“…….. the friend who helped me move a little bit closer to being more than all right.”
A few years ago, I bumped into Simon, who was the ex-boyfriend of my ex-roommate, Felicia, from college. I was caught by surprise and realized belatedly that I was quite unprepared for this accidental meeting. Then again, we generally don’t prepare for accidents, do we?
I reached the top of the stairs, turned the corner and came face-to-face with this person from my distant past. I did a double-take. A first for me, I think. So did he. Then he called out my name as I called out his. I was the first to speak. “Wow, Simon, is it really you?” Simon motioned to the bench against the wall, took my arm and sat us down. Then we just stared at each other. I was dazed. And speechless. This was so unlike me.
“How are you?” We both blurted at the same time. I laughed, “You first.”
“I’m fine. Busy, but fine. I haven’t stopped working since Chinese New Year. And you? I haven’t seen you for years.”
“I’m fine and busy too. I think it’s been almost 6 or 7 years? Could be more? I can’t remember. Anyway, the last I heard, you were on your way to New York?”
“Don’t know where you got that information but I think you mean that my girlfriend was on her way to New York. Not me.”
“Ahhh…my information got mixed up then. Oh, do you still paint?”
“Paint? Nope. Long story there but yeah, I don’t paint anymore, I do art direction now.”
I asked Simon what that entailed and he started explaining. As he did this, I looked at him and remembered one of the last times I ever saw him. We were sitting together, like we were now, on a couch in Alfred’s house. It was Christmas and I didn’t know it then, but it was going to be one of the most significant and startling moments in my life. And Simon, this not-quite-a-friend, was there every step of the way.
CLINK! CLINK! CLINK!
“What’s that sound?” I looked around, trying to pinpoint the source.
“I think it’s coming from inside your glass…” Simon told me.
“From my glass? It’s just the ice,” I replied.
CLINK! CLINK! CLINK!
“Look, there’s something inside the ice…” he insisted.
“No! There isn’t!” I swatted his arm.
“I’m serious, look! It’s shiny!” Simon elbowed me with his knobbly elbows. Later, I was going to complain to Felicia that her boyfriend manhandled me.
I gave in to his insistence and tipped the glass that Aaron, who was my significant other then, had given me, so that Simon and I could peer into it. I couldn’t see anything at first. Just that one ice cube. Then I saw it, silver, not a complete band but the kind that had a gap so that you could adjust it for small fingers like mine. I almost swallowed a ring! I fished it out and stared at it encased in ice. Simon was staring at it too. I looked up, and saw an audience had gathered around us and they were all looking at me with knowing smiles on their faces. Aaron was leaning against the doorway to the kitchen and he said with what sounded like relief in his voice, “Finally, thought you were going to swallow it and all my efforts would have gone to waste. Why don’t you put it on?”
“So, how is everyone?” Simon was asking me a question. I came back to myself and decided to delay answering and replied instead with a question too. “Who do you mean by everyone?” Classic evasion tactic.
“Oh, now I have to define everyone?” he asked, curious.
“Yup, things are like that now.” That should give him a hint.
“Well, what are May Leen and Felicia up to now?” I could see that he thought that this would be an easy question for me and that I’d ramble on and on about our antics together. We were after all, nearly inseparable years ago.
“Sorry, I don’t know. I’m no longer in touch with them, it’s been several years.”
I saw Shock creep into his eyes. I had seen it so many times before when I get asked this question that I’d become immune to it already. Sometimes, I wonder if May Leen and Felicia are tired of answering it too and of seeing the Shock displayed in other people’s faces. On the other hand, maybe not. Maybe they don’t get asked about me as much as I get asked about them.
“How come? What happened?” Yep, Simon couldn’t believe it. I gave my best imitation of a contented smile (I hoped) and repeated my stock answer, “We’d need to have a looong dinner for me to answer that.” Nothing like avoiding the question by making promises to answer it at the next meeting and then conveniently, accidentally on-purpose forget to answer it then as well.
“Oh, it’s like that. Ok. So, what about Aaron? How are you guys?” I expected this question too. Inevitable. I took a deep breath and said in the breeziest, couldn’t-care-less tone I could muster, “You know what? I really don’t know, I’m afraid we’ve lost touch too.”
That really got him. He must’ve thought that after the first question, this would’ve been a no-brainer as well. Great. I’ve managed to shock the most laid back guy I know. He was aghast. I think this is the first time I’d seen him aghast and I felt really bad to be the one to put that expression on his face.
“Huh???!!! What HAPPENED?” I could hear the capital letters in his question. He was getting up close to me in his disbelief. But I definitely wasn’t getting into the mechanics of it now so I said, “I’m afraid that will also take a looong dinner to answer. Or maybe 5 loooong dinners.”
“Wow, it’s been a long time yeah?” More of an observation regarding how much had changed than a question requiring an answer. So, I left it between us, unanswered.
After that uncomfortable line of questioning, we spent the next few minutes filling in one another on the last couple of years. I found out that he’d gone mainstream, he was no longer the long-haired, devil-may-care, anti-establishment painter/sculptor I was introduced to 10 years ago. Now, he talks about being commercial and how that will get his message across. When I prodded him about why he’d put aside his paintbrushes, he enigmatically replied, “That will also take another loooong dinner.” I looked into his eyes, and knew that somehow THAT story would include what transpired between him and Felicia.
After most of the stories that didn’t require a separate long dinner had been exchanged, we got up from the bench we were hogging and began to say our goodbyes, promising to meet when his project commitments were completed. At that point, I wondered if I was really serious about getting together with him and exchanging the tales that we had promised to exchange? I didn’t know. Simon was quite intricately woven into so many significant moments of my past. He was also a connection to some of the people that I used to care a lot about, and seeing and chatting with him that day, left me with feelings of melancholy and confusion.
Perhaps this accidental meeting was my closure and that I didn’t need to meet him again to rehash what was and what will always be the not-so-great past. Perhaps sitting there on a bench outside IKEA, talking with someone who knew me from the past was enough to leave the past right where it’s supposed to be.
I stood there seeing him walk away and I also felt a sense of calmness. I knew he wasn’t going to call me about having dinner like he said he would and I knew I wasn’t going to call him to remind him about it. And you know what? I was perfectly okay with that. Ultimately, Simon, the friend who wasn’t quite a friend, was the friend who helped me move a little bit closer to being more than all right.
This post is a part of the series Me in the Middle Invites Guest Bloggers. It’s an honor to feature Amelia’s writing. I encourage you to visit her Blog at Words from Sonobe.
~ For guidelines on submitting your inspiring story please go Here ~