We hadn’t seen each other in twenty years.
The whole way there, I kept thinking about what I would say if she had gotten fat and old. Of course, I would tell her that she looked great.
I learned long ago, through hard experience, that no matter what, you always tell a woman that she looks great. When I saw her, standing there at the entrance of the Pekin hotel, I couldn’t believe how good she looked. How had she maintained her figure all these years? After two kids. Molodyets, I thought. I didn’t even have to lie.
After Berkeley, I got married and had kids, she said, “because that’s what one does.” In addition to raising a family, she had also gone to law school, practiced law, learned and taught Hebrew.
Molodyets, I thought again.
We talked about old times, about Russia, about what had become of so and so. Just like old times, we still picked up on the same things and found the same things funny. And she still had the same thought-provoking ability to articulate things that I felt but hadn’t quite been able to figure out.
“You know, all of Shakespeare’s comedies have a dark side,” she said. I suddenly remembered being depressed after seeing a production of Midsummer Night’s Dream, as I thought about how often it seems that there is a demon that makes us fall for the wrong people and how many are condemned to unrequited love.
At some point, there came the question I was dreading: “So. You never got married?”
How did she know that, I wondered.
Moscow is a good place to be a single man, I said. She rolled her eyes with disdain. It was embarrassing.
She had gotten married and raised two kids, one of whom was already studying theater in Moscow. I was still at the social maturity level of a college sophomore. Even worse, I have to live in a country where the women all complain that the local men are drunk, lazy and unfaithful because I had never had much success getting women in the U.S. to go out with me. [Sw&Sp editors recommend the Russian verb прибедняться, as the key to understanding this last sentiment.]
But despite the eye-roll, she didn’t really seem to care.
As I walked home, I thought about how great it had been to see her. It would be a shame to let another twenty years pass. I was sure that she felt the same way.
A few weeks later, on Christmas eve, she sent me a blog entry about our meeting entitled “What Matters Most.” I expected a touching story about the importance of old friendships. To my horror, she had presented the evening as a contest in one-upsmanship with me apparently trying to top every one of her achievements.
But as I thought about it, I realized that I had misunderstood and that she was writing about herself and her own insecurities and about how meetings with old friends always force us to be introspective and to take stock.
I started thinking about the evening again, and what I had been insecure about, and decided to write about it from my perspective. This is the result. She had done it again – as I said, she still had the same ability to make me think. And for that I am grateful.
An (actually) touching story about the importance of old friendships. In no way earned by my blogging shenanigans.