When I was 18, I knew a young man through theatre. These days, I know he was a young man. Then, he was 26 or 27, so he was very grown and sophisticated. We were both techies, although I acted as well, but he was only ever behind the scenes. He was nice enough, but I wasn't attracted. Then one night, for some reason time has taken away, we ended up grabbing dinner at the Hardee's just the two of us before a show. And I learned that a man who can have intelligent conversation becomes beautiful. A crush was born.
Over the next several months, we flirted, we got shows up, we went to parties, and we hooked up a time or two. I was aching for him to ask me out officially, but he never did. I got more involved with my college theatre and less involved in the local theatre. We kept in touch, but not much. Until one night he called and asked me to dinner. Only by this time, I was dating someone else seriously. I accepted dinner with my friend, but made it clear it could only be as a friend.
We went to Shaker's. I ordered the chicken cordon bleu and felt oh so grown up. He was moving to Florida to go to work for the Mouse. Getting out of our small town and going to be a professional theatre technician in a professional theatre. He had wanted to see me before he left, say some things he hadn't said.
And he started talking about fear and regret and lost opportunities ~ and asked me what I would have said if he had asked me to go to Florida with him. Now, I want to be very clear. He did not ask me to go to Florida with him. He did ask me what I would have said if he had. I was as honest with him as I was capable of at 19, and explained that I would have dated him ~ had wanted to date him ~ but that I was happy that we were both happy and moving forward with life. We kissed goodbye after dinner and were both acutely aware of everything we had missed.
After the relationship I was in during that dinner ended, I wrote him. We exchanged a few letters, but by then he was, indeed, out of our small town and had discovered a much larger world. He was dating someone. As happens so often, promises to keep in touch and get together never quite happened. Remember, it was pre-email, pre-Facebook. Even long distance phone calls cost money.
I have no idea what made me think of him earlier this week. Truly, I already cannot remember. Back when he and I knew each other, I would have thought about him, imagined him down in Florida, or maybe moved on to another theatre, or maybe even profession. I would have smiled, wished him well, and kept going. But without anyone who might have known him still in my world, that would have been it. A smile, a happy if imaginary life, and moving on. Except that we don't live in that day and age. We live now. In a world with facebook and google searches and instant access.
I googled him.
And I found two people with his name (it's an unusual name). One was in college. Oooo...maybe that was his son. How cool would that be. And the other... The other couldn't have been my friend. My young man. Because it was an obituary.
Only...it was him. There on Find A Grave dot com. His wife had posted a picture of him with his infant son. And there was no mistaking that smile that hadn't attracted me ~ and then had. He died only 6 years after that dinner at Shaker's. I assume the woman he was dating when we wrote became his wife.
I hope he was happy. I hope they were happy. And I wish, the other day when I thought of him, I had written a life for him where he was still happy, still busy, loving his kids and wife, still hanging lights from a theatre catwalk somewhere and left it at that. But I didn't. Because we live in this day and age.
Those are Pobble Thoughts. That and a buck fifty will get you coffee.