I just finished watching the recent movie based on the C.S. Lewis story “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.”  Now, The Chronicles of Narnia were some of my favorite stories, and I bear no small amount of nostalgia, not least because they are tied up with all kinds of childhood memories.  My parents read these books aloud to us.  I remember the setting vividly.  Hair wet because I just got out of the bath, in an oversized T-shirt that served as a nightgown, curled against my dad’s side as he read a chapter or two at a time, then it was time for bed.  No movie can compare with that memory.  And, true to the trend started in the last movie, they took great liberties with the plot and cut out nearly everything remotely humorous.  Too many special effects to fit in, not enough time for humor.  But now I’m sounding cynical.  It is definitely one of the things I remembered and loved about the books though — these moments of levity!

After I cut the TV off I found myself thinking, “I wonder what Roommate thought of this movie?” Maybe it’s because we lived together for a semester and a half, but I have this recurring delusion that I could ask her something, and she could be emotionally honest in her response.  That we could meet as equals. The fact is that I can almost hear what she would have to say about it.  The words don’t matter, but the tone, the tone is so familiar.  Not really condescending — I don’t think she was ever condescending to me — but knowing.  Studied.  Didactic.

I had this feeling, even though the period of our cohabitation was during the front end of my emotional collapse, that we had this connection, that we were “friends” that would stay connected even after she moved out and I left school.  She was important to me.  So when I find myself thinking, “what would Roommate say about such-and-such?” it strikes this poignant, bittersweet note within me.  I’m not very good at staying connected with people, but with her I really did try.  Even until recently I threw myself at her.  I even tried to get her attention by being willing to read her novel-in-progress.  After the second bulk e-mail to everyone whose e-mail address she has access to, I started to feel just insulted.  I can’t be bothered trying to have a friend who only wants a beta.  I’m worth more than that.

I still feel a lot of sadness when I allow myself to access it, but it’s sort of like being sad that spring is gone, or that a favorite T-shirt is too raggedy to keep.  There’s really nothing to be done about it but accept, sigh, and move on.

V — my other great love — is far away in many ways.  I never realized it when we were best friends, but since we graduated high school I have felt…. less than.  I have recalled so many times that she helped me, shielded me from my own pretensions, guided me to a well-reasoned solution but somehow let me feel like it was my own process.  In fact I really don’t know her at all.  I never went inside her house — something I always resented a little, despite her protestations that it wasn’t fit to be seen — never paid enough attention to who she was, what her dreams and aspirations were.  I have no idea what her family was like, outside of occasional comments about her older sister.  In short, we were not the intimate friends I felt that we were.  I felt that we were intimate because she became a part of me, she had an enthusiasm, a patience for the supercilious, sarcastic, shy thing that I was.

Talking about this is really making me teary.  I try very hard not to regret the past.  I know I cannot change what’s past.  But I sometimes wonder, if I had been just a little kinder, just a little less self-centered, if I had lashed out less.  If I hadn’t been so broken.  Maybe she wouldn’t have gone away.  Maybe I would have been able to stay near her a little longer, grow just a little more into something I respected.   Something more like her.

We used to joke about having a place together.  We used to joke that she would marry my brother so we could really be sisters.  There’s no becoming a child again.  Those sentiments, however beautiful, would not play out in reality and I know that.  I wonder sometimes how I could have had such a connection when I was so otherwise incapable of connecting.  And so desperate to do so.  These friends I have had over the years, they have been such gifts to me.  Each unique, comfortable, hilarious, and with each parting sadness.  Every change in our lives, large or small, requires some small amount of grieving for the loss of what was.  I think maybe I never finished, or never allowed myself to admit what I was grieving.  Too embarrassed, or simply no forum for such an admission.

It’s late, and I still need to shower before bed.  A little black kitty is curled up behind my laptop.  The ceiling fan gently pushes cool air onto my arms.  The sound of outside comes through the open window.  I have my own beautiful things now.  Even though they are not the friend I so greatly desire, I can’t pretend these things aren’t worth loving.

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