or seeing anyting as much as I do you
I take for granted that you're always there.
I take for granted that you just don't care.
Sometimes I can't help seeing all the way through.
It's important to me
that you know you are free--
and I never want to make you change for me".--old Todd Rundgren song
My friend Tim has a huge wrap-around leather sofa. I know this sofa well, because I do not like very much to sit upon it. When I'm in my parents' home town, I like to drive about and find outdoors places to be. I've not sat on my friend Tim's couch in years.
I feel a bit badly about that, because Tim is a really great guy. I have only seen him once in the past two or three years, even though he and his girlfriend have had a child. I love children, but I've only met his little girl once, when we bumped into his family at a cafe. Her name is "Mia", which is just a lovely name, to me.
Tim works in the little town from which I graduated high school, for a Kroger store. He is one of the brightest people with whom I went to school, but careers and higher education did not interest him. What, after all, is the point?
Tim and I used to spend college Summers playing chess game after chess game. We'd go to touranments in Hot Springs and Little Rock quite often. Our circle of friends used to get together to play Risk in high school and college, while albums by Jethro Tull, Springsteen, Bowie, and, later, U2, spun on the turntable. We'd hit the sandlots for spirited games of basketball and touch football. Every Thanksgiving, dozens of young men, 18 to 40, would show up for an annual Thanksgiving afternoon football game.
Tim and I could talk for hours. We'd drive off into the mountains or hike up Pinnacle Mountain State Park, just outside Little Rock. We had that understanding that people who are very different but have sympathy of thought sometimes have. Tim was and is well-read, well-musicked and a very thoughtful guy.
I can't say quite why we drifted apart. I think a good part of it, of course, was my decade in California. Another reason is that when I go to see my parents lately, for various good and sufficient reasons spending time with them is very important to me. I don't spend as much time with friends when I am in Camden. Tim does not really like to e-mail, either.
A part of it was my dread of going to his apartment, and sitting on that huge wrap-around sofa, all mildly awkward with friends and spouses and significant others and slightly stifled air and the television playing and less of the free fun of younger days.
There was a time when we both explored rock music, and hunted out things that fit outside the mainstream. I remember the Summer when he shared an apartment in Little Rock with me, and we both got addicted to the Residents' "Buster & Glen/Duck Stab" album. We almost suspected it of being backward masked, because we found it so hypnotic. "Here I come, Constantinople", indeed. When my friend Gene (and his half-girlfriend of the time) and I saw the Residents' 13th Anniversary Tour some years later, hearing "Constantinople" was like coming home.
My friends Tim and Gene would come to Dallas during my single days and we'd all go see REM or Guadalcanal Diary or Echo and the Bunnymen. I remember going to see "Unbearable Lightness of Being" the same weekend as one of the times we saw Echo and the Bunnymen. I improvised new lyrics--"This movie's too long--bring me the Cutter". I think I still have a crush upon both actresses from that film. I still remember with fondness Tim's ex-girlfriend from college Michelle, though Michelle and I never dated at all. She was just a great person. I do not know if Tim understood that until after he stopped seeing her, but isn't that always the way? I am not sure where Michelle is now--our mutual friend Don would know. For that matter, I have not seen Don in years.
Don and I went to high school together, as did Tim, but I first got to know Don when we both worked for an industrial park company one Summer. I am one of those "hard working" manual labor types, while Don is one of those "they put us out here by a missile silo with lawnmowers in the middle of nowhere all day--I'm going to have a cigarette" types of manual laborers. Don's girlfriend of that time wore purple nail polish, purple eye-make-up, purple nail polish, and purple clothes. Her perfume even had a vaguely purplish scent. She was an attractive girl, but she dropped Don when she transferred up to the University of Arkansas from the tiny college she and Don had attended.
Don and his second wife and I were great friends. She wanted to make Don into a Baptist, but religion didn't quite "take" with Don. I don't know where Sherry is now--she was a delightful person. I think Don just finished his fourth marriage. He's not had good staying power in marriages. He's incredibly charming, and a really good guy. He lacks that super glue that makes relationships hold together.
Women love to have a first date and a second date with him, but for some reason rarely desire a third.
Yet, paradoxically, he is probably the most marriage-addicted of the lot of us. If God grants him seven decades, I don't doubt but that he'll have seven wives. If at first you don't succeed is among his credos--he is a darn good salesman.
Don's son, Don Michael, is utterly charming and a complete chip off the old block. It gives me comfort to know that Don's DNA, fun-loving, charming and so all-American, will carry on into the next generation. I have not seen Don in two years, because I have not been to Little Rock in that time. I must remedy that, and track him down. We took Don Michael to an IMAX and a planetarium show last time. That is what I call living.
As I sit here, a flood of memories, all good, washes through me. It makes me realize that I can't let these strands of my life continue to lie dangling. It's silly to let an irritation about being cooped up in a stifling sofa-room put a distance into a friendship. It's silly not to pick up the phone sometimes.
The funny thing is that some of the peculiarities in people that push me slightly away are things that I actually rather treasure in them. It's so easy to forget to savor familiar friends and places.
Then, of course, there are the more distant friends, and the friendly acquaintances. What became of Tim and Don's great friend Tammy, the nurse and later state bicycling champion? I have not spoken with her since we stopped living at the same apartment complex, twenty two years ago. I heard she married a doctor--I hope it all worked out well for her. How about Walter Hedges, three doors down in the dorm hall, who sang "Roxanne" and "Like a Rolling Stone" in a hoarse shout at the top of his lungs with the stereo putting out full wattage?
Even the people to whom I was not close years ago, but liked--what happened to them? Our local group's "perfect couple", Linda and Ben, who always broke up each early Fall but were together the rest of the year. Are they married someplace with kids now in college, or
did some early Fall turn their heads in other directions? I don't remember their last names, but I remember he played hockey and her major was art. They led a consciousness-raising presentation about tolerance about sexual orientation for our church group, which was useful and good. I don't think I did anything much useful or good in my college days, other than perhaps duly savor well-friend chicken friend steak.
My friend Jeff's first wife Lana--she seemed so young in my twenties, but now I believe she has a teenager of her own from her second marriage. Even curious MK, who had to settle for his MS because he kept blowing up the chemistry lab (or some such, I do not know the full story)--did he stay happy with this great love M., or did they go a different way? Google helps, sometimes, but it is not all-knowing. Given the maiden name problem, it sometimes only answers part of the questions.
Even people with whom I stay in touch, like Greg, I don't always see that often. I don't think I've seen Greg in roughly a decade. Yet he's just up in Tulsa, five hours away. I suppose it's time to pick up the phone.
I do keep up with some folks a bit. I e mail with Dyke every couple of years. She's one of the few people I know who "achieved all her dreams" professionally--and yet I wonder what her life is truly like to live. J. and I write several times a year, and speak by telephone a few times a year. I'd never have imagined her as a state regulator when we were in college, but it makes perfect sense, really.
On the other hand, my friend Jodi Anne, up in the Scots wilds teaching literature--what else and where else could she possibly be? It's a homing pigeon thing, even though she started in New York. I should write again--I think that the ball's in my court.
Of course there is always R. to think on, but what is there to say about the woman you wanted to marry when you were 22, but didn't? There's everything to say, and nothing to say, as they say. I think I managed to spout out some hurt feelings a couple of years ago, and that was such a silly thing to do. Much water, long bridge. I wish her well, and I'll try to be a better friend.
I sit here tonight, thinking of the idiosyncracies of all these folks--their joys and sadnesses, loves and losses. I miss everyone of them, and I would change not one of them not one little bit.
I'm going to make this a project--re-connecting with the past, a bit.
We knew so many colorful people. It's a shame to let the colors fade away.