Friday, January 28, 2005

How terribly strange to be seventy...well, added together...give or take a few months

I had dinner last night with David, who's back in our hometown for a few weeks during a break from his studies in China. We went out for sushi, and then enormous slabs of cake and pie at Zoka, and ended up hanging around at my house and talking for four solid hours, catching up.

It occurs to me now that, technically speaking, Dave's my oldest friend; we met in the second grade, and were classmates off-and-on throughout our educational lives. It's interesting, just to look at someone you've known basically since he was socialized and integrated into the wider world. Dave and I both are the sort of people whose basic appearance has changed little since childhood, so it's funny to see his seven-year-old self's features, modified but still utterly recognizable, working across his face; I imagine he sees similar things in me.

We had grade-school crushes on each other; we attended our senior prom together as a sort of in-joke in that regard. I was the straight-A goody-goody, he was...sort of the Ferris Bueller of our high school class. After a mutually inept attempt at dancing, we retreated to the hotel lobby, where we sat mocking the other couples attempting to make out amongst the atrium's potted plants. At the after-party, we stayed up talking until dawn...and ended up dating for several years. Our First Love...and, eventually, Our First Breakup, with all its attendant misery and recriminations. We were 20, 21 maybe. Who hasn't made a few clumsy, hurtful moves at that age, fraught with drama?

Oddly enough, our paths continued to cross. Not often--every two or five or seven years we'd exchange a card, or an e-mail, or I'd bump into him or one of his siblings on the street. Not quite a year ago, I found his website, and we've probably communicated more through this medium, in the intervening months, than we have in over a decade. He suggested meeting, during this visit, and it was so very...pleasant, to talk face-to-face with someone who's known me most of my life, when we're at a stage of our lives where we've dispensed with our teenage baggage.

We're both older and more settled. Rounder. Less agile, feeling the tug of gravity a bit more. He has less hair; I have plenty of gray going on up top. We talked about our parents: not old, but aging, more delicate, collectively stymied by computers (uhhh...hi, Mom!); the days when our parents will be our responsibility are visible. We talked about family and friends, who's got kids, who's passed away, how hard it is to sort through and discard the comet-trail of stuffed animals and albums and Christmas cards that plague you after thirty-odd years. Our lives are wildly divergent, at this point: Dave's elected to travel the world, studying language and culture, caligraphy, music, while he has the means and the youth still to do it. I suppose I've taken a more traditional path, with a 401(k) and a mortgage, a couch, a couple of cats. But we're both really happy with our current paths, a mutual truth we discussed with more than a few grains of wonder, I think.

It's so satisfying, to reconnect with someone who's surfaced throughout your life, a milestone unto himself. I admire his choices; I'm so glad to see him content and doing well. I'm glad to see me content and doing well, too. Life's pretty generous. Good on yer, mate.

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