Saturday, 19 December 2015

Finding a Forgotten Life.

I was going through a box of old greetings cards earlier, cards that were sent to me over the last twenty years or so and which I chose to keep for some reason. I was both surprised and a little chastened to discover how many people used to like me, and seemingly even value my presence in their lives. Two of those people are still around, three are dead (two died young) and the rest are long-flown and far-flung.

There were several from some of the actors I used to know during my time at the theatre. Their missives kept coming for several years after they'd moved on, and always finished with the question: ‘When shall we see you again?’ They never did; it was always I who drifted, not them. The two who are still around are the two who kept me on a long leash.

My habit of drifting away troubles me, and I often wonder why I do it. I suppose it’s because I always found it slightly incomprehensible that anybody should like me. I never knew what there was to like. And being valued always made me feel trapped in a cage of expectation that I feared might one day suffocate me. Maybe that’s what one or two people meant when they called me a commitment-phobe. And yet chastened is how I feel.

For once in my life I want to go and find some of these people and say ‘I’m really sorry I didn’t answer your letters. I’m sorry I didn’t take up that offer of a spare bed in Coventry where you were playing in panto. I’m sorry I rejected your friendship and drifted away. But do tell me, please, what was it about me you liked? What were those ‘fun-filled evenings’ to which you referred? I don’t understand. But could we take up where we left off?’

I won’t of course, and it wouldn’t work even if I did. There’s a process of micro-evolution that changes people day by day and year by year. If you don’t evolve together, you drift apart forever. Besides, there’s the loner gene to be taken into consideration.

On a lighter note, the card I found most surprising was an undated Christmas card in which is written:

Dearest Jeff,

I am so thankful to have made your acquaintance! Your friendship means a great deal to me… you make the sun shine brighter in my heart! Forever may we be in touch… I wish you the very best on your journeys…

May this holiday season bring your heart sunshine and inspiration! I wish you and your family the very, very best! Peace, love, health, and happiness to your lives! Much love to you, dear friend.


See what I mean? And what’s funny is that my first thought on reading this was: ‘Who’s Kate?’ I’ve known a few Kates in my life, but none that I remember indicating feelings of this sort. The most likely candidate is an American post-grad student I knocked about with for a few months over the winter of ’98-’99, which would fit with the Christmas card and the Oxford comma. But it was the most intensely unhappy few months of my life when I was even less worth knowing than usual. So what was that all about?

I wonder whether the reading of this little piece of personal history should be my Marley’s Ghost. I wonder whether the question of rehabilitation has any practical application now, since my opinion of the human race is falling with every news report, my sensibilities are becoming ever more singular, and the number of people I can tolerate for more than ten minutes continues to diminish.

Maybe I should wait to see whether I get the first of three visitations when the clock strikes twelve. If I do, the matter can remain open. If not, well…

No comments: