" 'Can't repeat the past?' he cried incredulously.
'Why of course you can!' "?
~ The Great Gatsby
Towards the end of high school, I had this idea about reuniting with my best friend from my elementary school days. I had literally not seen her since probably 4th grade when she transferred to a private school, but boy did those childhood memories wax poetic… snowy afternoons after school watching Scooby Doo at her house, sipping marshmallow laden hot chocolate while eating her mom’s salty popcorn cooked in oil on the stovetop (a real treat for a girl who usually got nothing but stinkin’ air-popped corn)...
But the relationship was even deeper than that. For one, she had the COOLEST playhouse I had ever seen. It was an actual miniature house, fully-furnished, complete with an easy-bake-oven.
Our friendship had intellectual roots too. I remember her vast love of books, specifically of the Black Stallion series and how I deeply admired her ravenous literary appetite (while I struggled to finish Pollyanna in under a year).
So, armed with this solid foundation, we made plans to reunite. I’m not sure why, but we decided that the logical activity for two former best friends who haven’t seen each other in over a decade, would be to go to a movie. So we went to "The Pelican Brief". I vaguely remember it as being some kind of courtroom drama-thriller heavy on intricate details and blah blah blah. I know that Julia Roberts and Denzel Washington were in it. For me, there wasn’t enough dancing or jokes about poop. I was bored. She, however… well I guess all those Black Stallion stories had paid off because she had developed into a full-blown intellectual. I think she was studying law or medicine or something like that and she had skipped a few grades. So we’re in the car after the movie, and, having no real common life context anymore, started to discuss the movie (oh THAT’S why we went to a movie!). She launched into a full discourse analyzing the legal complexities of the movie, and I was basically left mumbling “yeah! … Denzel is hot”. So I guess what I’m getting at, is that while it was really great to see my old friend and I will always have a place in my heart for her, some people’s brains grow at a faster rate and I think we all know which end of the spectrum I was at.
But seriously, she had developed into a studious and serious young lady and I… well, our differences outweighed our greasy popcorn adventures. This was a fairly hard lesson to learn and I haven’t seen her since. And truthfully, in retrospect, I kind of wish I’d just left my memories alone. Sometimes I wonder if the ‘what if’ is actually better than the ‘Crap, guess I know now’.
I think the memory of this incident has had an impact on my Call Bill project. I am deathly afraid of ruining my beautiful memories.
But I bit the bullet and did call one of my Bills, because in this case, it was about more than trying to relive golden memories. So we decided to get together. It had probably been 3 years since we’d seen each other. In this particular case, it was a complicated relationship and our sabbatical was not by accident. Our relationship had become somewhat unhealthy.
But let’s face it, after three years, hindsight comes as a mirage whereby the process of idealizing and framing the person in an overly flattering light is almost inevitable. So, given my revised view of this Bill and maybe a renewed compassion, I decided that we should reunite.
Luckily, I’ve been burned enough to at least have no false expectations – the voices of reason still being audible.
So I went and met with this Bill of mine. And you know what I found? There was a reason for our sabbatical. Oh, our meeting wasn’t horrible, it’s just that he spent an hour and a half talking about himself… his achievements, his whirlwind lifestyle, dropping fabulously famous names… and that’s fine, but literally after not having seen him in 3 years, he barely asked a single question about me. It was an “Oh yeah!” moment as I walked away -- the one-sided relationship, the confusing feeling of utter invisibility to someone who claims to care about me… it all came rushing back. But you know, the closet therapist in me actually has a pretty big tolerance for people like this because I rationalize “Well, they must NEED someone to listen, and I guess I’m okay with being that person to them”. But in all honesty, that’s not sustainable.
I don’t want to make our meeting out to be a failure, tho. I actually think of this particular Call Bill experience as a success. Against all odds, I was happy to know that we still shared that personal bond that we always had. I really don’t know how to describe it… a familiarity… a recognition of the person he is beneath all the b.s…. I don’t know, but it was palpable and I realized that I haven’t given up on this person, I’m just waiting to become visible to him. That may never happen, but NOT giving up on someone is a far better feeling than having irreparably frayed edges of relationships laying around. It was a good reminder, a good confirmation of my choices, and hope that bonds can still remain when everything else is gone.