Certain conversations can only be recollected, never reanacted. What I mean is: We talked at that bar for a good three or four hours, over beer after beer, one Heineken and Labatt's mixing freely with the next, and I could not even begin to tell you in detail the exact words we exchanged. This not merely a matter of time; of course everything fades sixty years, especially something as ephemeral as mere words in the air tossed back and forth between two old friends, but there is also a sort of sensory protection I believe my brain is now enacting. Images from that afternoon still highlight themselves in my mind, but after our initial awkward greetings, I'm left with a sense of the conversation, but not its concrete dimensions. Stuff has been veiled.
You might well say (and you could very well be correct): "Why would you remember a few hours of talk a good six decades later?" Yet I'm not playing linguistic games here; I'm attempting to parcel out the process by which my head does its thing. When one reaches my age, the simple fact that there is any awareness of individual acts of cognition in the first place is a pure celebratory bonus. (I've always stayed sharp, but the rise to one hundred years old will dull any blade.)
What I'm getting at is something deeper, linked to memory, and feeling, and the flutery vagueness of sensation. I can offer you the scent of those beers, the way that they filled up that pub and spread like blue smoke, as if they were the most pungent and fragrant dark ales that had ever been poured. Each sip and swallow seemed to heighten what I most needed from myself at that time. Had I any artistic talent, I could literally paint you a picture of the way that the light outside the slightly-cracked window slowly shaded, then inked the small lulls of our conversational ebbs, the sun almost waiting for any pause in the chat before another tint of the night was dabbed here and there. Our talk tempered the mood of the oncoming evening and the boozily kinetic vibe of the patrons that milled all around us like frantic fish in a tank. They were letting their afterwork lives dwindle down -- smoking their cigs, ordering another round of crisp fish-and-chips, slightly soggy with oil in some spots, Jurgen's stove-style small tic -- but our words seemed to encapsulate Henry Meadows and myself in our mutual pod of the past. I can no longer hear what someone says on the other side of a room, but I can still hear the bouncy sound of the clunky bar radio's big band music floating through the gaps in that closed-in small crowd, all those high and low notes somehow circumventing the bubble of the table we shared. It was like the universe had decided to augment the sensory aspects of this place and this time, because the cosmos somehow sensed other speaking opportunities would lag, or vanish altogether.
What I'm saying is: Conversation is a substitue for communion. I'm not sure that Henry Meadows and me ever achieved such a grandiose state, but I am certain that my mind has attempted to codify and preserve its visual essence and tilt, and I suspect that the words we bounced back and forth have receded with time to somehow compensate for this extravagance of compressed emotion and mood. I'm left with the essence of the essence, which is not diluted nostalgia per se, but something darker and denser and altogether more sad. I have to fall back on the depressingly tacticle reconstruction of words to reassemble what happened next. Mood might not be enough. Such a modified attempt to convey what we said will not offer up any kind of real truth, but it might be something like it.