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Pensive Person

Pensive Person
December 05
A quiet guy up here in the Midwest, waiting to be seen. Most of the time my days are filled with sarcasm, anger, and general malaise--so, this is my inexpensive form of therapy.

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JANUARY 25, 2012 8:51PM

Lost Passages, Lost Dreams, and Lost Friendships

Rate: 3 Flag

I've lost a passage from a book. It was a slippery little sucker, and it must have slipped away when I wasn't looking. In my defense, though, it was a passage from Virginia Woolf--and boy does that woman write some long paragraphs and sentences.

When I had this passage, I ran from friend to friend to friend (it must have been important if I went to all three of my friends) and read it out loud. I gushed about it when I was done reading, and I demanded they gush about it in response. I was adamant that they recognize such a crystalline expression of lost friendship. And I was going to quote it to all you and demand an equal gushy response....but, I cannot find it.

I do, however, remember why I gushed about it. For10 summers I waited tables in a resort community, and many different aquaintances passed through my life. Since this was those late high school and college years, I was on that common hippie-sounding quest of "finding myself," and I consider myself lucky that I found a close friend on my journey--his name was Bryan.

Bryan had long hair he kept in a ponytail, he loved art, had an infectious and unique laugh, and had a deep appreciation of good food and fine wine. Our friendship grew out of some of our biggest weaknesses: our lack of self-esteem, inability to stand up for ourselves, love of the arts, generalized fear of the future, and a sensitivity typically frowned upon in men.

For 8 of those 10 summers, we worked together and the zenith of our friendship was a 3 hour dinner at a fine restaurant.

We were the only two people in the restaurant for most of the time we were there, and halfway through dinner, our boss (his brother), called and had a bottle of wine delivered to our table. Perhaps it was the wine, or maybe the food, or the silences in the room...whatever it was, we shared with each other some of those most vulnerable fears we had in life. He wanted to be an artist and so desperately wanted to be a dad (which embarassed him for some reason) and find a nice woman to marry, but he lacked initiative to do any of those things--I reassured him he would. I wanted to be successful in my career after college and play classical music professionally--he reassured me I would, and to punctuate the point he persuaded me to cross the dining room and play the abandoned piano siting near the window of the establishment. 

I remember playing passages from Schumann's "Scenes from Childhood" and an arrangement of Scarborough Fair I used to love so much, and afterwards we had dessert. Some things I shared with him I had never told anyone, and I knew the same was true for some of the things he told me. It was unfiltered honesty, and how often does one have a relationship like that in their lives?

But, a week later, I finished my summer stint at the restaurant for the year: I was a senior in college, and I had no idea what was in store for me. I graduated and found a job and never returned to waiting tables; Bryan wasn't a writer, and I wasn't one to use the phone, so our friendship faded with time.....

tables  .....Flash forward 10 years: I was walking down the sidewalk in the resort community where I used to wait tables. I had my backpack and was heading down to the lake to do some reading, my iPod on full blast to something bouncy and fitting for summer. There is a deli in the town where black wire tables sit next to the sidewalk where people can enjoy their sandwiches. Focused on my tunes, I hardly paid any mind to any of the people around me. Cars passed, people walked in front of me, passed along side me, I didn't really register any of their faces.

Then, in the few second gap of a song, I heard a very distinctive laugh. It had come from behind me, and I turned my body to see its source. And there he was, eating lunch with his brother and his wife--it was Bryan. Same long ponytail, same unconfident body language. Our eyes locked, and I recognized him immediately, and he recognized me, too. It was easy to tell, yet he said nothing and I didn't stop walking. There was nothing to say.

Here someone was an integral part of your day to day life for  almost a ten year span, and together you shared some vulnerable memories or fears for the future, and when you have that chance to re-connect, you simply let it pass. I guess on some level, both of us must have known that keeping those dreams, that optimism, and that naive fear in those past experiences made them precious--while trying to engage in meaningless chit-chat or trying to cover a decade's worth of ground would simply taint what once was a truly meaningful friendship....

And, that, that right there was what Virginia Woolf was talking about in her passage. That same kind of incident, but it slipped through my fingers, and I cannot find it. She expressed it in such a loving manner, with her poignant syntax and stunning vocabulary; I could tell that she must have experienced something similar to me. I'm sad that I lost it. Maybe I will find it again, but if I don't, I'm glad I had it for a little while. 



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Over the years I lost touch with my best fiend, pal, later drinking buddy from high school. He married his high-school sweetheart, and stayed in our hometown in the U. P. of Michigan. Last weekend I attended a funeral in Menominee, and my friend, Rick, and his wife were there. I took them to dinner, and they prevailed on me to visit them at their home. I was reluctant to do that for some of the same reasons you cite in your beautiful piece here. It had been decades since we had spent any quality time together, and my wife had died a year ago, so what ever could we do to fill gaps in our conversation.

I went to their home anyway, and had a wonderful visit with them. Saw ways in which he had grown since our teenage years and was amazed at the gorgeous job he and his wife had done of remodeling their home. And, we had a long conversation reminiscing about "the old days." All-in-all, I was glad I did it.

Yet, I understand exactly how and why you chose to not renew your friendship with your friend when you chanced to see him.

Maybe it's a guy thing?
Thanks for the affirmation, John...wasn't sure if that was the "wrong" thing to do as I reflected on it afterward~~it's nice to know it makes sense to someone.
So sad and sweet. Now these things happen a lot of Facebook. Much more troubling when it happens in real life.