I Looked the Other WayPosted: January 21, 2016
What do you do when you see an old friend? Someone you haven’t seen in years. Someone you used to spend so much time with. Someone who you once thought was your lifeline to the world.
I don’t expect people to recognize me. I’ve either gained a lot of weight or lost a lot of weight, depending on how long ago we knew either other. My hair hasn’t been this short in close to twenty years. I have visible tattoos. And I look happy.
So when someone I haven’t seen in forever is shopping, I’m usually the one who has to call out for notice. And I do, fairly often. I’ve seen former coworkers, former bartenders, even former friends. Usually, it’s a no-brainer whether to call out to them or not, a decision made in the split second before I realize I’m making one.
Today was different, though. Today I saw a different kind of former friend.
I saw him, and I recognized him immediately. He looks exactly as I remember him, exactly the same as he did twenty-something years ago. He’s with his wife and youngest daughter.
I talked to him briefly about a dozen years ago, and nothing since then. It was almost pure reflex to turn and put my back to him.
I don’t regret it. Even now, hours later, after reflection and writing this post. I don’t regret it.
Some sleeping dogs are better left to lie, and this was one. We were best friends once, he and I and two other teenagers, but when we split up, I was left on the other side of the rift for too long. We have little in common now, aside from being alive.
I think it would be different if circumstances had been different, if he and another friend hadn’t gone out of their way to make me feel like an outsider. I know that’s not exactly the case, but that’s how it felt then, and that’s what I’ve moved on from.
I know if I greeted him, he would have kindly introduced his family, and given me a hug, and we would have laughed about the time he told me that if I ran away and lived in the woods he would bring me food. And it would have been sincere, at that moment, but it would have rung false in my memory ever after.
We were all friends, and we all loved each other, but none of us is the same person we were then. I can’t speak for him, but it was easier for me to let him pass by without seeing me, to keep those memories as they are and not pollute them with false pleasantries. To remember what was and turn a blind eye to what might have been.
Easier, and sweeter, without bitterness.