all of the selves we Have ever been
We were young together.
Fresh and indestructible, we met on the cusp of adulthood at that time in life when heartaches heal and leave no scars.
We worked in the same office building. We knew each other’s bosses. We shared office gossip, and with our rolling eyes, we silently talked dirt about people in the crowded elevator. We made pots of coffee in the break room and shared stale pretzels from the vending machine.
We sipped gin and tonic at night clubs on Friday nights. Weeknights, we went to home interior parties as we each set up housekeeping. We lay over at someone’s mom’s house waiting for the parties to begin. The moms offered us the best chairs or cool drinks while hot pots simmered on the stove. Brothers and sisters wandered in and out of the house.
We were bridesmaids and house guests. We attended baby showers. We went on road trips together. We were fearless on the highway. What were ten or eleven hours behind the wheel after a week of work? Nothing!
We sat on hotel balconies facing the ocean. With our slender legs up on the railing, our bare feet warmed by the sun and the hems of our shorts billowing from the ocean breeze, we wrote silly poems on postcards to our families: “Dear Mom and Dadio, we’re sitting on the patio…” We howled with laughter at our cleverness and because we were relaxed and free and happy.
A lifetime of years passed. Occasional phone calls and emails formed a dotted line connecting the then with the now. Disasters did strike—cancers, hospitalizations, deaths, divorces, job losses. It has been 25 years since we last met in person, but there is no anxiety or self-consciousness, only joyful anticipation.
We all agree to meet halfway at a restaurant off a busy highway exit. The three hour drive between Columbus and Pittsburgh is too much for a day trip now. We travel only in the day light. Our new friends say, “Isn’t that too far to go alone? What will you talk about all day?”
Our cars arrive in the restaurant parking lot at exactly the same time. We each peer out of our car windows, squinting through our bifocals, each wondering, “Is that her?” The youth is gone from our faces. There is silver in our hair, wrinkles around our necks. We carry heartaches that did not heal, scars that did not fade. But that is not what we talk about when we are together. We howl with laughter at the same old jokes. We rehash the same stories. We remember together the people we have loved who are gone from our lives, the ones our new friends never knew or even met.
No explanations are needed. We knew each other when. We know each other still. We are connected at a mysterious core. They know my entire story and I theirs. There is no threat of judgment here. They have known my naiveté and my stupidity, my accomplishments and my courage. We are back on the balcony. We are clever, relaxed, free, and happy.
There is a truth between us that we do not need to speak. We know that we have moved to the head of the line, the front of the class. The time ahead is no longer endless. We are no longer indestructible save for the bonds of friendship formed when we were young together.
An earlier version of this post appeared as "We Were Young Together" in the Senior Beacon, May, 2018.