Last month, I met a friend I hadn’t met in almost exactly five years. The circumstances of our reunion were an echo of the past – we went to the same restaurant we ate at five years ago, she still lived in the same area, we didn’t look too different. But much had changed too.
The years had been kind to us, in spite of a distance both literal and figurative, and sometimes a distinct lack of empathy on my part.
At one point, when sitting at the dining table in her home and drinking tea, my friend suddenly turned to me and said,
“Remember those pens you were obsessed with in school? You always refused to write with any other pen!”
I hadn’t thought about these pens in years. She was right, of course. There was a certain Uni-ball gel pen that was my trusted companion through high school. Even if the ink ran out, I wouldn’t want to borrow another pen. I was a bit surprised she remembered that. Later, I felt moved.
When I think of her, I see the girl I sat next to in school, the dreamy one, the one who doodled, who sang under her breath, and who I feared might walk into walls because it always seemed like her mind had wandered off somewhere more pleasant. And maybe when she thinks of me, she sees the moody and slightly weird teenager with whom she shared lunches. This is the gift we give, the ability to see in each other a girl, sometimes a woman trying to figure out life, but always an individual; not a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother. In some ways, we may be frozen in time, but the frost is unexpectedly warm.
On my way back home, I had an urgent need to call up my grandmother and tell her I’d finally met this friend. I wanted to hear the smile in her voice as she recollected details about my friend. She would be faintly proud, telling me that her memory wasn’t as bad as we made it out to be. She would ask me if I ate. I would tell her it’s beginning to get cold, the trees are losing their leaves.
Then I remembered that you can’t call a person who isn’t around, a stranger might be using that number now. How do you reach out to someone who exists in a photograph? You speak to them in your mind and believe they can hear you. Maybe they do, maybe they are responsible for the magic that mundane days reveal.
I just have to look carefully.