As if it weren’t obvious, or as if anybody cared, I’m in the wild woods of upstate New York, planting a small orchard of fruit trees by our barn, watching our daughter dance around the farmhouse, and finishing a script due already. I feel untethered, unfocused, and unburdened by needing to be an active participant in the world.
There is a lot of work involved in just keeping up. I remember when I was a junior in college, still a virgin, and somebody mentioned their first time having sex. “Well,” he said, “I was eighteen, and you’re eventually going to find yourself having sex by then.” All I could think was, “actually, it’s pretty easy not to have sex.”
Likewise, on a slightly larger scale, it’s pretty easy not to be on any sort of radar; you need to keep up appearances, do the little things, or else you will simply fade away. Tessa explained a party trick – never say goodbye to the host, because slipping out unnoticed gives you credit for about an hour longer than you actually stayed.
I think of these two girls I knew at Carolina, both with brown hair, one taller than the other, very pretty, always hanging out together. One or both may have been a transfer, but I’m not sure. Our fifth year, in 1990, Salem and I hung out with them every few days. They came to every party early, stayed late, and we always loved their company. They’d bring movies over on a random weeknight.
I never said goodbye to them at the end of the year, always figuring I’d just see them around, in the happenstance serendipity we used to guide our social lives. But I never did, and they slipped away, and by the time they popped back into my head, it had been years since I’d seen them, and their names had been replaced by mountains of other data.
In the days before Facebook, this kind of thing happened all the time – the only difference in this case is that I remember that I forgot them. I’ve reestablished many old connections with the social media we’ve got now, from my first boyhood crush in London to an anonymous kiss onstage to old nemeses who’ve become trusted confidantes. But there are still lost friends, visible to me only in the wispy cirrus clouds of memory, small ghosts who haunt little thoughts like a forgotten word.
Some fancies come when you call them, and others require silence rewarded with sudden apparition. Not everything needs to be conjured. Sometimes you drop your book of spells on purpose.