“Old Friends…Old friends…..
Sat on the park bench like bookends… A newspaper blows throw the grass…falls on the round toes..of the high shoes..of the Old Friends…” as sung by Simon and Garfunkle.
I am having lunch today with a friend that, until two weeks ago, when he sat down in the barber chair next to me, I hadn’t seen or heard of since the early seventies. I would not have recognized him at all except for a hauntingly familiar gaze that sat fixed in his expression as he peered into the barbershop mirror. I searched my memory bank to determine where I knew that look from and it suddenly hit me that it was very similar to that of a young man that influenced the most essential part of my early maturity, the need to be honest and to be myself. Still unsure whether the provenance of that stare existed in the man that sat next to me, I forced my memory to chisel away at the years of experience that now formed his facial features and the weight of living that now smothered his once muscular frame. I suddenly realized the indelible physical elements of our existences are carved in our smiles, voices and the way we peer at things. All else is subject to change, except for the possible non-physical elements, like humor, or lack of it, or our practical sensibilities, or lack of it.
The benefit of being around friends, family and lovers for years on end is that we grow accustomed to the ever-changing transformations that age affords us. We don’t see the wrinkles and girth that bespeak our experiences with any crystal clarity, but take them on, as we do our own, with minimal resistance. We share diets, health clubs and moisturizers, all the while fighting the same battle that we gradually lose anyway, but with an adjusting eye to our own and others ‘improvements’. Yes, improvement is the right word because beauty in its full bloom is the most beautiful of all. And who is to say that in the autumn of our years the serene glow of stalwart survival isn’t as gorgeous a beauty to behold as any other. The charm of a blemish free face cannot compare with one etched with character, full of a life’s expressions. Though a toned body, of any age, still holds a greater appeal, than one that speaks of neglect, a bald patch or silver hair on the top of the head has become very appealing to my ripened eyes, as they relent to the irrepressible seasoning of the body, and I ultimately appreciate that success in living is to be still living at all.
As the guy got up to leave, his barber said, “See you next week, Mike”, and I knew it was one in the same man from my early days. Using the technology of today’s youth, I Googled him and found him on Linkedin and emailed him to verify the encounter at the barbershop. I look forward at lunch today, to having a shared reminiscence about our youth and the ensuing years that followed, and the still relatively youthful dreams of tomorrow.
The crooked smile, that had always generated a deep warmth within me - when I reflected on it - greeted me as I walked into our meeting place. The look in his eyes and the sound of his voice - that I had yearned to see and hear since encountering him two weeks earlier - catapulted me, for the briefest of moments, back to the time of a fantasy remembrance of what we shared. But, in as quick a moment as it takes for reality to set in, those indelible characteristics reformed around the lives that had altered the both of us. Our experiences had subsumed the fantasies we may had carried of a lost time and we left one another with an updated reality of the struggle and luck we've had in life. The hazy romantic reminiscences of what might had been - that we all carry about - crystallizes in the actuality of what has BECOME.....old friends bridging a gap in time...