Imagine seeing someone that you haven't seen in twenty-five years, someone you went to elementary school through high school with and haven't seen since.
That's where I found myself on Monday night, at a restaurant on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, anxiously awaiting the arrival of someone who was once a close friend - the kind you pass notes to in class when you're around ten years old.
A thousand questions were running through my mind. Does she look like I remember? Is she the person I recall her being? Will we have things to talk about, or will there be long awkward silences? Will she be someone I want in my life now, or will this dinner be a reminder that you can't go back again - anywhere. Will we have things in common like we did growing up, or has time and different life journeys forever altered our tastes and sensibilities?
I'm sure she had the same questions about me running through her mind. But she had the unfair advantage - she'd read my book. (You know the one - In Search of George Stephanopoulos.)
I cursed Facebook, the medium which reunited us, as I waited to see what the answers to these questions and so many more would be. I was dragged kicking and screaming to sign up in the first place, but it was my own curiosity that had gotten the better of me in the end.
Lisa showed up, beautiful and full of a self confidence that I had no recollection of her possessing. She was bubbly and vivacious and had a joie de vivre that was new and foreign to me. There were no long awkward silences. As a matter of fact, there were no silences at all as we tried to cram the past twenty-five years into a four hour dinner.
There were the inevitable surprises, like the fact that she always wanted to be an actress and had devoted a few years in her thirties to pursuing that. This came totally out of left field for me. But I'm sure there are things about me that came out of left field for her, though I don't know what they are exactly.
And then there were the differences - her adamant stand that you don't talk politics or religion with anyone, and mine that those are the things that really matter so shouldn't we be talking about it with everyone?
There were moments I was aware that I was meeting a stranger, someone I shared a history with, but not much else. And yet there was that history. It was one that included the things of childhood - like crushes on TV stars and bubblegum music, but it was also one that included the loss of a parent at a very young age. I wondered if she knew how much her mother's death when we were nine impacted me. I wondered if she knew that my outlook and choices were forever changed because I understood the fragility and uncertainty of life from an earlier age than most people contemplate those things. (Heck, most adults I know haven't contemplated those things.) I wonder if she remembered that I was there, that I didn't run the other way out of fear or sorrow or an inability to make anything better.
But these are not things I would ever broach with Lisa, though I think about them a lot. I was even reminded of it recently when another friend lost her mother. You would think it would be different in your forties than when you're nine, but it's really not. Pain is pain, and loss is loss, and the person I was who showed up for my friend as a child is pretty much the same person who shows up now. I don't know if it's that way for everyone else.
So Lisa and I made our way into the brisk New York night air and toward our respective bus and train, still talking and trying to put into focus the snapshot each of us would take away with us of who the other now is and what our life looks like.
I was clear that if we continued to be in each other's lives that it would be a new chapter, one not predicated on the past, but full of the fun and excitement of making a new friend.
So here's to old friends and new memories. Thanks for stopping by, and please tell your friends - the old ones and the new ones - to do the same.