30 October 2010

Names That Popped Into My Head

Every once in a while, the name of someone I haven't seen or heard from in a long time will pop into my head.  Time was, not so long ago, when I would quickly forget the name mainly because, really, there was no other choice.  But now with Google and all those other marvels of technology, we can look up the names of those people, if we want to.

I was doing just that before I started writing tonight.  Whose names came to mind?  A long-ago---and I mean really long-ago--girlfriend.  A prof I had at Rutgers.  A boyfriend from a time long before I would ever admit to having had one.  And a former co-worker with whom I socialized in part because I actually enjoyed her company and in part to quell some gossip, if only by starting gossip of another kind.

As I've probably mentioned in previous entries, sometimes I get curious about people even if I'm not interested in seeing them again.  I want to know where they are even if I don't care to go there myself.  I guess I really do value stories over almost anything else.

Anyway, it seems that the long-ago girlfriend settled into life in a small town somewhere between the Potomac and Savannah rivers.  Does that mean she has a Southern accent?  If she does, and she still has her looks, she could be quite a distraction for lots of men!

The former co-worker is a lawyer in or around Chicago.  That surprises me and it doesn't:  She didn't seem to have the mind, or the mindset, for law school or law.  But, as I recall, her father and brother, and other relatives of hers, were lawyers.  Following in the footsteps of family members is not unusual; nor is wanting an upper middle-class lifestyle.  For all of her surface style (All those years ago, I knew I wanted to dress like her!), and for all of her ability to talk about Kirkegaard and Wittgenstein, she is an utterly conventional person, at least by the standards of the milieu in which she was raised.  At the time I knew her, I was only dimly, if at all, aware of that.

I couldn't find anything useful about the former boyfriend.  He has a common name, at least by the standards of Middle America, though he's black.  And he was a lot older--twice as old as I was when I dated him--so he may not even be alive.

As for the prof, with whom I took two French classes:  I think his name popped into my head because the prof with whom I had the conversation the other day reminds me, at least somewhat, of him.  Both are rather diminutive in stature and had to be, in one way or another, the toughest kids (if not physically) on the block simply to survive.  That alone makes them smarter than most others one meets inside the Ivory Tower.

That prof, it seems, has been writing crime novels under a pseudonym.  His wife--who, it seems, died within the past year or two--also wrote under a nom de plume and they co-wrote a book under yet another name.  And it looks as if he lived in Hawaii or still has a place there, and is now living in Arizona.

After finding out those last couple of bits of information, I realized this:  Transition or no transition, probably none of those people would recognize me now.  And I might not recognize them, but not only because they've aged.  (The French prof was in his thirties when I had him; now he's at or near Medicare age.)  

The kinds of people we were back in the day, and the contexts in which we met each other, made possible the relationships we had.  And those people, and those conditions, are no more.  So I have absolutely no idea of what I'd say to any of them, whether in an e-mail, letter or phone call, if I had any inclination to contact them again. 

Plus, I've found that, in the one memorable phrase of Thomas Wolfe, you can't go home again.  Or at least you can't return to anything you've left, or that has left you.  I learned that in my attempt to rekindle an old friendship early in my transition.  She was really the first friend I had, unless you count my mother and grandmother.  And, for many years, she was my closest friend.  Until recently, there were things that only she, or only she and my mother, knew about me.  

I mentioned that the people I thought about today might have changed beyond all recognition.  On the other hand, the friend with whom I reunited had not changed at all.  She even looked as she did when we were Rutgers students!  

That is exactly what I had hoped for:  to reconnect with the friend I first met all of those years ago, when we were about the same age as the students in my afternoon class.  And, ironically, we couldn't remain friends for exactly that reason.  We were having exactly the same conversations, in our forties, as we had before we turned twenty. And she was getting involved with the same kinds of men, and playing them and getting hurt by them, as she was back in the day.  As I listened to her, I could predict practically every word of her complaints.  And now she resents anyone who has moved on with his or her life, much less gotten what he or she wants. 

Oh well.  She's become what she's become (even if it is what she always was) and there's nothing I, or anyone else, can do about it.  I guess I can say the same thing about those long-lost names who popped into my head tonight.