I dreamt about an old friend again last night--let's call him Liam--for about the third time in two weeks.
About eighteen years ago, Liam and I had our own brief, very tumultuous romance, after which we settled into being excellent friends. Occasionally friends with benefits, but primarily friends, the kind who hang out together after work and on weekends, talk for hours and help each other through relationships. He dated and was very, very briefly married to my best girl friend, before she dumped him for another friend of ours (long story). After that, we thought about buying a two-family together but instead wound up buying separate houses a short drive apart. When I started dating my now-husband, Liam was the one who kept me in the game (he loves to use sports slang to discuss relationships) when the going got rocky early on. "I don't know, he's a great guy," he said slowly when I floated out the idea of breaking up. And if Liam thought he was a great guy, that was enough for me. He's a lot of the reason my hubby and I are married now.
About five years ago, Liam found a new wife and a new job at the same time, and he and the wife moved to New York. It became clear within the first year that when he was around any of his old friends that he would start obsessing about his first wife and what went wrong--we were such a tangible reminder of the past. So I have good reason to suspect the new wife put the kibbosh on us, all of us, even his guy friends. She made it quite clear to us, and I'm sure to him also, that she didn't like any of us and didn't want us around. I can understand her position up to a point: if Liam was to move forward, he needed to put the past behind him.
But, to put it mildly, we're not her type, either. I mean, really not her type. Her idea of a party would involve wine and caviar; our idea of a party, until fairly recently, would involve a keg and a trashed house (usually Liam's--he hosted some great, memorable parties). Now that we're old, we're a little more sedate, but we're still not classy. You get a bunch of us in the same room and the conversation goes downhill in a hurry. Suddenly, you go from a nice dinner party to raucous laughter and food coming out peoples' noses.
The new wife was fairly aggressive in putting Liam's past behind him. Besides kicking out his old friends, she banished his beloved musical instrument collection (he used to be a talented musician) to the basement and unloaded all his old furniture and possessions. She hired people to decorate their new house and redo the landscaping; Liam, who once hand-built a beautiful vegetable garden in his backyard, complete with vine fences and gate, hasn't touched a spade in years.
He's never been back here to visit, he never calls, and he almost never emails. Once a year on my birthday I get a Happy Birthday email, and if I email him in the interim, I'll get a brief "how's it going? everything here is fine" email. Never any details, never any substance. When I pressed him recently for details, he responded, "I just got back from London and I'm going to Paris next week. Don't worry about me." I haven't seen him in four years.
It makes me sad, because I miss him all the time. We all do. His old best guy friend never hears from him, either, and his eyes fill up with sadness when I ask him about Liam. All the old Liam ever wanted was lots of kids and a house in the suburbs. Instead he chose a fancy wife and a jet-setting career that keeps him from home more often than not.
It makes me wonder how far you can travel from what you were, how many friends and hobbies you can give up, and still be happy. How can he not miss his music? Gardening? His friends? Can you successfully toss all your old dreams aside and replace them with the lights of the Eiffel Tower? Or is he making the best of a bad hand? (he and his wife have tried unsuccessfully for children).
I wish him nothing but joy but I worry all the time that he hasn't found it, because I don't understand how you can find a new joy by rejecting things that used to bring you joy. Can your definition of joy change that drastically?
These are all rhetorical questions, because I know no one can answer them.
When I ask, he always says he's happy. So I need to face the probability that he's so different I wouldn't know him now, that if I met him tomorrow we wouldn't be friends, that he's much happier living the high life than he ever was with us. I need to make peace with the fact that my dear beloved buddy is no longer the same person, and no longer really my buddy. Maybe I need to say goodbye.
I suspect it's sort of a mourning process, which is why I keep dreaming about him. I just needed to vent. Thanks for listening.