The post of laughter and forgetting

And crying and remembering (apologies to Milan Kundera). I’ve had a very strange week – last week an old friend popped into my head, so I decided to Google him.  Google can tell you many things and haven’t we all used it to stalk, I mean – look up – past lovers or find old friends?

Last week I learnt about the death of an old, old friend and reconnected with an old, old boyfriend. Oh my.  It’s left me feeling discombobulated and all out of sorts, a feeling I haven’t been able to shake.

Should I blog about them? It seems too personal, and this is not a “Dear Diary”, but I blogged about IVF and that’s pretty personal. So here is my story about them.

Rob

I met this boy called Rob when I was 17, he 18.  Before then though, when I was 16, I knew who he was but didn’t actually know him. He went to one of the boys’ schools and I was at one of the girls’ schools in my home town of Perth.

At 16, oh boy, did I LOVE this boy. My school friend and I used to swoon whenever we saw him. Swoon and sigh and squeal in a way only 16-year-olds can. He was always tanned, with blue, blue eyes and a cheeky grin. I remember the way he walked – shoulders pulled bank, head slightly forward, with a bit of a swagger.

When I was 17, I met him on the island just of the coast of Perth called Rottnest. “Rotto”, for those of you who don’t know, is kind of a rite of passage for West Australians at the end of the school or uni year. It’s debauched, drunken, sun-soaked, sandy and ridiculous fun.

The day I met Rob I guess must have been the happiest day of my young life, since I had been so infatuated with him, except that I was probably drunk on tequila slammers so I can’t really remember. I just know that we met, and became mates, and were mates for the next eight or nine years on and off. We kind of dated a few times in the middle of that time, but nothing serious. I left Perth to travel at 25, and never really went back there to live, so lost touch with him.

Last week, I thought of him and wondered what had become of him. I did the Google search. All I could find was a death notice.

On the weekend, I went through all my old photos, looking for a photo of Rob. I thought I would find one or two, but I found lots – at parties, at Rottnest, at my house. And I guess until I saw those pictures, I had forgotten how much he was part of my life back then. Funny how you forget. It made me so sad – that I could have loved this boy so much – even saying his full name (I always called him by his full name – first name and surname) still makes me feel like a swoony 16-year-old again. And I had forgotten a lot of it and it made me so regretful.  I wish I had kept in contact.

I’ll always remember Rob. He reminds me of summer and youth and gorgeousness.

Johnnie

And there was a man, many years ago, who I loved. And who loved me, surprisingly. Let’s call him Johnnie. Because that is, in fact, his name. Of course I won’t give you any other distinguishing features, except to say that he was so, so gorgeous, and unbelievably sexy, and the first “man” I had been with – I was 25 and he was 10 years older than me –  as opposed to the boys who were generally around at the time.

I was in awe of him, and really quite intimidated by him. I wondered what he saw in me. But there were some things between us that were breathtaking.

We didn’t really break up, but I left Perth to go travelling and to work in the UK. I don’t think I ever processed that relationship; I had no-one to talk to who knew me and him together.

He was the first person to say “I love you” to me. (And there has been a pathetically short line of men in the future to say that to me). He was the person who quoted a line to me I have never, ever, forgotten; the most beautiful thing anyone has ever said to me. It was a line from Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet that goes:

“And forget not that the earth delights in the tread of your bare feet, and the winds long to play in your hair.”

How could you not love a man who says that to you?

I stayed with him the night before I left for the UK. I got up in the middle of the night and sat on the sofa and cried. He came and found me and said, “What are you doing?” “Crying,” I said.

“Crying and sighing; sighing and crying,” he said, because he turned everything into a lyric, or a bit of poetry.

I think it was me who stopped writing, because I thought there was probably no point, and I didn’t want him to feel like he had to write to this silly girl.

I thought, probably rightly, that we would have broken up anyway had I stayed. We were so different, he was so experienced and worldly; I was so young and knew nothing. He was edgy, unconventional; I was still throwing off the vestiges of Catholic school and had a conservative side that needed to be buffed off.

When I was in London we wrote back and forth; I called him, apparently (according to a letter from him I still have). I sent him a present, probably a shirt. He sent me a tape of his songs – he was a musician and actor. But I stopped writing, because I thought he wouldn’t mind, because I didn’t really matter to him.

I thought I didn’t matter.

My mother bumped into him a few years after I left – I think at a party in Margaret River, she used to go there a bit to visit friends – and said he asked after me. She told him I had recently visited from the UK. She told me afterwards he seemed upset that I hadn’t contacted him. And I thought – Oh? Why would he be? Because I thought I didn’t matter. Despite evidence to the contrary.

I emailed Johnnie last week, then he called me, which was such a surprise, and threw me just a little. We talked a bit. Over the weekend I found his letters and photos. I looked at the photos and thought, “I left this man? Was I insane??”

I’m writing this all down here because I’d kind of like to have a conversation with this man but, really, it’s been 22 years. Why would he want to know? I guess I still think I don’t matter. What do you think?

So I’ve been hit quite hard, with remembering and feeling sad, I’m kind of surprised how hard I’ve been hit, but there you go. I’m emotional.

I think I’m also grieving about the carelessness I have shown towards the people in my past. And I don’t mean, oh I just lost their number and so lost contact. I have been angry at myself for not caring. Even though I did care. It just seems careless to discard people just because they are in the past.

I’ve spent the week crying and sighing, sighing and crying over – I don’t know what exactly – obviously mourning my old friend, but I’ve been crying about – lost youth?  Missed opportunities? Lost love? Or simply that I should have been more careful, less careless, with friendships, with my own feelings, and the feelings of others.

P.S. I contacted Rob’s brother to find out what happened to him. He died in Thailand, partying till the end. He wasn’t in a good state physically – had been “self-medicating” for a long time – he loved an illicit substance did Rob. He got an infection and then his heart and lungs failed. His was in his mid-40s.

photo-2

I opened a Pandora’s box of memories

Me and Rob, Rotto 1986

Me and Rob, Rotto 1986

7 Comments

Filed under relationships, Uncategorized

7 responses to “The post of laughter and forgetting

  1. Fanny Blake

    Dear Michele, Of course you matter, and of course you touch people who you meet. Why don’t you take the opportunity to sort out this unfinished business with Johnnie? You won’t regret it. Also, how are you otherwise. Come to the UK. We miss you, Sandy and Triona still. Fxx

    • Thank you Fann. I guess I didn’t think it was unfinished till now. I actually emailed him for a laugh, then… remembrance of things past etc… I’ll email. mx

  2. PPS. Johnnie has since read this post. He said I used semi-colons well. The old romantic.

  3. That’s a very moving post there chica. I guess looking back at your life with the benefit of hindsight and experience will always throw up some unsettling feelings, some what-ifs and a few could-have-beens. The Prophet is my favourite book of all time, I’d LOVE some guy to quote passages at me like that, so romantic.

    So he’s read this post has he, well please do keep us updated, it sounds like it could be the start of something interesting. : )

    x

    • Thank you! It actually makes me a bit verklempt to read it too. Fan of my own writing that I am…

      Yes, I consider myself very lucky to have had that quoted to me.
      x

  4. Jenni

    Your post was so beautifully written. I don’t know if I would be brave enough to go through my old photos. I let all my friends go and never gave friendship the importance I should have. I know there would be many memories dredged up if I looked.

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