Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Essay: Standing Between Then and Now

Perhaps it was my bionic denial skills that kept me from anticipating the emotional intensity of a dinner between old friends who hadn’t seen each other in over 25 years. Perhaps none of us fully anticipated it.  Perhaps only the ones who stayed at home had predicted how unfathomable it would be to sit at that table in a poorly air-conditioned vegetarian restaurant in Detroit without feeling like all your neural wires were popping and zapping and spinning wildly out of control while you sat there with a pleasant smile on your face trying to incorporate this new reality.

Even still, man, it was so fucking great.

We were gathered for a dinner preceding our official high school reunion. We were a group of people who deeply loved each other a lifetime ago. We were friends who spent good portions of our geeky adolescence laughing and crying and talking and playing and wondering and performing and kissing and sharing together. We came with our memories of the time we accidentally pulled the sink out of the wall in a seedy hotel. The time we were late for the performance, and we careened down the highway with our still-drying costumes waving out the window of the car. That time on the senior class trip in Montreal. We each carried a small pocketful of careless comments that stuck with us all those years later, still forcing us to check twice in the mirror to make sure to not appear “a bit much” or wearing the “wrong” jeans. And in those pockets we couldn’t help but to pack the still-chafing memories of fights, hurtful words, and the vision of your friend barfing all over your car.

“We are not even going to mention that episode,” he says from across the table with no further preface. My former best buddy and I smirk to each other. We know exactly what he’s talking about. In fact, I was just whispering in her ear about it. Sharing secrets between us like we used do so long ago. We laugh at him reassuringly, leaning our shoulders into each other in collusion. We remember, our touching bodies say to each other.

We gathered there as duel personalities, our teenage selves elbowing our adult selves out of the driver’s seats. As the past and present roiled the air around us, we made small talk about jobs and kids and housing markets. Isn’t this surreal? Hell yeah, it is, as we share in the in-between space with ten other people. Between past and present. Between childhood and adulthood. Between who you were and who you are.

Who are we? It’ll be days before we can remember.

Sitting in that liminal world with those old friends was a magical trick of magnificent proportions. I would go back there right now if I could, no questions asked.


  1. Me too.

    There was not enough time... not nearly enough...

    - Pat Gleason

  2. Agreed, I would go back there in a second if I could. Well stated, Miss Pamela.