The time came once again for our annual spring migration to Chico Hot Springs, at last. My friends and I rent a chalet there and turn it into Lake Estrogen for a weekend in Spring just to let the wild out and marinate ourselves at the same time. My friend Tom from college happened to be heading for civilization from his home in West Yellowstone to get provisions, so we arranged to meet for lunch in Livingston, and find out which of our memories matched, and which turn out to be fabricated.
On approaching Livingston about a half an hour late, I remembered a shortcut (‘nuff said?) and extended our quota of lateness by a bit. By the time I pulled onto the street with the pub at which I was supposed to meet Tom, he was just striding out to his truck. I knew it was him even though I technically hadn’t seen him since 1979, and I knew it was his truck because he was dressed all retro in a leather vest, with a fluffy pony tail, and his truck was dressed all retro in purple and white stripes with about a foot and a half of snow on top of the matching purple and white camper shell. He had said that he only dug his rig out of the West Yellowstone snow for special occasions, and this was it. As I turned onto the street I opened my window and pointed my finger vigorously at him, saying “hey, hey, hey!” or some such recognitional nonsense, just to stop him from jumping into his truck and driving away, as he seemed poised to do. He was probably thinking that his old acquaintance from the college for freakishly smart high school drop outs who was also single and also living in the backwoods of Montana – hugely overeducated timber trash, just like him – had failed to show up, and damn it, he had tenderloin steaks in the back which could thaw if he didn’t push on pretty soon. That might be what his line of thought was, but given that there was still a foot and a half of snow on the top of the camper after he drove it a hundred miles or so and went shopping for a couple hours suggests that the tenderloins were in no need of rescuing by a putatively spurned man.
In any case my traveling companion Alisa did some swift and dirty calculus considering the facts and the appearance of the man, and adroitly mentioned as we slid into a parking spot across the street that if he smelled, she wasn’t staying. Surely she had a valid concern, given the information at her disposal, but I have to admit that the majority of Tom’s appeal to me was that he was so similar to me, and, that being the case, it might just be that people suspect that I smell, too. Well I’ve got my tubby, my tubby, so much better than a hubby, so you can be sure I don’t smell (much), but now that Alisa brought the subject up, I realized that its not unlikely that a friend of Tom’s might have the same reservations about me. So its lucky, I remembered, that he had mentioned that he hasn’t many friends. We met up with Tom in the middle of the road, where he gave me a great big hug and said that he’d always “had a thing” for me. Cars whizzed past.
Having decided on the spot to treat that statement as jocularity (he admitted as much later), I followed my new/old friend into the restaurant. The rest of the meeting went fine, if you consider two people exhausting mutually murky memories for as long as it took for them to start emitting “well…”s in an effort to find some memory or confluence of interest in our current lives as ‘fine’. Otherwise it was just failing to mesh. Our lunch came, and the prospect of continuing to be perky and interesting got a little grim. The rest of my contingent of women weekenders arrived, and Alisa welcomed that opportunity to stop attempting to look interested in our efforts to remember who Cameron Farquar and Mit Allenby were, and join the women at the bar, leaving me to my own devices.
It turns out that we did know each other, or at least we must have, since he was chums with my boyfriend of the time, and had even attended parties at his cabin in Vermont. He was involved in the whole “Cone” phenomenon (lets skip the particulars and just say that it involved calling every thing “cone” this and “cone” that. My bus was the Cone Bus and the stray dog was named Cone Dog), which carried on throughout my career at Simon’s Rock Early College. He was in with the fratty, party boys, whom I avoided because one of them derisively called me “one of the beautiful people” and I took umbrage. But I didn’t take it far, and just drifted around unaffiliated with any clique. The more I dredged my memories, the more I thought I might have known him, but for all I know its just ‘recovered memories syndrome’, brought on by the power of suggestion. His inability to remember me was more surprising, since he could even remember which classes he had, what the professor’s name was and who else was in it. I have a vague notion that I attended class occasionally, and learned quite a bit, but that’s about it. I remember having to re-type my term papers over and over to winnow out the typos.
What’s interesting to me about this man is that not only did he show up, but he brought with him an (impressive) list of people he remembered from college – so we’d have reference points to work from in our reminiscing – but a couple of DVDs and a book for me. He’d thought about this meeting a lot more than I had. But then there we were, in the pub together, stumbling over whether or not to look each other in the eye and for how long, until he just bailed. He had to head back to West before it got dark, since his headlights didn’t work. Alarmingly, the fact that he chooses to just not drive at night rather than getting his lights fixed seems normal to me. I guess opposites attract, since there was no spark between us. There was no good-bye hug.