Reunion

January 2, 2006

It is a cold December night, with a chill in the air and dense fog all around. My vision is clouded, the shapes around me indistinct, as if my brain is reluctant to bring the world into focus. A door looms up ahead, defiant of the blur that surrounds me; I stand frozen before it, unable to push my way in. A furtive glance through a curtained window reveals little: like the current contents of my mind, I see a vast emptiness in a cramped corridor.

I have not known what to expect from the upcoming evening, of friends long forgotten, companions not seen or heard from. “Has it really been five years?” my brain screams at me. It just doesn’t seem possible. I retreat into my more comfortable denial, of mischief done a half-decade back, seemingly only yesterday. Yet here I stand outside, in a foggy driveway, before a stubbornly clear door that beckons me in, five years hence. I am frozen between the contradictions of the vast amount of time it represents to my short life, and the immediacy of my memories that defies that gap. I submit to the reality, that five full years have past since that fateful day in 2001, when I walked out beyond those imposing gates that had sheltered me for over seven years, and had enclosed my home.

I have vague expectations, of people to be met, of occasions to reminisce overdue, and of a hundred broken promises of ‘keeping in touch’ to be renewed. Yet as I lay my hand on the doorknob, cold as it is to my tentative touch, my mind abandons all preconceptions, and I have no idea of what lays ahead for the next few minutes of greetings.

Reluctantly I close the door behind me, which had, only a few short seconds before, served as my sole bulwark against the unknown, now acts to cut short any thoughts of retreat. I peer forward, nervous of the first encounter. The unmistakable sounds of Dosco’s reveling in joyful reunion filter around the blind corner, down the corridor, and into my fast warming heart. A solitary figure stands at the far corner, under the illumination of a single light, intent on a conversation with his phone. He turns… his eyes flare up; I see the quick reconciliation, the merging of the figure of a boy, etched five years ago into his mind’s eye, with the image of (I hope) the young man that stands before him.

A smile splits his face.

“Dude!”

The phone forgotten, the quick calculations of the brain complete, a long hug is exchanged. Ever so macho, but unashamedly glad.

It has been too long.

Walking into the living room, my step light, my eyes eager, I stand for a moment gathering in the faces, duplicating the calculations I had so recently observed in another. Each one reminds me of a moment, of anger, of laughter. I am late. Some would have remembered to expect that, in tribute to the days when such things were known of all those you lived with, you ate with, you played with. A chasm exists in the long history of our knowledge of each other. There was a time we were aware of all of the annoying idiosyncrasies of our roommates. Now we remain wary, unsure of the breadth of that void, of the depth of change the short years would have wrought on us.

Each memory has a person attached, and is thus rekindled in this coming together of its members. We are united into a brotherhood with bonds far greater than those of steel; our memories tie us together even when names and details remain forgotten. An absent participant will chance upon some fragment of the story, from some forgotten recess of his mind, while innocuously working at his desk, or buying clothes at a store. A smile will break free, or an unexplained laugh, confusing those around him. A rueful shake of the head and he moves on, providing a mildly apologetic look to the bewildered passers-by.

The memory remains, revived and alive.

Yet here, we now stand sharing in our past, and a present still being forged. Everyone describes a beginning, a new job, a move to a new city, country, continent. “I’m going to begin working in a Bank” seems to be a popular reply. Rejoice you fine institutions of finance and money, while you still remain free of this group of louts that I once knew. They shall infest you shortly.

I jest. Fine futures have been forged. Some promising ones, lost. Advice, a mainstay of young professionals everywhere, seems here to flourish unnaturally. It is given, received and cheerfully regurgitated (with careful additions, of course) in subsequent conversations. The weighty wisdom of some twenty-two years backs this deluge of opinions, and is treated accordingly.

The evening fast approaches the enjoyable stage of the ‘three-drink-minimum’. Everyone seems to have complied, some more so than others. Warm, fuzzy, fraternal feelings seem thick in the air, a nearly palpable sensation of joy as the discomfort of early meetings dissolves into the relief of our discovery that while we are all changed, we remain the same. Yet the gathering remains incomplete; too many are missing, the current of their lives carrying them to places beyond our reach. We miss them, from the moment of short disappointment when we walk in and note their absence, to the bitter-sweet farewell at the end when we remember them with regret. Regret that they did not enjoy in this night of reunion, this vital renewal of commitment to all things Dosco. But there will be other reunions, other opportunities and occasions for catching-up with lost friends, and dissapearing acquaintances.

Till then all I can say is farewell. And keep in touch.

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