Wednesday, January 11, 2012

What am I looking for still?

AOG, Madrid

My search for the eternal past continues, but this time I think there is a lesson somewhere which is staring me in the face, but I just can't quite put my finger on it.

Thanks to the magic of facebook, a couple of months ago I contacted a friend of mine from when I went to primary school in Mexico City back in the Dark Ages of Disco. 

As luck would have it, he was going to be in London over the Christmas season visiting his brother and his new niece. We agreed to meet and meet we did. I waited for him by the National Gallery’s entrance in Trafalgar Square. 
If you’ve been there then you know that the entrance to this wonderful museum is a bit like a balcony from which to wave to one’s subjects. It was raining and I stood right by the balustrade to make sure I could see him. 

This is important to know because this past Holiday season, I have been the coldest I’ve ever been in December. London was a continuous rain fest, and although it is usually not cold when it rains, this past December, it was cold all the time. 
So there I was, unprepared for the weather (because I, who am so smart, left my rain coat in Madrid and went to London with a knitted jacket and little else), waiting for my tardy friend under freezing cold and wet conditions. 
He showed up about 25 minutes later, but I was happy to see him. He asked if we should get a beer, and I suggested we went for coffee. 
During this time my partner had opted to let us meet before hand whilst he had a beer and then meet up with us. A wise move I think, though at the time I was very nervous and would have liked him to have been there. But in retrospect, I think is was just as well he wasn’t.

No drama, just a fact.

So my friend and I went for coffee at Costa Café in Soho. We ordered, we sat down, and we started to sort of catch up. We hadn’t seen each other since about 1980. Where do you start?

We did the usual, married? Kids? Job? bit and moved on. He started to ask about my accent in Spanish, how it was very soft and although identifiably Castilian, it was not thoroughly Spanish. “I can hear some of Mexico when you speak”, he said. And rightly so. You can. I like that about me.

It was then that I mentioned that my partner, who is from Spain, had a much stronger accent. 

A few sentences later I went from partner to “he”. And I could see my childhood friend almost jump back on the sofa.

There was a very apparent and even negative reaction to this bit of news. Maybe it was just surprise. In any case, I think he quickly came to terms with the new paradigm and our conversation continued.

Soon after my partner showed up. Introduced himself, and we stayed for another half an hour at the café. Then we asked my friend if he would like to go for a drink.

Yes, that would be nice!

We are going to a gay bar, are you ok with that?”

Silence lasting a very long second, then reply:

Well, erm, I am in London, and nobody knows me here, so I think it is ok”.

Nothing else was said and we continued our conversation as if his reaction had not occurred. Of course, it had, and at that point I was torn between wanting to chat with my old friend, and wanting to say goodbye to someone who might be slightly homophobic. 

Still, all those years not knowing anything about each other weighed heavily in my decision and he did seem generally interested in being with us, even if it was at a gay bar.

At the bar we spoke for about an hour and then he had to get back to his brother’s place in South London.

I walked him to the bus stop at Centre Point in Charing Cross Road, and along the way he began to semi apologise for not having bothered to look me up at all.

You know, in life, when I close a chapter it remains closed”.

To that I replied that my life has been very different, and that I tend to reopen closed chapters now and then.

Just before he got on the bus he said that he would have never bothered to look me, or anyone else, up. Was this an apology? Just a fact? I don’t know. I said to him that it was ok.
I did the looking up for both of us, and I’m glad I got to see you”.

I walked back to the bar to be with my partner and our friends, who were curious to know how it had all gone. I had told them the night before that I was meeting up with someone I hadn’t seen since we were both 9 or 10 more or less.
I was feeling a bit strange about all this. I think part of the problem is that the last time I saw him was on a normal school day. I left the classroom at the end of the school day and never went back. I never said good bye to any of my friends. We changed schools in one day.

Is this why I want to see them? So that I too can close a chapter which was shut but remained unfinished? Was this some sort of childhood closure?

I still don’t know. Over the next few days, my Christmas tour continued. And when I say tour, I mean I slept in about 6 different beds and 5 different towns since the 23rd of December before I got back home to mine. 

My thoughts about my friend stayed with me and I was wondering what was the problem with me. Why was I not happy?

Well, last week he contacted me. He was coming to Madrid. Could he stay at mine?

Certainly. No problem. It will be a pleasure.

So last night he arrived close to midnight. I made him a sandwich, and we sat to talk in front of the tv for a while. What did we talk about? Not much, not even small talk.

It soon became obvious that we were strangers who shared some sort of common past. But then he said something nice:

This trip I’ve been thinking about our infancy. About the school, do you remember…

And I did remember. And I remembered him, and me, but something was a bit off. Something was awry. But I don’t yet know what.
He will stay one week with me. 


xochimiqui1 said...

Do you think perhaps is is deeply closeted?

Ynot said...

No, just not very enlightened...