I got an email the other day. One might not think so in our modern world, but I'm largely surprised when I get one. I mean, I get my share of junk and the occasional newsletter or order confirmation, but I seldom get an actual personal email. So when I do, it's something of an event. Anyway, the one I received was quite brief:
"Is this John Gee who graduated from Ranum High in Denver class of 1978? If not I am so sorry to trouble you."
In the 30 years since I graduated, I've had only two or three people attempt to contact me. Invariably, they were people with whom I really didn't want an association in my current life. The last one was years ago; I don't even remember who it was from. I don't think I replied.
This one was different though, and I replied at once. It was from the woman who I considered my best friend in thosedays. As I do when such things happen, my reply was equally brief:
"Yes, it's me. I just read this and have to run for work. But for my mortgage, this would be a longer reply. It's so very good to hear from you. I have thought of you often and fondly over the years, even tried to locate you a few times. How have you been?"
What has followed is a stirring of feelings that I've not felt for a long while. Is it nostalgia? Is it more? She and I didn't part badly, we just drifted apart. There was no acrimony or ill will. There was not parting embrace either. We just slowed and then stopped. We moved on.
In my life there's been a lot of moving on. There's also been none of going back. I've kidded myself into thinking that this means that my life has been moving forward. What is true is that I've been moving Away ever since high school.
The fall after graduation I moved Away from home. Six months later, I moved Away from my roommate. A year after that, I moved Away from Denver. And so forth. Always Away.
But now I'm thinking about that and what it means. I've moved Away from having friends these days. Away from any kind of actual social life really. That is not a new thing, but I have a new awareness of it.
But the email has provoked an emotion I wasn't expecting: regret. Oh, I have plenty of regrets for things that I've done poorly, people I've treated badly. But I've never had regrets about the direction of my life. But this week I realized that what I thought was a direction was just Away.
There are a ton of what ifs going through my noggin. What if I'd remained in Denver? What if I'd not married? What if I'd had some kind of discipline and wrote a novel at 18 instead of 43? What if and what if? What if my dear old high school friend and I had never drifted apart? Who would I have married then? Would I have? Would I have been one of the friends that she buried in the early 90s?
The upshot of this windy ponderance is this: what do I do now? I'm tempted to open communications with other people I left behind, people who hurt me whom I hurt. People who loved me whom I loved. And I wonder what happens then?
From one email, new possibilities seemed to have opened. Not opened like a door though, more like a narrow fissure. But there's light on the other side that I wasn't expecting. I wonder if I can be dazzled by it?