not everyone wants to have adventures. Or decide to move cross country and try someplace else for a while. I figure I’m about halfway on my journey, so I’ve got a lot of miles left in me, and a lot of adventures left to have.
But it is also nice to revisit the old days. For me, there is always a taste of “there, but for the Grace of God, go I…” but still. We live in a magical future, where you never have to truly lose touch again.
So, go talk to someone.
shade and sweet water,
West of the Mountains, WA