Last Saturday, I was checking out some books at the library when a woman next to me at the counter said, "Claire?"
I turned towards her, trying to connect her brown face and short black hair with a name. Blank. Within seconds, she let me off the hook by saying her name, "Endi."
It was all I needed. I knew exactly who she was, or perhaps more precisely, who she had been. "Endi! Hey!"
"I knew it was you, Claire. What a surprise! Do you have a few minutes or do you have to go?"
Endi had been a friend and classmate in high school: smart, gullible, more naive than I was, and shy though I think that was more of a cultural thing. Her father was Indian and always favored and supported his annoying youngest son over his two daughters. Endi didn't seem shy anymore.
We'd done plays together and hung out with the same group of friends. Her family had moved away during junior year, and we'd lost touch. She'd filled out as an adult and now looked more like I remembered her outgoing, worldly, older sister, Daksa.
Daksa and I had worked at the very library I was now standing in back in high school. Our sensibilities just clicked. She was two grades ahead of me, and when she graduated, we exchanged letters and postcards sporadically for several years before losing touch. Daksa had that most admirable gift of being a great letter writer. She wrote one of my favorite things ever as a sign-off: Stay with clarity.
Endi, on the other hand, I hadn't seen or heard from since I was 17. Another lifetime had transpired for each of us since last we saw each other.
We moved our conversation to a bench outside and she peppered me with questions. "How long have you been in the area? ... I heard you were in California making movies. No, wait, start at the beginning. Where did you go to college?"
In chronological order, I started describing the last 18 years in condensed form: college, grad school, cross country moves, filmmaking. She listened with an attentiveness that I don't often encounter (if I exclude myself), making the occasional interjection. "That's fascinating. There are a lot of parallels between your story and mine."
I said, "It can be your turn any time," because I didn't want to dominate the conversation.
"No, I want to hear the rest. Then I'll tell you mine."
When I got to living in Tallahassee for the second time in my story and said, "My therapist said she never tells people this but...," Endi interrupted with a laugh and said, "I guess we're not holding back."
It hadn't really occurred to me. I was just describing my life as it came to mind. Having been in therapy for depression years ago didn't seem like a big deal to me at all.
She said, "This is the most real conversation I've had in ages. I hate small talk."
"Me too. I'm not good at it, so why bother?"
All tolled, my second life's story took about twelve minutes, as did hers. When Endi mentioned a significant breakup during her story, I realized my past relationships and being bisexual hadn't come to mind during my recounting. You'd think the ex-fiancee would've been worth mentioning, but honestly, I was proud of the fact I hadn't thought of her. In so many ways, she isn't an important part of the story any longer.
As for being bi, it's not something I did, it's something I am. There's always more people to come out to, I reckon. Another time.
Before parting, we exchanged numbers and email addresses. After all these years, her handwriting looks the same. With all the typing I do, my handwriting has gotten much sloppier, except for mathematical notations.
I'd felt fine, at ease even, while we were talking, but once I got home, I was quasi wired. Amped up on adrenaline from being that social, or perhaps an onslaught of nervous reactions after the fact, or nervous about possible future interactions. All three probably. It took about a day to smooth out. Really, I think it's a wonder sometimes that I'm not an alcoholic or a drug addict.
A year ago on TTaT: Yard art