…But with the disintegration that is “the community” after so long a time spent with others, people seemed to be over the idea of mystery. This too perhaps was encouraged by the milieu that made “oversharing” not over-anything, and pushed the notion of keeping some things private into the category of unusual and perhaps backward.
It turns out that Maggie was quite open with me in her description of her friendship with Lane, addressing the very real fact that her correspondence could be considered flirting. This connection was confirmed by Anson about a year earlier, when he recounted his inklings to their closeness when visiting the city. Since then Maggie had left leaving Lane the last man standing in Chicagoland, at least from our original band of misfits. With this blanket fraying and the years pummeling our youth and excitement out of us, there was little reason to not discuss something by now in her mind was mundane. The discrepancy between her perspective in sharing this and mine was not jarring, but nevertheless stuck out at me. May it be, in truth, that there was engendered a hidden romance between these two friends? Lane, over this past summer, alluded to it as well. He would have to back off out of respect for his friendship with her; Maggie, for her own best friend, his ex-lover. My youthful self sprang back into action through the revival of emotions: curiosity, perhaps a weird jealousy. I was not the third wheel by any means – a role I played with excellence and not any sparing number of times – but I always seemed to be around other friends who at one point or another coupled and shared the same mind that I was, simpering, oblivious to.
They had kept a correspondence with Maggie’s departure, though I was unaware as to how frequently they saw each other even before she left. I had wholly removed myself from the picture, both with intention (in the moment of leaving) and without (in the long run, my loneliness getting the better of me). The idea of “community” played an inordinately large part in my life in comparison with my friends, though I had never realized this until obliterating it nearly in its entirety. Fall out of touch for a year or so, and then see what happens. A friend of mine, Michaela, polarizing though who I seemed to regard quite favorably, warned me as if an omen to say I would never have the same relationship with my friends if I ever were to move back. Michaela is a smart lass but I admit her pronouncement smacked more of her own relationships than my own. Nevertheless, still paralyzed by fear for my financial wellbeing I could not see myself jumping across the country again to take a minimum-wage job with no apartment in tow. And my bed? Where would I sleep? Poor sleep hygiene kept me exhausted from thinking properly and kept my mind on loop, replaying meaningful encounters with friends and strangers alike, searching for moments that fulfilled my happiness and moments I had missed a crucial point of connection.
Despite all this, forgetting to contact Lance to once and for all ask when Maggie’s birthday was (she wrote me every year for my birthday), I was happy to still be in the loop in some regard. I had expressed regret for my shortcomings with her best friend, on whom I had made an egregious first impression in the depth of my intellectual experimentation on what it meant to be “polite.” Maggie countered with confidence that some people just clique with others, and, though this is quite true, it resonated that Tara, her friend, had quite poor judgments about me for one reason or another. Anson at one point described her characterization of me as somewhat of a “mush;” that I lacked confidence and drive. Acting in accordance with our gendered relations – a lens slowly turning into anathema in the current generation – this proved reasonable; Tara sought womanliness in her self and manliness in the opposite sex. It was no small surprise, then, when Maggie had relayed an underlying cynicism in Tara’s perspective on love and relationships in the past years, namely, an abatement in her desire to have children – a course unquestioned of someone who in the past so revered the role of wife and mother. Yes, people were changing, and though I was clinging to my role as a charming youth as if life depended on it, people were slowly shedding their personas that so markedly identified them as the vibrant characters that they were in the past. In the course of knowing Anson, he had shifted from troubled self-tormented youth, to an athletic, hopeful young man with faith in some sort of God; to a disillusioned lover and rejected philosopher, now to something even more stark. Anson spoke with emotion when I met him: emotion albeit stifled, but eking out of his eyes and pauses in conversation. It was a brief encounter that was not yet tinged by the turbid hollowness that I seemed to exude when too long with him: memories of my own emptiness in the apartment we shared still needed to die, and it was only a matter of time in an encounter this soon with him for them to creep into my behavior. We waited outside a French eatery on a narrow tree-lined street in Williamsburg, shaded from the blistering wealth of spoiled girls that tramped around a few blocks closer to the L train. He had disappeared for about four and half months: no small amount in my calendar and rarer than gatherings with a certain friend of mine who didn’t even live in the city. He rose to embrace me and subsequently lifted his arm in the same act of vulnerability that was so characteristic of him, though I noticed immediately on his forearm was a tattoo of a sperm whale.
He had relayed to me over text that he had engaged in a brief romantic relationship and soon fell out of it and into a depression. He then in the same message sprang on me that he was moving to Colorado next month. I suppose this must have been the same effect that I had given to my friends four year earlier; I was remorseful for the pang I felt now. I was careful to note the timing he laid out in his story, repeated at least twice, which did not share the same dates. First he had mentioned he had started dating a woman in late June or early July: this was unsatisfactory (I had reached out to him mid-May with no response). He then later over the course of dinner with others said he met her in May; this was considerably different in my mind and I wondered if he amended the timeline from his first retelling (Anson is no fool, quite lucid in his ability to detect suspicions from insecure fellows like myself). He had everything, he said: a girlfriend, an apartment on his own, a dog, a job, etc. Yet he was unhappy and realized his need to move away in the middle of brushing his teeth with his lover one morning. He had bought a car, as well, a purchase which to me was unfathomable. He was able not only to do this, but save enough money to both live on his own in Greenpoint and move away without a job. I do not know where the idea of six-figures came in at some point during the last year or so: but it was little secret that he was doing well. I abided by my friend to not let my want of funds taint this relationship, as it had started to do so while we lived under the same roof last year. The discrepancy, particularly the idea that he was able to buy a car, was unnerving.
These were details that were relayed over the course of dinner. Thomas, the friend of ours who visited New York for work a considerable amount over the year, had brought his girlfriend, an artist and woman of the age of thirty-one. Anson’s girlfriend was thirty-seven, he said, ten years older than him. He said that now was the time to move; he stated with a frankness that soon he was to be thirty, and at that I noticed the girlfriend’s face drop. It was a weird predicament to be in: we were no longer “young,” as it was, because we were already adults and fast leaving our twenties. Maggie, too, had rebuked herself for not following her own fanciful timelines: widowed from a wealthy man by thirty. I was one year older than Anson and two years older than Thomas, though I was considerably poorer than both of them and with no clear direction to what the next five years of my life was going to hold. I had been obsessed with fleeting beauty and possibility and it left me gravely depressed while I was still young. Anson’s eye, shifting to the left of my own, saw the fine line that ran to my cheekbone like the trace of teardrop and I felt I was doomed. He, too, mentioned wrinkles; he was still quite youthful-looking, it was no doubt, but something about his age started to weigh on his mind, and he began to almost reluctantly confide in me an unhappiness with his circumstance in needlessly philosophical terms. After this somewhat disquieting confession he left me abruptly and I was immediately disheartened. We had been waiting for our trains in the station and stopped short where we were to part ways, still talking. The courteous thing to do was to wait until the rumble of a train met our ears, but he hurried off before that with the excuse to walk his dog. The abruptness – really, quite a shoddy escape from my presence – offended me, and I signaled to him from across the platform (from which we were to inevitably gaze at each other, dumbly) an imaginary watch and the mime of chatter with my hand. “We still had time to talk” I mouthed, with a shrug to punctuate my message with confusion. I looked away from him and stood watching the the end of my own platform, erect from indignation and false pride as I leaned against a bearing. If he wanted to be impersonal, I thought, if I was too annoying for him, then I won’t be groveling to meet his eyes; no. I turned at the last moment when the train wiped his form out of view in a gesture I perhaps thought had some meaning; though who knows what it meant as I glanced what seemed like him looking at me. I could not text him with anything plaintive: he had, in effect, paid for my whole meal save the eleven dollars I had in cash to contribute.