Can you imagine us years from today, sharing a parkbench quietly
How terribly strange to be seventy
Old friends, memory brushes the same years, silently sharing the same fears.
~ Old Friends, Simon & Garfunkel
Late May-ish, it was, I think. The results were out. And depending on what they said, we’d either be graduates, or had to go through six more months, to appear again and then, perhaps, graduate.
He graduated. He scored well and was one of the high scorers. I did too. Neither at the top, nor at the bottom. We had to celebrate. Not because we had graduated, but we (mostly me) had escaped the stigma of another exam.
We smuggled some rum in my room that evening. (Sorry, Mom, Sis.) Sat in the balcony. Closed the doors tight, so that the family wouldn’t know. I’d tell them of the result tomorrow morning. This evening, for some reason, belonged to us. We sat on the warm floor of the balcony, dehydrating in the dry summer of the Deccan; we drank for a while. The sense of that moment was overwhelming. We were officially released into this big bad world. If I remember well, we didn’t talk much, to start with. What others scored was not important to us. At that one wonderful moment, nothing and nobody seemed to matter.
“Get away,” he said, without warning, ominously.
I looked at him blankly; (still) sober, surprised. It was still our first drink of the evening.
“You are better than the rest of us,” he offered.
“You’ve seen my scores, right?” I asked. A useless attempt at humour.
“They are no indicators of what you are capable of,” he seemed angry and concerned at the same time.
The conversation continued back and forth, for the rest of the evening. It seemed to me, he had made his plans to get away too. He was concerned for me, I thought, because I seemed to be emotionally involved, with the place and the people. We didn’t have much to drink, but it was one of the best evenings I have ever had. I should have known, that day onwards, that the volume of alcohol has no bearing on the quality or the value of a conversation.
We got away, soon enough. Both of us. And then we went far away. From the reference point, and from each other. Henceforth, we met, perhaps, once in a couple of years. Yes. That far away. Far can be measured in many ways: intimacy, emotion, geography, distance, beliefs, and communication.
24 years go by. In this period we met often, or not at all for ages. We worked together, even, for a few months. He calls me, today. From his new far-away.
“We are not made for this world,” he says. I agree with him, and say that I know this from 24 years ago.
“No, that was about you. It applies to me too, now.”
On a 24-year-evolution scale, he has evolved faster than me. We get into a conversation that tumbles between our current age and our 20-year selves.
Nothing has changed between us, but everything is different in this world.