The bond, thick and thorned. Our youth intertwined, inextricable. I do not miss whoever he is now. I don’t know him anymore. I miss him as he was. I miss what he was for me when we met, that dark mirror.
His good friend Z brought it back to me, his sense of humor. They grew up together, and working with Z on a forthcoming publication for Rubedo Press this past winter, I saw contours of it, of that thing, the thing that made me find myself again, that stopped me from continuing down a wrong path, a path that compromised the very spark that lights me up, that powerful “I-was-born-to-do-this” work. He saw that spark in me like no one else had. And against that vision, seeing where I had taken myself, how far I had gone off my path, I knew my entire life had to change. Right there and then.
The dark mirror. He and Z fostered that together, back and forth, nesting layers of puns, unfolding like petals of a tight rose. No, not quite, more like a ranunculus. Brothers. They survived a nondescript youth. What would I know? I wasn’t there. But through my own dialogue with Z, I could feel their brotherly love, their laughter. It made me smile. Cherish who he was for me. The first time I felt this new appreciation, I also felt an impossibility. After all these years of silent anger and disappointment, how do you let him know you are grateful? Maybe there’s no way.
Looking again into that dark mirror, I sensed the electricity of youth. Our first meeting. The tension he invoked. The way he helped me find myself. By seeing me. Even if he couldn’t do anything with what he saw. His vision helped me see myself, and see all that was wrong. And more than that, it gave me the courage to do something about it.
I looked forward to seeing him again this summer. Z’s conversations with me brought back my favorite parts of everything that happened, even though Z and I never brought up our mutual friend verbatim. I was happy. Thoroughly enjoying and appreciating this complex past. I’m not sure he was ready to see me though.
He brought his new girlfriend with him. She foreclosed any chance of a real conversation. And you know, why would he want that anyway. He seems happy.
When I saw him, I felt a fondness for what was, and the crimes we committed together, and then came the inevitable thought of ‘what if’… and I know it wouldn’t be right for me now. Or him. There were deal breakers.
And I saw from how he acted this week that those things have not changed. I do not wish for a different outcome, and I’m sure neither does he. If that were to be, it would have been. But I miss his friendship. I love him as a person. Want him to be happy.
Reflecting on our past, I see so much sadism from both sides. His and mine. I’m sure he never meant to be as mean as he was, and after that happened, I couldn’t help myself, I returned his favor full force. We were young and mean.
I wanted to tell him that I got the letter, but to do that would open up a why. Another why. Another chance. And I didn’t want to do that either. So I didn’t say anything. Better to leave buried buried. Is that possible?
Dark mirror. Look in; look how far I have come. Everything I wanted to change about my life after meeting him has happened. Phenomenal amounts of change. Spectacular. Most days I feel amazing. And then, seeing him, that tightness, that knot. That NOT. Why? Opening a why? Why?
This summer has already been filled with more solitude than I am accustomed to, but I feel like it is my role to meet the world properly now. I have needed more time than usual to recharge. Needed more breathing room … a gentle silence permeates. The world is small, but vast, and I’m reveling in meeting it with new eyes, and a new heart.
The early love of this winter didn’t make it past the spring. For the first time since peering into that dark mirror years ago, I am contentedly single. In love with the world, my friends, and the intense conversations we share. I’ve never known life like this.
The new girlfriend enveloped him like a blanket. A safety net. Her presence seemed to keep him from having connections with people at the conference… perhaps that had been happening to me before. Distraction. I am no longer interested in being distracted. Nothing is worth it. I know what I’m worth and what I want to accomplish. And there’s so much to get done.
It was refreshing to see him. His tone of voice, his smile. It’s just there. My old friend. Someone who changed my life forever. Appreciating it. Him. Not wanting to dial back. Just grateful for what was, in all its mess. It’s a very bittersweet thing to feel. There’s a helplessness. You have to sit with it. Just let him and it be. It makes you hold your breath a bit. A quiet mourning. Resignation? Not really. More like, a knowing nod. Smiling back to the world. Thank you for bringing all that into my life. Thank you.
He leans in to her, their hairs touch, whispers during the conference talks. She entertains him. He probably returns the favor. And she likely has no idea what happened three years ago. Or what happened two years before that. And all you can do is watch and recall what happened. Appreciate who he was to you. Appreciate what his person did for you. He didn’t do anything, but his sheer force of being forced you to be real. Forced you to grow up and own yourself, to learn how to be true to yourself. You are the one who made all the changes. But you did it against the background of his sense of humor. Against the background of your conversations. Conversations that changed everything. Conversations that changed your world, and therefore the world. And you had them with him. That’s what you miss.
And you’ve tested it. Asked him. He acts like he doesn’t know. He doesn’t take responsibility for the newfound integrity, for the newfound immensity of your new life. And he’s right not to. It wasn’t him who accomplished those things. It was you. Energy he unlocked in you, or caused you to unlock in yourself. This dark mirror. That’s what happens when you see him again. You see the dark mirror again – now foggy, muddled by age, neglect, and the missed connection – and you still see how far you’ve come. How much you love yourself more now. How rad your life is. How much freedom you have to be who you want to be, unencumbered by the compromise of relating, of even relating to him. (Even though you’re still relating to him now, still writing poetry against the backdrop of his being.)
So it’s this odd pain. Maybe the pain of maturity. Maybe. A kind of silent pain. A mildly nauseous pain… seeing him, hearing his voice, makes you feel the intensity of all that transpired to make you become who you have become.
Z, a catalyst, brought his voice back into your mind months ago. The sense of humor. The joy of discovering traces of him in his childhood friend. Time warps, straight back to feeling the joy unleashed by realizing that you’d been living a lie, been untrue to yourself, and you actually are brave enough to change it all. That bravery. That humor. That’s what you tap into again. And if you could just forget the wounds you inflicted on each other… you can just go back to that moment of bravery. The source of all the joy. Trusting.
Just recently another friend brought to my attention a Japanese word that teases out the nuance of this nostalgia: “Natsukashii (懐かしい): (adj., Japanese) of some small thing that brings you suddenly, joyously back to fond memories, not with a wistful longing for what’s past, but with an appreciation of the good times”
This definitely encapsulates the sense that has permeated this Mars retrograde for me. There is something so gentle and calm about this particular admixture of appreciation and pain. Feeling a quiet contentment to let it all be as it is, and do no more or less. Severing attachment to the carnal passion and the anger and disappointment, and directing the contact to fuel future action. More than anything else, it makes me double down on myself. It strengthens my dedication to the work made possible through whatever intense acrobatics transpired after our paths crossed. A reflection that happily confirms my independence and getting aligned with my integrity.
Feature photo: The path of the sun over his parent’s home. Solargraphs are lensless pinhole photographs with long exposure that capture the invisible movements of the sun and orient them visibly into the landscape.