Monday, March 21, 2011

Alabama On My Mind

In 1998, I moved into a townhouse - part of the old base housing on what had been the Lowry Air Force Base - with a girlfriend of mine from Wyoming - the original Sunshine Princess - and an old friend of hers from Germany (by way of Alabama and we're going to call him Alabama for the purposes of this entry even though he may take a bit of offense to that as his spirit never was really a part of Alabama), a man I'd never met until the day we moved in together.

Frankly, I had reservations about the living situation.

The Sunshine Princess and I, while we were good, close friends, were also polar opposites in many respects. And, while I know this is going to be very hard for most of you to believe, at the time, I was extraordinarily rigid in how I conducted myself and my life. Let's just say, I was emotionally Closed to Most Business.

Throw in an unknown third party then and yeah, I had more than my fair share of anxiety. Surprise.

However, given that I was living with My Father and pretty much Over That, it was a way to escape...the only escape plan I could afford. And I took the opportunity. Not blindly and certainly not without trepidation. But Roommate Hell is most often better than Father Hell.

I guess you'd have to know my father.


Surprisingly, from the very first day, Alabama and I were connected. Perhaps it was because we had mutual interests...he was a writer, a classical musician, well-read. Whatever the reason, we found fast friendship in one another and, with the exception of Turlough (his cat) getting trapped in my bedroom and pooping on my bed that one time, I have no recollection of any tension or hard feelings between us. What I remember best from that time were all the nights he and I sat out on the back stoop, smoking and talking until the wee small hours of the morning.

The Sunshine Princess and I...hell! The Sunshine Princess and Alabama were another matter entirely.

I won't say it was awful all the time. Because it wasn't. There were many days that passed unceremoniously and occasionally delightfully in our little house. But if there was tension, and sometimes there was plenty, invariably that tension was either between her and me or between her and Alabama.

That wasn't her fault. It wasn't mine. It wasn't his. We just had 3 strong personalities living together in quarters that were perhaps a bit too small to accommodate us all sufficiently. It happens to the best of us.

Eventually, as Alabama and the Sunshine Princess gained their footing in their adopted home city, we began to grow apart and lead very separate lives. The back stoop nights came further and further apart for Alabama and me and, once the Sunshine Princess found herself a Right Now Prince, she stopped coming home altogether.

So it was no shock when the Sunshine Princess would decide she wanted to live with her Prince. Around that same time, I would find a new job and purported to need a new place that wouldn't be such a commute. Alabama's life took on new directions as he decided to drop out of college and pursue work in technology...something at which he was quite adept. So our time together drew to a close. That was in 2000. Just before I'd find myself slipping over the edge of the precipice, clinging to a life barely worth living. I was beginning to run away...from myself.

I lost touch with Alabama completely. I would maintain an occasional friendship with the Sunshine Princess and, at one point, even consider moving in with her again so, through her up until 2005 at least, I knew a bit about his life. I knew he'd met (and married) a lovely woman. I knew he'd lost his brother in much the same way the Sunshine Princess had lost her own a few years before. Beyond that though, I knew little of where he ended up, how he was, what he was doing.

After 2005, I knew nothing at all about either of them. You know, about the time I would start to find my own footing.

Flash forward.

A few weeks ago, TC, good friend and brother of BFF Acr0nym, would casually mention I ought to consider the world of Google Buzz. *shrug* Alright. You know, more social networking...just what I more coffee or wine *snort*.

So I was checking it out. And, by checking it out, I mean I was perusing TC's buzz feed to see what kinds of things happen on Buzz.

And that's when I saw it. A comment posted by a person with the same name as Alabama on a post of TC's.


Poor TC. Poor Acr0nym. The two of them were grilled ferociously by me as I attempted to ascertain whether or not this was Alabama - one and same. It was. Of this, I was sure. Turns out, we probably have several mutual acquaintance friends in common.

I did nothing with the information. I wanted to contact him but I was (am) afraid. Gripped with uncertainty in the wake of my Physical Memory Dump...had I hurt him somehow when we broke up housekeeping? Would he remember me as fondly as I remembered him? Why hadn't we stayed in touch? I couldn't remember. I still can't.  Perhaps more importantly, would he be angry with angry as she was and perhaps still my selfishness in turning my back on the agreement to move in with the Sunshine Princess a second time?

I don't know.

What I do know is that, just a few days ago, I made a comment on one of TC's posts and Alabama saw it and asked if I was me. Yes, yes I'm me. And you're you. We now follow each other on Buzz. He posted a blog entry today and I began to read through his archives.

Almost 13 years have passed since that record-breaking heat wave we had the 2nd of July, 1998 when we saw each other for the first time as we shuffled our worldly possessions from cars to bedrooms across the hall from one another. He clearly doesn't smoke anymore. It sounds as though he's stopped eating meat. He cooks now...but then again, so now do I. He apparently doesn't wear a beard most of the time anymore. I never knew him without one. Would we recogize each other on the street?

And yet, also reading through his blog entries, I caught glimpses of the man I used to know. And even though he's clearly changed in many ways...just as I've changed in many ways...when he, out of the blue quotes Song of Myself or describes the beauty in a world full of tragedy, I have to think to myself we, somehow, have ended up in a similar place. Perhaps not physically, but we're still kinda right there mentally.

I think I'd like to have a back stoop night with him again one of these days.

Now...Alabama? Donde esta esso puente maldido?


Unknown said...

Even though I responded to this in Buzz, having a blog post sitting here without a reply makes it feel like the question is still hanging over my head.

I have completely reinvented myself a few times over the years. And I have a major self-consciousness issue that can make reunions with people from my past a source of dread. I may no longer be the same person that they knew. Will they expect me to be the same, or will they like who I am now? And what should I expect of them? It feels easier to avoid the situation than to find out if there is still enough common ground for friendship.

But there are plenty of absurd things about all of that. We can't grow without building upon the past. It's more of an evolution than a reinvention. And if I like where I've gone in life, why shouldn't a friend like it also?

So like you, Jane, after I saw your name go by in Buzz, I sat on it for a while before deciding to plunge in and reconnect. It's nice to discover that there's no reason to be so apprehensive, and that change can be more a source of interest and excitement than of judgement.

So I'm looking forward to a chance to sit down and catch up. A lot has happened for both of us since Lowry.

Just Jane said...

Jeremy? Thank you.

You were 20 when we met. I would hope you've grown and changed and evolved and re-invented! I know I have and I'm glad I have. Knowing that you have too - and that you like where you've gone - is wonderful!

I have no expectation about who you are now nor do I really care to re-hash our Lowry experience. What I care about is knowing you now, who you've become. The things I liked about you so much then are still very much present and accounted for now. I can tell by reading your words here, buzz, your blog.

We may discover we've got no common ground anymore (I don't suspect that's true but it could happen). That isn't important. What is important to me is, at the very least, seeing you, knowing you're well, and being able to tell you thank you in person for being such a lasting influence on my life.

I look forward to it!