Moving isn't just about carrying your things from one place to another, but rather, almost a form of personal archaeology. In setting up anew, you find yourself opening files long closed and, instead of putting them quickly away, glancing through them, one name leading to another, like a late-night session with Youtube, watching videos of half-forgotten bands that once were favourites.
Putting my office into some sort of temporary order (I need a couple of more bookshelves!) really brought it home: sweet Jesus, but what a lot of people come and go through one's life! Or at least, have come and gone through mine. (And also: I used to write a lot of emails! Even more: There is value to have printed copies of correspondence; electronic archives seem much less likely to be serendipitously re-viewed. I digress.)
To cut to the proverbial chase, I ran into more than a few names belonging to people who had been pretty important parts of my life at times. Some for a season, some for years; some virtually, some in the flesh (carnally and otherwise).
What struck first was the number of people who simply aren't alive anymore. I still haven't lost many people to disease (I can't think of any, off the top of my head), but I've known far more than my share of suicides. Still others are to lunacy of one kind or another — unreasonable, alcohol-fuelled bitterness to out-and-out delusional insanity. Others simply to the bumps and bruises that see friendships end in mutual anger or disappointment.
But what struck strongest, were the names of people who had simply (or not so simply) slipped away. Wither Sonia P? We were friends for years, in Toronto and then in Ottawa, had a falling out and then — as confirmed by her file — reconnected a few years after that at a party and vowed to stay connected. And yet ...? Or Meri P. We hung out a lot for a year and a half or so. The file shows no break, no accrimony, but only an invitation to a party.
Did I go? I don't remember one way or the other. In truth, I have no memory at all of that friendship's ending, only that it was there and then ... not. I have only good memories of Meri and so, a mystery to go along with the nostalgia.
I am almost certain I've found both women (but not absolutely certain: people are much more careful with their privacy settings than was once the case, and 20 years combined with my memory's visual limitations, makes identification from photographs problematic). One still lives in the Ottawa area, the other in Toronto.
Neither is an ex, nor even a person towards whom I had romantic feelings, yet I am strangely hesitant to click that "Friend Request" button, or to send a note. Considering how few people I know anymore — especially here in Ottawa — it seems a no-brainer to say "Hi" — doesn't it?
I dunno ...
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