“Snake Moon! I thought you were dead!” The man’s voice, from the far end of the bar, cut through whatever conversation Terry and I were having.
I looked up from my pineapple hibiscus margarita (oh, Portland!) and felt surprised, complimented, and nostalgic all at once. Someone tell young Brian that he had lived long enough to experience seeing, and recognizing, a face he had not seen in two decades or more. Someone I worked with, closely, for two years, Clyde, walked over and we caught up.
Is it so weird to have old friendships? After all, the person sitting next to me at the bar was a man I had known since we were children in middle school. Regardless, it was an out of body kind of experience to talk to Clyde and to try to catch up on almost a quarter-century of happenings in the span of a brief bar conversation.
I told him that he had not changed a bit. I was lying, but more to myself. I felt the years in my skin and bones and brain and so I felt that I had changed much more than he had. He was still married to the woman he married when we worked together. He was still doing the thing he had always done. He still had hair on his head and a warmth in his voice and a twinkle in his eye, the smooth bastard. I felt weighed down as if by rocks snuck into my pockets. The rocks were bad decisions, disappointments, betrayals (mine of others and others of me).
There was a party, it would have been Christmas 1995? Can that be true? In a big Victorian house in NW Portland. I have tried and failed, to put it into words. Clyde was there, and he was dating Amber, a woman I thought I loved. “Dating” may be too strong a word—all I really knew was that they had arrived together. But my romance-and-entitlement-filled brain had cooked up a heady stew. Two people: one a man I considered a buddy, who had given me support during a hard time, someone I had bantered and laughed with; and a woman I had spent time (trying to) get to know, young and beautiful, who had felt safe enough to allow me my friendship for her. Together, in a festive house full of cheer. And me.
Amber kept talking about the Luxor Hotel, in Las Vegas, which had recently opened. A black pyramid with a laser light shooting straight up into the night sky. As I loved road trips, I proposed one. The three of us, in a car, to Vegas and back. I still feel the push and pull and ache of friendship and love and jealousy and hope. I still feel it.
If Whit Stillman had made a movie of that night it could not have been more perfect. Amber would be played by Kate Beckinsale, or maybe Winona Ryder. Clyde, tall, Southern charm, dark-haired, would be… Chris Eigeman? Me, I’d be… Bobcat Goldthwaite, but, y’know, not nearly as manic. A subdued, serious role for young Bobcat.
Of course we did not go on that road trip. Of course we did not. The energy of that night, of that season, never left Portland. And apparently neither did any of us.
I’ll have to tell Amber I ran into Clyde the next time I see her.