The other day I received an out-of-the-blue email from an old running friend of mine from high school, Tim Ames, who I hadn't heard from since I was seventeen years old. I even remember the last time I saw him, the day I pulled out of a race at Copps Coliseum in Hamilton because my leg suddenly decided to go bonkers on me. And now here is, twelve years later, alive and well and living in western Canada, engaged to be married, doing well. He survived; I survived.
You remember that line from Stand By Me? "Friends come in and out of your life like busboys in a restaurant." It's so true. When you're young, you meet people, hang out, chill, and then wham -- they're gone, and you usually never see them again, and yet they've somehow been able to carve a little gauge in your heart that, if you're lucky, turns into a scar.
There's that old saying: "There are two kinds of people in the world -- those that leave home and those that stay. The former are usually more interesting."
I agree with that sentiment, but at the same time, it doesn't really matter; if you stay, somebody's leaving, and if you leave, somebody stays behind. There's always the residue of life, its emotions and memories, left behind; there's always a kind of resonance that can still be heard and felt months, even years later. Perhaps it's nothing more than the abscence of an individual whose life intersected with yours.
We all know that growing old sucks -- nothing but work, family, crises, mortgage, retirement and, eventually, death to look forward to. (With some compensations in between, I'm
And yet, there are these other, more intricate layers and circuits that we are never really told about because they form part of an emotional matrix that people take for granted, not properly recognizing these pathways as the pulsing heart of our interior lives.
We are young for so short a time and old for so long (if we're lucky.) We leave behind our childhood and adolescence like candy wrappers dropped casually on a random street, because what other choice do we have, really? We can't stay in the past; our bodies and minds won't let us, and most of us wouldn't choose to to do that anyways. (Pee-Herman, maybe.)
But I think, for good or for bad, that's where we're shaped, during those first eighteen, nineteen years of life. We form views of the world based on people we've met, places we've lived in, teachers we've slept with. (I'm joking, I'm joking.) Our lives intertwine with so many others in so many small and insignificant ways -- the paper boy, the elementary school janitor, the convenience store clerk who smokes and reads Cosmo as if it's Tolstoy.
The refreshing, surprising and oddly reaffirming notion that arises when hearing from somebody who knew you when you were a kid is this: They knew us then, before all the bad and tough and confusing stuff happened. (At least, the adult version of the bad and tough and confusing stuff.) They knew you before anybody else did, and that's how they remember you, and perhaps they're your link to your younger, purer self.
Or maybe it's less dramatic than that. Maybe it's just a simple human thing, this contact with someone who shared a certain portion of your life. Maybe it's just a pleasant diversion from life's grittiness, a blast of nostalgia that could lead to a greater adult friendship, or even just goodwill, plain and basic goodwill, that will linger through the years.
I asked Tim if he knew what had happened to some of our old running buddies, and he wasn't sure; for now, they exist only as memories, even though the real world, I'm sure, has pushed them on and forward. But he said that my brother had mentioned an idea of a 'running reunion' somewhere down the line.
I hope it happens. Because we all know that even busboys in restaurants sometimes hover and linger around your table longer than expected.