I drove 45 minutes up to the mountains in Phoenix to meet Big for lunch at the resort his company has him and all his fellow executive-types sequestered at. We ate lunch in the hotel's "businessman's restaurant", and the food was inexcusably expensive, mediocre, and inadequate in all regards. Neither one of us bothered to comment on the food, though, as we hadn't seen each other in over a decade.
It's not like we haven't talked in that time, though. I don't know when it stopped being weird, but somewhere along the line it did: he stopped being the guy who wanted to marry me and then changed his mind, leaving me a crumpled heap in the process. When I got over the shock of it, I realized that he had made the right call, and I got on with my life. It's hard to resent someone for giving you your life back, even if it hurt more than anything I have experienced before or since.
He's married, too, and has two boys just between the ages of my three. We had a lot to talk about -- not just the kids, and not just my health and his, but what we're doing with our lives and jobs (well, his current, my potential), and families and friends and books and music and all that stuff. He knows me, and I know him, and there wasn't a moment of discomfort between us.
Oh, I colored up when he asked me, "What did you do to your finger?" because I had to admit I had carelessly snipped off a bit of the top. And he was appropriately shocked and sympathetic about all the medical crap I've gone through -- we were talking a little bit about money, and I was going on about how we're doing well here, nothing specific you know, but then I had to bring myself up short because honestly, the medical expenses are huge and while they're not killing us, they're taking a big chunk. I said, "It invades every topic somehow, even when I don't want it to." Can't get away from the cancer.
But we managed. He surprised me once, bringing up the ballroom dance classes we took, which I had completely forgotten. We reminisced only briefly. There's no point in going there, because you run into the very painful times pretty quickly. I find it a little curious that I haven't wondered what things would've been like if we had stayed together: clearly, things would've sucked. We're much too alike to be together that way, and much better off as friends.
I don't think I was broadcasting waves of anxiety over that lunch, but maybe I was. Or maybe I was broadcasting waves of anxiety reviewing my work history in 2001. I don't know. But whatever the reason, I got phone calls today from one of my "best friends who is not a sister" in Boston, and another from my best friend in Virginia. Then I got a long, wonderful e-mail from my other "best friend who is not a sister" in Boston. Sometimes, here, I feel quite isolated. I have many aquaintances but few real friends, and it was really wonderful to connect with so many people from my past in such a short space of time.
All of us are lousy correspondents, but it never seems to matter. When I open the e-mail or pick up the phone, we are as close as ever. Shared history, of course, will give you that, and we have all endured some traumas and dramas together. It's harder now to add new events to that shared history, which is why I was willing to invest 90+ minutes of driving for a 90-minute lunch.
I've lived 2500 miles away for over a decade, but we're still not letting go.