Saturday, 30 January 2010

On their park bench like bookends

Seems like it’s been ages since we did this-sit down across from one another. We used to do it regularly, weekly even, one of them thinks to himself. They ease hesitantly into light conversation about almost-superficial things, but this lasts only a few minutes. The lightness goes on only as long as it takes for them both to fiddle with the teapot and make sure the tea is steeping properly. Why do people do that? What could’ve possibly happened between thirty seconds ago and now?

They both like strong tea, so once that’s checked, they delve into things that’ve happened in their private lives. Things which would probably rarely come up in conversations with other friends. It’s infinitely comforting to know you have a friend with whom you can do this, says one and the other quickly agrees. It’s as if the time since they last met didn’t exist at all. They could tell every story, emotion and discouraging detail to each other, and in this instant it feels as if they can pick up where they left off.

By the time the first cups have been poured, they immerse themselves into a very pedantic back and forth about “what she really meant when she said that”. In the hands of these two, what was originally said in the now being dissected conversation is of little consequence.

They were a bit chilled when they first came in, but as the first cup warms them, they both almost unwittingly settle deeper and deeper into the soft and gentle rush of words. Although they might need to set up a story with a few particulars, there’s no need to go off and get into a convoluted back-story about the each other’s character or life’s details. Somehow, there was an important thing one of them thought he’d never tell anyone and suddenly it came rolling over his lips and into the air between them. Without any consideration, it’s easily digested by the other.

As the second cup is being poured, they effortlessly shift the focus to the one who’s been primarily listening. Until now he’s playfully mocked and toyed with the other’s thought processes. He’s suddenly knee-deep in a description of his daily struggles. Any job would be more meaningful than what I used to do, he says. But does meaningful have to mean twelve-hour days and the death of my private life? As with most conversations like this, they solve none of the problems that were brought up. While listening to one another, they’re both transported to another place.

A place where they aren’t the teen-agers who first got to know one another or the young adults juggling entry-level jobs and divulging embarrassing love troubles. They aren’t even really this age-who they are today. For a few moments at least. Through at least one (possibly both) of their thoughts passed the vision that they are the old friends in the Simon and Garfunkel song, sitting on the park bench, looking back over a long life. A friendship stretching back through the decades that defines them more than the career or family choices they made.

At some point they must abruptly jostle themselves out of this reverie, resolutely down the dregs of the teapot and a bit hurriedly wrap themselves in scarves and jackets. As they part and promise not to let the time before their next meeting grow so long, one of them says, that was some really good tea.

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